The successful Spanish coach makes a comeback in Ekenäs IF

Gabri Garcia Xatart will be a new coach for Ekenäs IF’s men’s football team. The Spaniard, who left Ekenäslaget in the summer of 2019, is now returning to the team, which is preparing for its ninth season in the second highest league.

It was in June 2019 that the club management in Ekenäs IF got tired of the lack of success and the successful coach from the 2018 season took the consequences.

Now Gabri Garcia Xatart returns to Ekenäs and EIF in the football set. After being fired from Ekenäslaget, the Catalan has worked as a coach in PEPO in Villmanstrand, FC KTP in Kotka and Åbolaget TPS.

– He is actually EIF’s most successful coach in modern times. The 2018 season was a good season for EIF, says Niclas Lindgren.

Lindgren is chairman of the board of the limited company behind EIF’s representation law.

– He has gained a lot of experience since he was with us last time and he is familiar with the club. We are very happy that he is coming back to EIF, says Lindgren.

The now 34-year-old UEFA Pro Coach came to Finland and Ekenäs via the Estonian club Paide.

Portrait of Gabri Garcia Xatart.
Caption
Gabri Garcia Xatart coach EIF in the men’s season 2018 and half season 2019. (Archive image)

Image: Bubi Asplund / Yle

“I had a great time in Ekenäs, and still do. This is my second home. I am at a loss for words how happy I am to be back again,” says Xatart in a press release from EIF.

In his first season as a coach for EIF, the team achieved its best ever finish in the men’s division. EIF came third in the final table. The 2018 season was a single success story for the team that went all the way to the semi-finals of the Finnish Cup.

Only two player contracts

Xatart takes over a team that currently only has two player contracts. French midfielder Abdoulaye Kanté and Russian striker Stanislav Efimov have signed for another season with EIF.

Sports manager Peter Haglund says that now that the coaching staff for the coming season is complete, the negotiations with the players are picking up speed.

“I have already discussed with several players and now that the coaching staff is ready, the negotiations are in a completely new state. But I will also discuss with the new coach how we should do it in the future”, says Haglund in the press release from the club.

The Spaniard Daniel Bolufer becomes assistant coach in EIF. The joint-stock company behind EIF’s representation team hires Mika Niemi as full-time CEO. He will also serve as team manager for the team in the second highest league.

– The fact that we get a full-time CEO who works continuously together with the coaches is a step forward in our business, says Lindgren.

The employment of the CEO on a full-time basis does not affect the player budget.

– Mika Niemi has a full pension, so the compensation he receives is not particularly burdensome for our budget.

Lindgren says that a full-time CEO is a step towards greater professionalism.

– If we are to take the step to the highest league, we must also review our operations and the overall view of how we treat our sponsors. We have to be able to give all those who support us a lot of added value, he says and notes that it is not just about making the step up to the league, but also being able to keep our place there.

Xatart will arrive after the turn of the year

Both coaches’ contracts extend over the 2023 season with the possibility of an extension.

Xatart comes to Ekenäs shortly after the New Year and begins the work. It is possible that he will arrive a little earlier to discuss with sports manager Peter Haglund and other staff.

“Over the years, I have gained a much clearer picture of Finnish football. It means a lot to me. Together we will try to do something big, something positive and happy”, says Xatart.

Mikko Manninen was first coach for the EIF in the 2022 season. He was fired in July and replaced by the Portuguese Filipe Pedro.

EIF finished fourth in the league table and went to the league qualifiers. The Jakobstad team Jaro defeated EIF in the qualifiers for the league qualifiers in a hot match with the numbers 2-1.

In about two months, EIF will play its first competitive matches of the season. Namely, Etta’s Cup starts on 21.1.2023. The Ekenäs team is placed in group B with Åbolaget TPS, Salon Palloilijat and Käpylän Pallo from Helsinki.

TPS qualified for a league place last fall, while both SalPa and KäPa are series newcomers in the men’s division.

The title and article changed on 22.11 at 08:45. According to the EIF, Gabri Garcia Xatart was never fired from the club but the contract was canceled by mutual agreement between the club and him.

The article updated with comments by Peter Haglund and Niclas Lindgren.

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