After losing 3-2 away to Guizhou on Saturday Guangzhou R&F announced that they would be parting company with Brazilian coach Sergio Farias. Team leader Li Bing will assume temporary charge until a new coach is appointed.
Farias, who won the Korean league twice and the ACL once during a successful spell as Pohang Steelers manager, arrived at R&F before the 2012 season started. This was the club’s first season in the CSL and Farias led them off to a very strong start before poor results in October ended their challenge for an ACL place.
Seventh was still an impressive finish to their maiden top flight campaign and raised expectations about what was possible this year. Sadly for followers of R&F none of those expectations have materialised as the Cantonese side have endured a difficult start to the season. Two wins and two draws leave R&F sitting in thirteenth place in the sixteen team CSL with ten matches played already.
The pressure was mounting on Farias not just because of the results but because of the poor performances with terrible away showings at Hangzhou and Jiangsu coupled with an uninspiring 0-0 home draw with Shanghai East Asia. Another contributing factor is that whilst Farias has been unlucky with injuries to key players, especially the foreigners, he was not on the best of terms with the Chinese or foreign players and had ‘lost the dressinging room.’ As if to confirm this, the R&F players interviewed after the Guizhou match wished Farias well in the future if he were sacked but stopped short of defending him.
Speculation linking Swedish manager and former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson with R&F had emerged before the squad flew to Guizhou and in the post-match press conference Farias looked resigned to his fate which was officially confirmed the next morning. Li Bing who was capped 67 times for China during his playing career will take charge until a successor to Farias is announced.
It doesn’t seem like this will take a long time as there are already three well qualified candidates being linked with the vacant position. Eriksson is the front runner although his inability to stay in one place for more than a year after he left the England hotseat in 2006 will be a worry for fans looking for stability. A more suitable coach given his experience not just of working in China but of working across town at Tianhe is Lee Jang Soo. The South Korean won China League One and the CSL in consecutive seasons with Guangzhou Evergrande before they controversially sacked him whilst top of the CSL last season. The dark horse in this race is Branko Ivankovic who won the CSL as coach of Shandong Luneng in 2010. He has since had two unsuccessful spells coaching in the Middle East but the Croatian is looking to get back into management and has submitted a 32 page document to R&F outlining his vision for the club.
Li Bing will get a chance to settle into his new, albeit temporary, role when R&F play Chongqing FC in the CFA Cup on Tuesday night. The pressure will be on come Saturday though as the Cantonese side look for only their second home CSL win of the season in what will be their first game at Yuexiushan in the CSL without Farias in charge.