In a hastily called meeting of Apoel’s top brass late on Thursday, it was decided to terminate the services of Dutch coach Mario Been after just three games in charge and replace him with Greek coach Giorgos Donis, who is expected in Cyprus later on Friday.
Been, who was appointed as manager on May 26, came under severe criticism following three admittedly lacklustre performances in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League against teams that were considered inferior to the Cyprus champions.
In the second qualifying round they managed to scrape past Luxembourg minnows F91 Dudelange, where they were second best in both legs, while they lost Wednesday’s third qualifying round first leg against the inexperienced but skillful Romanian side Viitorul Constanta 1-0.
What seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back were Been’s post-game statements against Viitorul where he appeared to be in total denial to what actually happened on the pitch, saying: “I think we played well. My players did exactly what was asked of them. I am 100 per cent sure that we shall qualify”.
Speaking to Dutch media organisation RTV Rijnmond on Friday, Been expressed his dismay about the decision to fire him.
“I have never experienced such a thing,” he said. “The fans have no patience and were so disappointed after our loss in Romania that the president (Prodromos Petrides) felt he had no other option but to sack me!”
The current Apoel board, which took charge in 2013, is notorious for being trigger-happy in the firing of coaches, with Been the seventh coach to be sacked by the board.
The most bewildering fact is that Apoel, despite the continuous sacking of managers, has managed to win five consecutive Cyprus championships, all with different men in the hot seat.
Ironically, Been’s replacement Donis was one of the managers who had steered Apoel to the title in season 2013-2014 in impressive fashion.
However things started to turn sour for the Greek coach at the end of 2014 and he was finally sacked after his team failed to defeat bottom-placed Ayia Napa in January 2015.
At the time there were also rumours that a number of senior players were dissatisfied with Apoel’s fitness coach, who was part of Donis’ team.
This was mooted as the reason why Donis was not appointed as Apoel coach this summer, as he had insisted on selecting his own backroom staff, including that of the fitness coach.
However it appears that due to the difficult position Apoel is in right now, the board has backed down on this and Donis will be allowed to select the team that will work with him.
His first game in charge will be the second leg against Viitorul next Wednesday in Nicosia, where Apoel need to overturn a 1-0 deficit if they are to proceed to the Champions League playoff round.