From time to time a few interviews feature at World Scorpio with personalities ranging from Belgium's athletics hero Kim Gevaert to international star dj Armin Van Buuren, or Brazil's football coach Carlos Dunga, etc. Keep an eye on that!!
Don't forget World Scorpio = Premier League and Cricket first!
World Cup coming up!
WORLD SCORPIO TEAM
producer: Kunti Samindra
coproducer: Kingsley Manga
sports journalist: Lameck Fiwa
sports journalist: Kunti Siddhartha
politics: Bram Dehaene
entertainment: Quinten Seghers
general news: Sang Xuan
19/10/08: World Scorpio is proud to announce that its former member and gifted presentator Mark Henry Rubarenzya, currently working in Australia, last May won the Visiting International Fellowship(VIF) Award of the prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers. Wow! Many congratulations, Mark!
27/12/08: World Scorpio wishes everyone a merry Christmas and an excellent and prosperous New Year with all the best in 2009!!!
17/10/09: World Scorpio is happy to inform our listeners that as off today you will be able to tune in to the show online, just click on 'live stream' at the top of the page to enjoy world scorpio online.
22/10/09: World Scorpio wishes Arsène Wenger a happy 60th birthday!!
04/12/09: the website of World Scorpio and Radio Scorpio has moved, you can not find us anymore at .com but Radio Scorpio has switched the domain name to .be >>> www.radioscorpio.be
04/12/09: the final draw for the 2010 FIFA football world cup took place today in Cape Town, South Africa. The draw was shown in over 200 different countries to a worldwide audience of about 200 million football fans. After the colourful and spectacular show full of music and dance it was time for the draw itself which was led by FIFA general-secretary Jerome Valcke. Group G has been labeled as the group of death with Brazil, Korea DPR, Portugal and Ivory Coast. Extensive debate about the draw during the world scorpio of December 5th.
JOSEPH BLATTER INTERVIEW
Joseph Blatter has been the president of FIFA since 1998 when he succeeded dr. João Havelange as the most powerful person in the world of sport. Under Blatter's reign football has seen an increasing tendency towards globalisation, which is in line with the policy of the former president Dr. João Havelange. One of Mr. Blatter greatste achievements, according to himself, is giving Africa, and more in particular South Africa, the chance of hosting the world's biggest sport event, next to the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, in 2010. World Scorpio had the chance to speak exclusively to Mr. Blatter about his vision on the "beautiful game".
1.What is your personal relationship to football?
I have faith in football and in what football can move in our world. You see, the FIFA World Cup has become the ultimate expression through which the worldwide family of football unites in celebration of the beautiful game. It brings people together regardless of any differences of background and teaches us many important lessons in life. That is the power of football.
I feel so much concerned by the ever-growing negative consequences of the globalisation of football. This is my combat! I stand by the principle of solidarity and put a strong focus restoring the balance between finance and sport. That's why FIFA is reinvesting nearly 70 percent of its revenues to the development of the game worldwide through the Financial Assistance Programme, educational programmes and valuable projects such as the Goal Programme.
2. How has football in general evolved over the years and has it for the worse or the better?
Football game has transcended its beginnings as a purely "sporting" event to become a social and cultural phenomenon, and for instance the Wolrd Cup has firmly established itself as one of the premier events on the planet. The economic success of the FIFA World Cup provides the FIFA administration with the tools needed to pursue its quest to make the world a better place through football. This is, of course, not only in direct financial terms but also through the enormous positive publicity that comes along with it. It has also allowed FIFA to initiate important partnerships with organisations such as the UN and its different bodies and agencies, as well as with other important non-governmental organizations. I'm convinced that football can help make the world a better place, now, and long into the future.
3. You tend to stress that football has a social responsability. Do you really believe that football or an institution such as FIFA can make a difference?
Through its universality, the FIFA World Cup represents a magnificent opportunity to use its unifying power to combat social ills and to promote the positive values associated with the game of football - sportsmanship, friendship, hope, emotion, solidarity and more. The united football family plays its part in encouraging social and educational development through the dazzling spectacle of football, while also contributing actively to a global message. Two people of divergent language, culture and history may, in any other context, see nothing but the gap that divides them. Put them in the context of football and that gap disappears. This is particularly relevant as development is not just about developing the sport, but rather is about investing in people and society as a whole, contributing to social and cultural progress.
