Chinese Super League (CSL) side Henan Jianye on Monday announced the appointment of 52-year-old Croatian Dragan Talajic as the new coach for next season.
Back during his playing days, Talajic plied his trade as a goalkeeper in Slovenia, Turkey, Croatia and Singapore. He started his coaching career in 2004 with the Saudi club Al Ittihad and led them to an Asian Champions League title. Since then, he has coached many clubs in the Middle East and Southeast Asia (Thailand), which is one of the reasons Jianye chose him - for his "knowledge of Asian soccer" - the Chinese club said.
Talajic's last job was with Jordanian club Al Faisaly, and it was reported that Jianye contacted more than 10 candidates before making him the final pick.
Last season Jianye managed to avoid relegation from the Chinese top flight, finishing 14th in the 16-team league, while the bottom two teams will have to play in the second division next season. Longtime coach Jia Xiuquan resigned after a poor start for the 2017 season, leading the team to just one win, five draws and six losses in the opening 12 games. His replacement, Yasen Petrov, lasted just three months before leaving. The team won four, drew four and lost six games under the Bulgarian's guidance.
General Manager Guo Guangqi took over as interim coach and finally led the club to safety and they even became an Internet sensation last season. Before their home game against Shandong Luneng in September, Jianye hadn't won a home game in more than three months, and another loss could have booted them out of the CSL. To remove the stain of the bad mojo, a group of fans invited 15 Taoist priests to their home stadium in Zhengzhou, Henan Province to perform an exorcism ritual before the Luneng game. Photos of the scene went viral on social media, with the priests praying their best and burning incense.
And, sure enough, they did get the much-needed win by beating Luneng 2-1.
But their deeds were not very well liked by the Chinese Football Association (CFA), which opened an investigation into the case.
The explanation? "The soccer pitch is not a religious space and hosting such activities on a public sports field is neither appropriate nor conforming with the image of professional soccer," CFA said in a statement, then told the club to seek salvation through goals rather than the gods.
"Instead of asking for help from gods outside the pitch, Henan should seek victory through self-endeavor and battling on it," CFA concluded.