Israel's soccer world has been abuzz with rumors that Egypt's coach would soon switch camps to train the national side - until Tuesday, that is, when Hassan Shehata put an end to speculation in the bluntest possible terms.
"I'd rather die of hunger than entertain the possibility of coaching Israel," he told Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm.
Shehata came close to losing his post when Egypt failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
But the 60-year-old manager in January regained hero status among Egyptians when his side overcame Ghana to bring home the African Cup of Nations for a record third year running.
"I can understand Israel's jealousy of the Egyptian team and its successes," Shehata was quoted as saying. "But it would be impossible from my perspective to visit Israel or train its team - even if Israel were the only country in the world that wanted to hire me."
He continued: "How can these Zionists think that I would take on the task of coaching a side that includes murderers of children and pensioners? How could I work to help a team that represents a nation of occupiers?"
The veteran trainer, known in Egypt's press by his nickname "The Teacher", now looks set to lead his side's campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"From the moment I was born I have been hearing about the Israel that murders Arabs, that bombs, that levels towns and villages - but this is the first time I have heard that Israel plays soccer," he said.
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