- Associated Press - Monday, July 12, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) - Wolfgang Sidka, a German with coaching experience in the Persian Gulf, has agreed to become Iraq’s national soccer coach.

He will start at the end of the month and succeed Bora Milutinovic, a well-traveled Serbian who once coached the U.S. Sidka previously coached Bahrain and the Qatari clubs Al-Arabi and Al-Gharafa.

Sidka will sign a $500,000 contract July 30, Tariq Ahmed, deputy president of the Iraqi Football Association, told The Associated Press by phone Monday. He did not say how long the 56-year-old Sidka will be the coach.

Sidka is a respected and talented coach and with his help, we hope to give new spirit to our national team and win future championships,” said Ahmed, adding that one of Sidka’s demands was to bring a fitness coach.

Iraq, the defending Asian Cup champion, was drawn with North Korea and longtime foe Iran in the group stage of next year’s tournament in Doha, Qatar. Iraq enjoyed a memorable 2007 tournament, defeating Australia and South Korea on the way to the title.

The team has struggled since to beat some of the weakest teams in the Middle East, fired two coaches and endured a five-month ban from international soccer. The ban, imposed because of allegations of political interference in the running the sport, was lifted in March.