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By ESPN Staff

Nineteen Bosnia players refuse to play in friendly

SARAJEVO, May 30 (Reuters) - Nineteen Bosnia players have refused to play in a friendly against Azerbaijan this Sunday in protest at the sacking of national coach Meho Kodro by the Football Association (NSBIH).

Several players said they would instead accept invitations by Kodro and Bosnia's leading striker Elvir Bolic to play in a charity match scheduled at the same time.

Kodro was sacked this month after only four months when he refused to lead the team in a friendly against Iran, saying he had not been notified about the fixture in time.

Acting coach Denijal Piric said the boycott meant he had to scramble together a team with many players from the Under-21 team.

'We have to play the match, otherwise we risk being suspended by FIFA and block our clubs' entry on to the European stage,' Piric said.

Piric said he would quit after the Sunday match.

Zenica, the central Bosnian town where the friendly will take place, was covered this week with placards calling for the public to ignore the game.

The capital Sarajevo also featured placards urging fans to join Bolic and Kodro, the 'saviour of Bosnian football', and buy tickets for the humanitarian match in the Kosevo Olympic stadium.

'All that is worthy in Bosnian football will gather in Kosevo, while (the Zenica stadium) Bilino Polje will probably be empty,' said a commentary in the respected Oslobodjenje daily.

At least eight players have boycotted games and called on NSBIH officials to resign in the past year. Two top NSBIH officials are facing corruption charges in the state court.

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