Bajevic looks to move past the abuse.
When Atromitos manager Dusan Bajevic steps into the dugout on Thursday evening at Newcastle, it is unlikely he will consider the moment a career defining one. But far from a slight on the quality of his opponents, it serves more as testament to the varied and often colourful life the man has lived.
A title winner at both ends of a fierce Greek rivalry - he has won the Greek domestic league eight times in his career and was chronically abused by fans of one club - it’s difficult to put an order to the chaos outside of chronology.
Extremely polarising as an individual, his career has followed a similar habit. When times were good - like his title wins with AEK Athens and Olympaikos, they were most certainly good - but when they were bad they often far surpassed what many would deem acceptable in his profession.
First weaving himself into the tapestry of Greek football with AEK Athens, he brought four league titles to the club in his first spell but left in a shroud of controversy by joining Olympiakos, where he secured his other four league titles despite fans bombarding him with death threats.
Far from meek in his response, Bajevic was blunt when asked about the threats from AEK fans, simply stating: “I have done nothing wrong. I will kill anyone who comes near my family.” Upon his return to the Athens club, fans showered him with food and even a moped was thrown from the stands, and yet amazingly this would not be the most chronic instance of abuse he would suffer.
It also wouldn’t be the first time he would immerse himself in a fierce rivalry - take his time at Red Star Belgrade as an example of that. On something of a sabbatical from Greek football, Bajevic suffered defeat at the hands of rivals Partizan, but as he gave an interview to local television a few days after the game, angry Red Star fans set about his company car, smashing one of the windows.
With his days at the club seemingly numbered, Bajevic left under a cloud as he resigned midway through a match against FK Vojvodina, leaving the pitch in the 70th minute, never to return.
However, despite the fact that his last act in Belgrade was not a normal one, it was not the first time he’d done such a thing. His second spell at AEK Athens had seen the club’s fans split over his worth to the side: some were able to forgive, others would never forget. What began with derogatory banners quickly escalated and reached its crescendo in a match against Iraklis, when Bajevic resigned before half-time. It would later be revealed his wife had also left the game prior to kick-off after receiving similar levels of abuse.
In the wake of that departure, he had once again joined Olympiakos. You would be forgiven for thinking this was an attempt to spite the fans of AEK once again, but fan pressure once again forced him out.
During his extensive management history, Bajevic has overseen five different Greek clubs including Atromitos, with not every job characterised by turmoil. His time spent with PAOK Thessaloniki and Aris brought one Greek Cup to add to the two he’d already earned as a manager. Amazingly, a third spell at AEK Athens came and went, albeit with a more sinister conclusion this time round. Like watching an arguing couple reunite, to an outsider the likely outcome seemed upsettingly obvious.
By this point Bajevic had mellowed - perhaps it was the maturity gained with age. Where once his press conference was barbed and filled with a determination not to bow to the will of radical fans, now Bajevic the diplomat sat and said: “I have said sorry to whoever I aggrieved and I say sorry again to everyone. We can’t afford to talk about it now though. We all love AEK. We need to forget the good and the bad and look forward.”
Sadly not everyone subscribed to his view and, again, the abuse was intense. Losing to second division Kallithea FC was embarrassing, but not befitting the punishment that was exacted. As Bajevic tried to leave the field he was punched by a fan. Many expected his resignation - he had walked from other clubs for far less - but after support from his staff, the players and a large section of the club’s fans, he remained.
Two months later, Bajevic would end his association with the club for the third time as manager. Firmly established within the history of AEK, admiration for him was far from universal in Athens, but his contributions were undeniable.
Now with Atromitos, life finally seems more peaceful. His side finished fourth in the Greek Super League, and while not garnering the headlines or trophies that some of his previous Greek clubs have, the unique individual that is Dusan Bajevic provides more than enough intrigue and excitement on his own.