China intends to keep Swedish coach

China's sports ministry has ordered the country's football association to make every effort to keep unsettled women's coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors with under 300 days to go to the Olympics.

“Stop at nothing to ensure we keep Domanski-Lyfors so the 2008 Olympic preparations stay on track,” Titan Sports weekly quoted a ministry directive as saying Wednesday.

The order was delivered to the Chinese Football Association this week as it awaits an answer from Domanski-Lyfors on whether she plans to return from Sweden to extend her contract and continue coaching the side.

China’s first foreign coach, she was hired in March to stop a slide down the rankings by the national women’s team, which reached the 1999 World Cup final.

The Swede predicted that she would lead the team into the last four at the 2007 World Cup held in China last month.

The so-called Steel Roses began to bloom again under their Swedish mentor with a string of good results.

However, the side’s renaissance was stopped in its tracks when the team were eliminated in the quarter-final.

The setback forced the Swede to reconsider her position ahead of the Olympics, and personal problems related to her family are also playing a part in her deliberations on whether to return to China, according to media reports.

“In the just-finished World Cup, Domanski-Lyfors may not have fulfilled her promise but she gave the team new vigour and spirit, and the people and fans were happy. And if we don’t hold on to her, the football association is to blame,” a sports ministry official told Titan.

Domanski-Lyfors previously coached the Swedish national team for nine years, leading them to the final of the World Cup in 2003 where they lost to Germany.