SPORTS

Gerard a surprise choice as the new coach of Iraklis

Renowned for his long stint with Cretan soccer club OFI, veteran Dutch coach Eugen Gerard has become rather fickle with advancing age. On Wednesday, Gerard signed with the third club in the last two years, Thessaloniki’s Iraklis, causing an uproar at his previous club, Cyprus’s APOEL, whose officials claimed Gerard left them without advance warning. «It is with particular satisfaction that Iraklis announces the start of cooperation with Eugen Gerard,» a statement released by Iraklis on Wednesday said. Iraklis did not specify Gerard’s salary but did say the contract was for six months, with a two-year renewal option. Gerard will meet the players today. The Dutchman replaces Yugoslav Ivan Jovanovic, who was fired on Tuesday after a string of three consecutive losses in the Greek league this month sent the club tumbling from first to ninth place in the 16-team first division. Iraklis has already been eliminated from the Greek Cup and the UEFA Cup. Jovanovic had played eight seasons with the club before becoming its coach last summer. Gerard joined APOEL last August; previously, he had been an assistant coach with Greek club AEK since July 2000. Gerard, 62, holds a unique place in Greek soccer, where coaches are very easily replaced. He coached OFI for 15 seasons, between 1985 and 2000, a record unlikely to be surpassed any time soon. He coached through good times and bad, achieving good but not spectacular results, and becoming an adopted Cretan. He even started a vineyard, producing vintage wine under the name of Gerardakis. A heart attack before his last season with OFI prompted Gerard to announce his retirement and declare that he would still like to be associated with the club in some capacity. For some reason, his relations with management deteriorated rapidly thereafter.