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Players talk Togo coach back

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Last updated on: June 12, 2006 22:30 IST

Togo's messy search for a new coach took an amazing turn on Monday when Otto Pfister, who had quit last week in a pay row, said he would return to take charge for their first-ever World Cup finals game.

"The players intervened massively. I received a fax from the (Togolese football association) president and I will sit on the bench as coach of the team tomorrow," Pfister told Reuters by telephone.

Pfister, 68, declined to comment whether he would coach the West African team during their other World Cup finals matches and sources said that was still unclear.

But a spokesman for the Togolese Football Association confirmed Pfister would join the team on Monday night and said he would be in charge for all three first-stage matches.

Togo's players have boycotted training sessions to press their pay demands, prompting Pfister to walk out overnight on Friday, saying he could not do his job properly with his players not fully focused on the game.

He then said he did not blame the players but Togolese officials.

Players have demanded 155,000 euros ($196,200) each to play in the World Cup plus 30,000 each per win and 15,000 per draw.

Officials from a country with average per capita income well below $1,000 have said the demands are too high.

Negotiations are still at a deadlock but players have signalled they would play anyway.

A source close to the team's sponsor Puma, who appeared to have intermediated to prevent their team from falling apart, said Pfister was already on a train to Frankfurt after players had convinced him to return.

Togo's assistant coach Kodjovi Mawuena had found himself quickly promoted to the top job on Saturday, a role that was not new to him, as he has previously stepped in when other coaches have walked out.

Meanwhile, talks to win German former Bundesliga and ex-Cameroon coach Winfried Schaefer for the job seemed to have stalled on Monday as Schaefer said Togolese officials had not accepted his conditions of "order and discipline" in the team.

Schaefer had said that involved a solution to the pay dispute.

Pfister guided Saudi Arabia through the France 98 World Cup qualifiers but was dismissed before the finals as he said he would not allow Saudi princes to meddle in his team decisions.

Pfister, who has spent much of his life globetrotting, coaching eight different countries before Togo, replaced Stephen Keshi on a short-term contract after Togo's poor performance at the African Nations Cup at the start of the year.

The team failed to score a goal in those finals.

Togo play their first World Cup match against South Korea on Tuesday. The other teams in Group G are Switzerland and France.

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