Steelers’ winning coach says goodbye for nowDespite another accomplishment in their already glowing resume for 2009, the Pohang Steelers found little to celebrate over the weekend.
They defeated the Mexican club Atlante 4-3 in a penalty shootout at the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates Sunday and became the most successful K-League club in the tournament’s history.
But in the post-game locker room, players were lamenting a loss of another kind.
Their Brazilian head coach, Sergio Farias, said he would leave the team for a year for “family reasons,” according to Pohang. The announcement, which left some shocked players in tears, was so unexpected that even his interpreter hadn’t seen it coming.
The announcement came only days after Farias was linked to a Saudi Arabian club, Al Ahly. The football Web site IM Scouting reported that Farias would sign with the new team with $700,000 in transfer fees, but Farias angrily denied the rumor. He said teams in West Asia spew information for show before checking out the facts. Farias also said he would honor his current contract with the Steelers.
Pohang president Kim Tae-man said he believed Farias was in talks with teams from the UAE and Portugal but that the coach hadn’t reached any agreements. Farias agreed to a two-year extension with Pohang in June this year.
Kim said Farias told him his family had grown weary of life in a foreign country. Farias joined the Steelers in 2005. “Just a few days ago, we were drawing the picture for next year together,” Kim said. “I didn’t see this coming in my wildest imagination.”
Farias, the first K-League bench boss from Brazil, has been one of the most successful head coaches in the last three seasons. His team won the K-League championship in 2007, despite entering the postseason ranked fifth out of six teams in action. The Steelers claimed the FA Cup, a nationwide tournament for all professional and amateur teams, last year.
In 2009, they won the League Cup, an auxiliary, in-season tournament for K-League teams. The Steelers also claimed the AFC Champions League to become the leading club in Asia.
The Steelers have begun scrambling to find ways to convince Farias to stay, or at least to come back after his one-year hiatus. But Kim, the team president, admitted, “We need to talk to the coach more, but we’re not sure if we can bring him back.”
By Yoo Jee-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]