SPORTS

Bajevic’s job on the line as tide against him grows

Despite leading Olympiakos to the league and cup double this season, it appears that coach Dusan Bajevic’s future at the Piraeus club is anything but certain. Just days after Brazilian stars Rivaldo and Giovanni publicly condemned the Serb-Greek coach, Thyra 7, or Gate 7, the club’s organized fan club of hard-core supporters, released a statement of disapproval. «The only thing we asked for at the end of last season was a foreign coach of renowned quality because our aspirations can no longer be met by any coach that – until now – has worked in Greece,» the statement said. Olympiakos, runner-up to Panathinaikos in the 2003-2004 season, rebounded strongly for this season’s double, but a certain faction of fans remain frustrated over Olympiakos’s early exit from the Champions League and poor overall record in Europe. Despite winning eight of the nine domestic league titles, Olympiakos has made little impact beyond the local frontiers. In the season that just ended, the Greek club failed to make it past the prestigious European club-level competition’s first-phase group competition after suffering a 3-1 loss at Anfield by Liverpool, the eventual champion. Olympiakos went into that sixth and final group game as its group’s frontrunner with three wins, all at home, and a draw, but ended third behind Monaco and Liverpool. Both advanced as the group’s top two teams. Last Saturday, Rivaldo, appearing on Greek TV, raised the issue of Olympiakos’s lack of success in Europe and alluded that Bajevic was not made for what it takes to succeed in the Champions League. «What we need to decide is whether we want a coach with a Greek mentality or one with a European mentality – one with objectives in Europe, not just here,» Rivaldo said. The timing of these comments was not coincidental. Rivaldo, who, earlier in the season had generated tension after protesting at being substituted, ended the season on the crest of a wave and is immensely popular among club fans. The former Deportivo, Barcelona and AC Milan playmaker, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, arrived in Athens hoping to revive a career faltering through injury, and did so. His impressive season was highlighted by 12 goals, including the one that beat Iraklis 1-0 in last week’s final and clinched the title for the Piraeus club. In effect, Rivaldo’s comments, made on local television last Saturday, summoned the club’s president Socrates Kokkalis to replace Bajevic – this country’s most successful coach, with plenty of titles at AEK, Olympiakos, and PAOK to prove it. Rivaldo’s comments were followed, a couple of days later, by similar remarks from his outgoing compatriot Giovanni, whose six years at Olympiakos ended last week. Giovanni will return to Santos, the Brazilian club he played with before moving to Europe. Also immensely popular with fans since arriving from Barcelona six years ago, the 33-year-old, who scored six times in 19 appearances for Brazil, expressed dissatisfaction with Bajevic. «I could have offered more to my team this season,» said Giovanni, who was not a regular starter. «I’m glad about the double and I’m leaving with my head held high, but I would have wanted to contribute more to this.»