Venezuela coach Dudamel resigns citing rift with executives

CARACAS (AP) — Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel resigned on Thursday, citing a rift between him and executives of the country’s soccer federation.

Dudamel said the rift would affect the team’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts in March.

“I think this is the best for the national team. My relationship with management deteriorated quickly in recent times, and it was very complicated to continue in the current conditions,” Dudamel said.

The 46-year-old Dudamel announced the decision on Twitter. The coach, who also played for Venezuela as a goalkeeper, took the job in 2016.

Venezuela is the only South American team that has never played at a World Cup.

The head of the Venezuelan soccer federation, Laureano González, responded to the resignation by saying: “We don’t have to give opinions about his personal decision. Quite on the contrary, we recognize he fulfilled his sporting obligations within the expectations.”

Venezuela reached 25th place in the FIFA rankings in November, its highest in history. Last year the Vinotinto, as the team is known, beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 3-1 in a friendly. It also beat Japan 4-1.

Dudamel also said “a new coach might be given the working conditions” that he did not receive in the position.

“You have the talent to reach the World Cup and I will be the first to cheer you on from afar,” Dudamel told his former players.

During his tenure Dudamel also had rows with some of his players, including Atlanta United striker Josef Martines, who refused to play for Venezuela as long as the coach remained in the job.