Skip to main content


Union Berlin appoints Croatian coach Bjelica in bid to turn troubled team's fortunes around

Union Berlin Nenad Bjelica - The Canadian Press

Union Berlin has appointed Croatian coach Nenad Bjelica as the successor to Urs Fischer in a bid to improve the team’s fortunes and leave the Bundesliga’s relegation zone.

Union announced Bjelica’s signing on Sunday without giving details about the length of his contract.

“In Nenad Bjelica, we have been able to attract an experienced coach who has worked successfully in various countries. He has a clear idea of how he wants to lead our team and what type of soccer it should play,” Union president Dirk Zingler said. “We are entrusting him with the task of leading the team to success again.”

Union enjoyed unprecedented success under Fischer, who led the club to its first Bundesliga promotion in 2019 and ever higher in each of the following seasons, culminating in Champions League qualification.

But this season has not gone to plan. Union lost nine Bundesliga games in succession before Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Augsburg, when the team was led by interim coach Marco Grote and assistant Marie-Louise Eta.

Eta became the first female member of the coaching staff of a Bundesliga team in the league's 60-year-history.

The club said Sunday that Eta will remain assistant coach to Bjelica until Sebastian Bönig returns. Bjelica is also bringing his assistant Danijel Jumić to the club. Bönig, who had worked as assistant under Fischer, asked the club for a break for “personal reasons” last week and the club gave no timeline for his return.

Grote is to return to Union’s Under-19s, which he had previously coached with Eta.

The 52-year-old Bjelica was last in charge of Turkish team Trabzonspor, while he previously coached Croatian clubs Osijek and Dinamo Zagreb, Polish team Lech Poznań, Italian side Spezia and Austria Vienna, among others.

“My job is to lead the team out of a difficult phase and return it to its strengths,” Bjelica said in Union’s statement. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Union next plays Portuguese team Braga in the Champions League on Tuesday, then Bundesliga games against Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach before Real Madrid visits for the team’s last Champions League game this season.


AP soccer: