Kazakhstan coach hits out at local game

ALMATY - Kazakhstan coach Bernd Storck has criticised the state of the game in the former Soviet republic, especially poor fitness level of local players.

"Kazakhstan are some 15-20 years behind most of the rest of Europe," Storck told local media ahead of Saturday's World Cup home qualifier against Group Six leaders England.

"The physical fitness and conditioning is the biggest problem because local teams pay little attention to it.

"If we don't show some improvements in this area we are not going to be competitive on the international level."

The German, who was appointed Kazakhstan coach last September, has accused managers at leading Kazakh clubs of sabotaging his efforts to improve the players' stamina.

"After holding the national team's training camp in Turkey in February I've given the players individual workout sheets so they could do aerobic work on their own," Storck said.

"But then I find out that coaches from three leading Kazakh teams, Aktobe, Tobol and Lokomotiv, are forbidding the players to follow my advice.

"When I wanted to attend a Lokomotiv training session, the club's head coach (former Russian international) Sergei Yuran said it was a closed session.

"It's just amasing how these guys treat one of their own."

Kazakhstan have lost their last four World Cup qualifiers, conceding 16 goals in the process, including a 5-1 home defeat to Belarus in April.