4. World Scorpio admires the Brazilian team that won the 1970 world cup in Mexico, what are your memories from this team and do you agree that this was the best team ever?
The first World Cup I actively attended with the FIFA was in 1978 in Buenos Aires. But I remember that in 1970 Pelé returned after vowing never to play in another FIFA World Cup and Brazil won the Jules Rimet trophy outright with a near-perfect team including Clodoaldo, Gerson, Rivelino, Tostao, Jairzinho, Pelé and Carlos Alberto. I remember well the final at Mexico City's Aztec Stadium, Brazil dazzled and danced to a memorable 4-1 win over Italy with Jairzinho becoming the only player to have scored in every match.
5. If you had to create one new rule in the laws of the game, which on would that be?
The laws of the games are perfect. But I'm convinced that the referees has to get a professional status, so they will have a better recognition.
6. What do you exspect of the SA2010 world cup?
In a world which is full of violence and natural disasters, I hope that the World Cup can unite us all as in Germany, regardless of our origin, religion or nationality, with the passion and emotion that football provides. For 31 days the whole world was focused on the World Cup in Germany and will be again in 2010 in South Africa. The TV audiences were higher than ever, the official website FIFAWorldCup.com had a record number of visitors, and everyone everywhere was talking about the competition. I think that Germany gave an example and I hope South Africa will follow it.
I am absolutely convinced that the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa will be at least of the same quality and standard as the previous ones, if not better. When I proposed Africa as the organiser of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I did so not only out of a sense of justice towards the African continent, which has given so much to world football, but also because I'm convinced of the capacity of the African people to organise such a high-standard event like the FIFA World Cup.
Finally, in the build up to 2010, one of our goals will be to ensure that the whole African continent will benefit from the tournament in South Africa. For this reason, I proposed the "Win in Africa with Africa" project, which was approved by the FIFA Congress in Munich and which will allow to implement several measures in order to leave a long lasting legacy in African football.
7. You have now been working for FIFA for 31 years,how do you reflect upon this time and what drives you on? What would you still like to achieve as current president and, if elected as president from 2007onwards?
What I can say is that, during the first eight years as FIFA President, my motto and my aim has been to 'make the game better, take it to the world, and make the world a better place'. I think we have come a long way in this direction, and that football is now the most universal of sports, but we still have a lot of work to do. The vast majority of our income is devoted to football development in our member associations, and this will be the case in the coming years as well.
I am convinced that the values of football can provide a "school of life" and contribute in bringing about human development, world peace and tolerance. In order to put this into practice and to attempt to 'make the world a better place', I proposed during the recent FIFA Congress in Munich to adopt a new slogan for the coming years: "Develop the game, touch the world, build a better future", which we intend to implement through our alliance in concrete projects with organisations such as Unicef and SOS Children Villages.
RICKY PONTING INTERVIEW
Ricky Ponting is the current captain of Team Cricket Australia -in ODI's, Twenty20 and Test Cricket. He is a specialist right-handed batsman, slips and close catching fielder, as well as a very occasional right-arm medium pace bowler. Ponting has scored more then 10000 runs in the ODI and Test format of the game. Not shy of controversy, Ponting has been captaining the Australian Test team, which has been dominating the world scene for a decade, since 2004. With the recent raise of Twenty20 cricket and India together with South Africa closing in on the Australians, Ponting's captaincy is constantly subject of intense debate. World Scorpio had the chance to speak exclusively to Ricky Ponting.
