SPORTS

Olympiakos renews contract with old coach

Olympiakos soccer club, which raked in a record seventh consecutive Greek league title, yesterday renewed its contract with Ukrainian coach Oleg Protasov, a former Soviet Union international. No details were given regarding the terms of the deal which was reached following three hours of negotiations between Protasov, the club’s president Socrates Kokkalis, and his deputy, Giorgos Louvaris. Protasov, who had transferred to Olympiakos as a player toward the end of his career, was hired as the team’s fourth man on the bench late last season, before eventually steering the club to its latest league title. «We’re continuing together in the new season. We spoke about the team’s preparations. We discussed the year that awaits us and the problems that lie ahead,» Protasov told reporters following the deal. «Every year is more difficult than the previous one,» he added. Now that the defending champion’s coaching position has been settled, Olympiakos’s next objective will be to deal with prospective transfers for the new season. Protasov said he was content with the club’s moves so far but refrained from giving any details about any future signings. «I’m not in a position to discuss names being mentioned in the press. We’re discussing some players and are carrying on,» said Protasov. Olympiakos has already added six new names to its roster for the new season, including Czech goalkeeper Yurai Bucek from Greek first division club Xanthi, who is expected to sign a four-year deal today. Bucek had spent six years at Xanthi. «At Olympiakos, the competition is definitely greater. Every single player wants to be part of the starting lineup. Nobody likes sitting on the bench. I’m neither young nor inexperienced,» said the 30-year-old goalkeeper, who has represented his country. «I have the experience and will strive for the best I can,» he added. Olympiakos’s Czech signing noted that, besides the importance of performing well domestically, Olympiakos would need to improve its presence in the Champions League. Despite the club’s dominance in Greece in recent years, Olympiakos, to the bitter disappointment of its fans, has failed to impress in European club-level competition. «We need to go a step further. Besides the [Greek] league, we need to achieve something worthwhile in Europe. Hard work and a bit of luck is needed,» said Bucek. In other news concerning the Piraeus club yesterday, rumors of a return to the club by former player Grigoris Georgatos, now with AEK, were extinguished by AEK club official Petros Stathis. Despite signing a new contract with AEK, Georgatos, in recent days, ignited rumors of a possible return to Olympiakos in reaction to outstanding fees owed to him by cash-strapped AEK. Yesterday, Stathis said the dispute had been settled and that the player was given guarantees. Georgatos, too, denied reports and declared, «I have a contract with AEK and other teams don’t interest me.»