Sydney Olympic FC has made an eleventh hour coaching change by appointing club Hall of Fame member Abbas Saad as its new head coach. The appointment came as the club announced the departure of senior coach Gorka Etxeberria just a week before its opening round match of the new NPL season against Bonnyrigg White Eagles.

Spanish coach Etxeberria’s departure comes just eight months after his appointment in July last year when he replaced Jaime Monroy who also had a short tenure at Belmore. The club itself gave little explanation for Etxeberria’s surprise departure given that he had prepared the team throughout almost the entire pre-season program. On his Facebook page, Etxeberria clearly states it was the club’s decision to terminate his tenure as head coach but only hinted in general terms as to why the decision was taken.

He said on his Facebook page: “The club has decided to remove me from the 1st team coach role and I agree that that’s the best option if they want to change the course of the project that we were building. I’m very grateful for the opportunity given me to know Australia and to coach Sydney Olympic FC for these 10 months, and I wish the best to SOFC in the season that starts next week.

I’m going to stay in Australia a little more working for the person that brought me here, free from the bench, helping him in the project that he wants to build. Anyway, this will let me much more freedom to come back home and hopefully to share my time between Sydney and San Sebastian.”

In the club’s official statement on the matter Sydney Olympic Football Club President Bill Papas said, “The club would like to thank Gorka for his contribution in both building and developing our squad and the experience and mentoring he has provided our coaching staff throughout the club in his time here. We wish him the very best for his future endeavours.”

“It’s always important to transition quickly when making a decision like this and we are delighted to announce that Olympic Hall of Fame member Abbas Saad has been appointed to the role of First Grade Coach for the 2018 season.”

Saad has coached in the NSW Premier League in season 2009, with Penrith Nepean United, served as a Technical Youth Director at Sydney Olympic and head coach of the Australian Deaf Football Team, as well as some coaching experience in Malaysia.

It remains to be seen what impact such a late coaching change will have on the team’s performance. How long the players take to adapt to new coach Saad’s coaching ideas and style, could be crucial to Olympic’s season. Like all other teams, Olympic will be looking for a positive start to the season beginning this Sunday with a home match against Bonnyrigg White Eagles.