SPORTS

Bajevic resigns as club board fails to clarify its position on coach

Just days after leading Olympiakos soccer club to a league and cup double, coach Dusan Bajevic resigned yesterday after apparently failing to secure full backing from the club’s administration. Despite his success as coach, club officials were divided on whether to continue working with Bajevic. The ambivalent situation had been fueled in recent days by scathing public remarks from star players Rivaldo and Giovanni, who returned to Brazil at the end of the season to join Santos. Their negative remarks echoed the position of the team’s organized fan club of hardcore supporters, Thyra Epta, or Gate Seven, which had long demanded a new coach. The fan club believed Bajevic was to blame for the club’s lack of success in European club-level soccer. Their persistent claims were never challenged by the administration. Bajevic announced his resignation yesterday afternoon following a board meeting where various team issues were discussed but the coach’s standing was neglected. «I waited until today, as had been requested. It seems that my case was not important, even though there has been so much fuss regarding my future at the club,» Bajevic said in a statement. «To simplify matters, I asked the administration, following its announcement, to end my contract. I consider unity to be the most important aspect for success. There would not have been unity if I stayed on.» News reports on Tuesday, a day ahead of his resignation, had already begun speculating who could be Bajevic’s successor. In his scathing remarks made on Greek television last weekend, Rivaldo said Olympiakos needed a coach with a «European mentality not a Greek mentality» to stand firm in the Champions League. Giovanni, in his first interview upon arrival in Brazil just days ago, declared that Bajevic could not stand the sight of him. Bajevic, 56, arguably ranks as the most successful coach in the history of Greek soccer. The Serb, who also acquired Greek citizenship in the previous decade, began his career playing as a striker with Velez Mostar and also played with the former Yugoslavia’s national side. He ended his playing career with AEK between 1978 and 1982, winning one league title with the club in his second season. After taking over as coach at the club, Bajevic won his first league title in 1989, followed by three straight titles between 1992 and 1994. At Olympiakos, Bajevic won four league titles over two tenures – in 1997, 1998, 1999 and this season. Moreover, a short stay at Thessaloniki club PAOK produced a Greek Cup title in 2001. It is considered certain that Bajevic’s team of close associates who have joined the coach from team to team in recent years will follow him.