Italian coach to lead S-League champs
New coach holds a Uefa coaching licence and has worked with numerous clubs in Africa. -TNP
By Ali Kasim
AFTER months of staying under the radar, 2010 S-League champions Etoile FC have resurfaced with a new crop of players and a new head coach.
Although club chairman Johan Gouttefangeas could not be reached for comment, The New Paper has learned that the Queenstown-based club has hired Italian Guglielmo Arena to take over the coaching reigns from Patrick Vallee.
Announced via his online blog, Arena wrote in French above the club crest: "Here is my new club, S-League champions, Etoile FC."
According to his CV attached on the blog, Arena, 37, holds a Uefa coaching licence and has worked with numerous clubs in Africa, which include Moroccan first division side IZK Khemissett (2009-10) and second division side CODMMeknes (2008-09).
He also coached in Benin and Burkina Faso before working with Swiss amateur team U.S Collombey- Muraz from 2006 to 2008.
The Italian also indicated on his website that "(On Jan 20), he will be travelling with the club to Saudi Arabia for 10 days of squad preparation and two friendly games."
Through online fan forum Kallangroar.com, TNP understands that the club was unable to play and train in Saudi due to visa issues.
The team and their new coach, however, did manage a pre-season tour in Thailand during the past week.
There, they played a number of friendly matches with teams such as Police United FC (lost 1-0) and Thai league champions Muangthong United (lost 4-2).
The team returned from its trip yesterday afternoon.
Having released more than half of last season's squad, the majority of the team that travelled to Thailand and which will compete in this year's S-League, comprised several new French players acquired by Gouttefangeas during the last two months.
It is not known exactly how many new faces have been signed.
When contacted, FAS said they had no specific information on their new coach or players, despite the elapsed Jan 31 deadline for the clubs' team sheet (16 players plus one goalkeeper) submissions.
Said an FAS spokesman: "Etoile are scheduled to take the Beep Test on Feb 7 and 8, and have requested for an extension to register their players."
The club is also slated to hold its official press conference for the new season on Tuesday.
According to previous reports, seven players from last year's squad were set to be retained: defenders Loic Leclercq, Daniel Nna, Andrea Damiani and Nordine Talhi, strikers Serge Souchon and Anthony Moulin and goalkeeper Brice Morandini.
This means that Etoile have lost no less than eight players from their first-team last season, including winger Karim Boudjema and top scorer Frederic Mendy, who moved to Home United in December.
Despite becoming the first foreign team to win the league, the French club endured a number of problems in its debut season, stemming primarily from a lack of funds.
In December, TNP reported that the club was considering moving its living and training base to Johor while still competing in the S-League.
Issues of delayed salary payments to players and disputes over league and cup prize money allotments also came to light.
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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