COPENHAGEN, Sept 5 – Former Arsenal midfielder John Jensen will manage a Denmark squad made up of futsal, third and fourth division players for a friendly against Slovakia on Wednesday after contract negotiations with first-team regulars reached deadlock.
The Danish Football Association (DBU) on Tuesday named a second-string squad to face Slovakia and potentially Wales in the country’s first Nations League match the following Sunday to avoid expulsion from Euro 2020.
The regular first team players and the DBU have for months been in dispute over contract terms, mainly concerning the rights of players to make individual sponsorship agreements with companies competing with national team sponsors.
Regular coach Aage Hareide is not in charge as the DBU does not want him to manage a team he did not pick himself.
Jensen, 53, who famously scored in Denmark’s 1992 European Championship final win over Germany, played for Arsenal from 1992 to 1996 and became a cult hero at the London club for his inability to find the net, with just one goal in 132 games.
Jensen and his amateur squad flew to Slovakia on Tuesday.
“I had to start from scratch and ask each player his name and which position he plays on the field,” Jensen told a news conference before their departure.
Denmark are ninth in the world rankings and reached the last 16 at this year’s World Cup in Russia.
Slovakia’s FA (SFZ) on Tuesday reduced ticket prices for the game from up to 26 euros to 1 euro ($30 to $1). They urged European soccer’s governing body UEFA to deal with the situation and take the appropriate action, SFZ said in a statement.
“What is the point of sending this team to meet us?” Slovakia coach Jan Kozak was quoted by Danish broadcaster DR as telling reporters. “Does Denmark just want to avoid a fine? We could have spent our time better if we had known this before.”
Contract discussions between the DBU and the players came to a halt on Saturday, forcing the Danish FA to begin looking for alternative players to stand in for first-choice selections like playmaker Christian Eriksen and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The players on Sunday made an offer to extend their existing contracts which would have postponed further negotiations until after the two games. On Tuesday, the players repeated the offer, but the DBU rejected both attempts to break the deadlock.
Denmark are due to host Wales in Aarhus.
The DBU last year had to cancel a women’s World Cup qualifier against Sweden, also due to a contract dispute.
($1 = 0.8625 euros) (Reporting by Emil Gjerding Nielson; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Ken Ferris)