SPORTS

AEK’s shock loss on Sunday leads to turmoil in and around the club

Not unexpectedly, AEK’s latest disappointing performance, a shock 2-1 home defeat by lowly Halkidona, a first division debutante, on Sunday, has stirred feelings both in and around the club. Dusan Bajevic, who has a distinguished past at AEK, both as player and coach, threatened to resign, some sources said, but the club’s administration refused to accept. Also, a considerable number of the team’s more hot-headed fans lurked outside the stadium following Sunday’s match to demand explanations from AEK’s players. Confrontations, however, were avoided after revisions were made to the squad’s departure plans. AEK’s game was played to empty stands after a local sports tribunal punished the club for a recent outburst of violence by fans. Following Sunday’s shock defeat, AEK dropped from fourth place to sixth in the Greek first division, seven points behind frontrunner Panathinaikos. The Athens club has not fared well in its Champions League commitments either. AEK broke a string of respectable performances in the competition that had earned the side seven consecutive draws with a humbling 4-0 loss to Monaco in France last week. With one point after two rounds, AEK is placed third in Group C, three points behind second-placed Deportivo. Two teams from each of the competition’s eight groups advance to the next phase. In his post-match remarks on Sunday, Bajevic noted that he could not accept the club’s current ailing state for much longer. «AEK cannot go on like this. It can’t go on. I’m prepared for everything,» said Bajevic, who added that he was preparing to deliver a list of demands to the team’s administration. «If they’re accepted, all well and good, but if not, divorce is an option.» In a statement released yesterday, AEK’s administration denied, in absolute fashion, any prospect of Bajevic’s resignation or even dismissal. «There is no, and was no, issue concerning our coach Dusan Bajevic’s resignation or dismissal,» it said. Many players at the cash-strapped club have reportedly remained unpaid for several months now. Over the past two seasons, Bajevic has fought a stubborn battle to keep player spirits high and avoid losing disgruntled players from his roster. Star striker Demis Nikolaidis, perhaps the team’s most popular player among fans, abandoned the club during the summer break for Atletico Madrid. Another star player, Vassilis Tsiartas, who came close to quitting during the pre-season but stayed on, yesterday denied reports that he was responsible for instigating the current tension at the club. He also denied hurling profanities at his coach. Speaking to local radio station Supersport FM, Tsiartas argued that certain reporters were intentionally spreading false rumors and subsequently undermining the club’s morale. «What they wrote about me swearing at him never happened,» Tsiartas said. According to reports, an enraged Bajevic launched a harsh attack on his players following Sunday’s loss. Sources said that he singled out certain star players by saying that he should not have battled to keep them with the club, on improved contracts, during AEK’s difficult pre-season months.