SPORTS

AEK enjoys gift of Santos

It is a well-known fact that in Greece we like to talk a lot, create good impressions, and, if failure should eventually come our way, argue that the circumstances were beyond our control. Outspoken soccer coaches who tend to focus their criticism on referees – should they commit errors at the expense of their sides – instead of concentrating on the mechanics of the teams they lead, are no exception. This example is intended to underscore the lack of seriousness of most coaches who operate in this country. One man, who, for years now, has chosen constructive talk over conjuring up hollow impressions, is the Serb-Greek coach Dusan Bajevic, which is why he is so highly regarded by people hoping for a brighter future in Greek soccer. When he makes statements, listeners take note because they know that Bajevic – who led AEK and Olympiakos to a string of league titles before taking over at PAOK a season ago – perceives and presents situations with a composed, rational mind. More recently, another mature, serious-minded coach who has come to Greece is Portuguese national Fernando Santos, the man in charge of this season’s current league frontrunner, AEK. Santos knows how to weigh his words well, an approach which he obviously knows offers protection to both him and his players. Displaying discipline, the team’s Portuguese coach, who was signed by AEK last summer, has quickly won acclaim for his working methods and overall behavior. At the AEK camp, players, officials, and fans will all be enjoying one of the club’s merrier festive seasons for years. AEK last won a league title almost a decade ago. Both Bajevic and Santos are cases worthy of admiration, coaches whom their colleagues ought to look to for guidance, instead of getting trapped in the words they like to spin. Santos, a lesser-known celebrity in Greece, can be credited with transforming AEK from a mediocre, rundown team to a serious title contender. Naturally, the experienced Portuguese coach has adroitly avoided making any comments about his team’s chances for a crack at the league title. Knowing well that all is possible in soccer, Santos has maintained a low profile and passed on this stance to his players. He is the best thing that could have happened to AEK.