It was a sudden and one-sided breakup.
The Japan Handball Association (JHA) announced on February 9, 2024 that the Icelandic coach Dagru Sigurdsson (50) announced that he had submitted his resignation. He announced his resignation in a single email, and without any prior notice.’. There is turmoil in the Japan men’s handball just before the Paris Olympics.
JHA has begun selecting a next coach
The Japan Association (JHA) stated, “Despite the fact that Coach Dagru Sigurdsson’s contract ended after the end of the Paris Olympic Games, he suddenly announced on February 3 that he resigned as coach of the Japan men’s national team without waiting for the Olympics to begin. He has expressed his intention to become a coach for another country.” Furthermore, the JHA announced, “In response to this resignation, we will respond appropriately based on the contract, and we will announce the selection of the successor Japan men’s national team coach, which we are currently discussing and considering, as soon as it is decided.”
Bringing a lawyer to Zagreb,Croatia
Meanwhile, local Croatian media reported this week that “Icelander Dagru Sigurdsson could become the head coach of the Croatian men’s team, which won gold medals at the Atlanta and Athens Olympics.” “According to Croatian sources, Mr. Sigurdsson traveled to Zagreb (Croatia’s capital) with his lawyer,” the statement added.
Croatia, which has not yet qualified for the Paris Olympics, is preparing for the final Olympic qualifying round in March, but they fired former coach Goran Perkovac on February 6th. According to Croatian media, Sigurdsson is currently staying in Zagreb and it appears that no formal agreement has been reached on a contract. Croatia is offering an annual salary of 300,000 euros (approximately 48 million yen), but there are reports that there is a gap between Sigurdsson’s wishes.
Why did he resign at this timing, given that the Japan national team coach’s contract runs until after the Paris Olympics? The answer lies in Sigurdsson’s mind, but as we piece together some pieces of information, the story behind his resignation begins to emerge.
“Mission accomplished” on Facebook
Late last year, on December 28, 2023, Sigurdsson updated his Facebook page. He posted a photo with Haruaki Gamo, who was the vice president of the Japan Handball Association at the time he was appointed as the Japan national team coach.
Although his mission continued until the Paris Olympics, Sigurdsson wrote on Facebook at the end of last year that he was “mission accomplished.” In his mind, it is clear that his biggest “mission” was to win in Asia and earn Japan’s qualification to the Olympics on its own for the first time in 36 years.
This is just my guess, but while I feel a sense of satisfaction having achieved this goal, He also knows that Japan is not yet at a level where it can compete for medals at the Paris Olympics. Sigurdsson’s “market value” as a leader is now near its peak. Considering what happened after the Paris Olympics, he must have started thinking about his next move.
When he was appointed to the Japan national team, Sigurdsson said this at a press conference. My goal is to be in the top 3 in Asia. Another goal is to rank in the top five among the strong non-European countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Brazil, and Argentina. It will be a long road for Japan to grow to the level where it can win a medal at the Olympics.”
Croatian media reports say that Sigurdsson’s annual salary as Japan national team coach is 1 million euros (approximately 160 million yen), but that is probably not true. According to my interview, director Sigurdsson’s annual salary in Japan is around 60 million yen (estimated). Although his salary is still quite high compared to his previous Japanese head coach, the cost of living in his home country of Iceland, where he is based, is said to be two to three times that of Japan. Moreover, in Japan, the value of the yen is decreasing due to the weak yen and deflation, and if the contract is denominated in yen, the take-home pay will be significantly reduced.
Sigurdsson, 50, is a Japanophile who loves tuna and eel sushi, as well as hot springs and visiting temples. When thinking about his next life plan, it is natural according to global standards for him to “change jobs” when his own market value is near its peak. Still, it’s very sad that such a distinguished figure in the Japanese handball suddenly left Japan in this way.