SPORTS

The ax is out at Olympiakos

There seems to be no greater scapegoat than the soccer coach in Greece. The former Soviet international Oleg Protasov, coach of defending champion Olympiakos, who helped steer the team to its seventh consecutive league title last season – he was the fourth coach employed by the club in that single season – is apparently in danger of being ousted from his position after his team was overtaken at the top of the Greek league on Sunday. Olympiakos held top spot for 16 rounds, but the club’s administration is apparently feeling edgy following Sunday’s surrender of the top spot. Olympiakos’s home defeat by AEK, combined with an way victory by Panathinaikos over Panionios, has put the Piraeus club’s perennial rival two points ahead. This year’s title is expected to be determined in three weeks’ time when Panathinaikos hosts Oympiakos. The possible shakeup of Olympiakos’s coaching staff has brought Dusan Bajevic back into the picture. According to reports, Bajevic, a former Olympiakos coach, has been offered a five-year deal by the club’s president, Socrates Kokkalis, rated as too good to refuse. Bajevic recently abandoned AEK in response to offensive public remarks made by a small group of AEK fans. A former player and coach at AEK, he led the club to four titles before switching to Olympiakos for several more titles, then transferred to PAOK, and eventually returned to AEK two years ago. But some fans insisted on referring to him as a «traitor,» and just prior to his departure also cast aspersions against his wife. Should yesterday’s rumors hold true, Bajevic, the country’s most successful and respected coach over the past 15 years, could be preparing for his career’s second return to a former club. The reports said that he may even be back for the club’s home game against Iraklis, two rounds from now. With all respect for Bajevic, where do these developments, if true, leave Protasov, the man who has led Olympiakos for most of the season, and helped clinched the title for the club last year? The Ukranian’s possible replacement once again underscores that being successful is not good enough in Greek soccer. Or, more objectively, this latest possible coaching shake-up underlines a lack of faith, or ability, in long-term planning. It took Sir Alex Ferguson, coach of Manchester United since the late 1980s, about four seasons to produce the first of many titles at the British club, which is widely considered as the world’s most successful and celebrated. There were no apparent complaints or replacement threats during Ferguson’s four years of nothing.