1.On his roots in Tasmania and the connection with cricket:
Growing up in Tasmania , everyone was sports mad with Australian football in winter and cricket in summer. After sustaining a serious football injury I had no hesitation in concentrating solely on my cricket
2. On preventing complacency in the world's best team:
With such a small number of people playing cricket for Australia in the history of the game, so each player understands how special it is
3. On motivating younger members of the team, who have to replace star players:
It is really about appreciating the past but always looking towards the future
4. On picking the highlight of his career sofar:
Regaining the Ashes in 2006/07 was an amazing feeling. Playing in three World Cup winning teams also rates highly for me
5. On picking the best batsmen of his generation:
I have been lucky enough to play in an era with some of the best Test batsmen to ever play and I don’t think I could name just one
6. On the second test of the Ashers 2005:
In such a close series it is hard to say there was one defining turning point
7. On the key to success as a batsman:
Adapting to the conditions and watching the ball all the time are two of the most important things to concentrate on
8. On picking one Indian player for the Australian team, if given the chance:
Again, I don’t think I could name just one
9. On Twenty20:
The Twenty20 game has gained popularity seemingly overnight and the support it gets is amazing. The Twenty20 World Cup was a great experience
10. On India's controversial tour of Australia in 2008:
The Test and ODI series against India was very hard fought and, looking back, was of an extremely high standard also
11. On the IPL:
The IPL is a great way for players from all over the world to come together
12. On an IPL window and a probably demise of test cricket:
a) An IPL window is something to consider to ensure that both could work together on the cricketing calendar
b) As One-day cricket enhanced the standard of Test cricket there is no reason why Twenty20 can't do the same for both One-day and Test cricket
Other interviews have featured at World Scorpio, unfortunately these sound fragments are not available online. Below a sample of personalities who have featured in our show:
2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SOUTH AFRICA
The world has been waiting...and nearly the wait will be over: The FIFA World Cup is on our doorsteps once more. June 11th will see host nation South Africa take on Mexico at the Soccer City stadium in Jnb in the opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup as the biggest event in world sport will kick off and dominate this planet for one month in which high drama and passion will be seen, but which above all will be a big and colourful party. Ke nako - it is nearly time!
World Scorpio will bring extensive coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Keep an eye on the website for the latest news from South Africa and special broadcasts. In the mean time do not forget to visit: www.fifa.com
24/04/2010: Tune in for an exclusive interview with the CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Dr. DANNY JORDAAN. Dr. Jordaan has been the driving force between South Africa's bid to host the World Cup and is now also the head of local organising committee. For an incredible 16 years he has been telling the world over and over that South Africa can deliver a perfect world cup. The road to the world cup has been one of "perception and reality". Tune in to find out more!
01/05/2010: Tune in for an exclusive interview with the press officer of the Brazilian national team, who is believed to be the most influential person in the CBF next to the president Ricardo Texeira. RODRIGO PAIVA has been with the Brazilian team for nearly a decade and during the interview he talks about his experiences being part of what is without a doubt Brazil's most potent export product and symbol - the national football team, admired across the globe for their unique style of play and gifted players. Brazil will head off to South Africa May 27, whereas Dunga will announce his final squad May 11.
http://www.arsenal.com : official website of Arsenal FC
http://www.brentfordfc.co.uk : official website of Brentford FC
http://www.cbf.com.br : official website of the Brazilian FA
http://www.sambafoot.com/en : latest football news from Brazil
http://www.worldfootballinsider.com : football politics
http://www.transparencyinsport.org : website from Andrew Jennings
http://www.worldsoccer.com : the famous football magazine
http://www.voetbalcentraal.nl : latest football news (Dutch)
http://www.boudeweel.be : Belgian sportsjournalist (Dutch)
http://www.lords.org : the home of cricket online
www.ecb.co.uk : official website of the England and Wales cricket board
www.bcci.tv : official website of the board of cricket control for India
www.leuvencc.be : official website of Leuven cricket club
www.cricketessex.org.uk : official website of Essex cricket club
RIO DE JANEIRO - SK. It is often said that the main task of Brazil´s coach is to find and strike a right balance between defence and attack - between Brazilian flair and European organization. A Brazil coach should unearth a synergy between flamboyance and order. Instilling a certain discipline into his loose headed players is the key recipe for a Brazil coach to have success.
Balance is paramount in football. Brazil gained its reputation as samba king of world football when its outfits struck a perfect balance between the defensive and offensive compartment. Brazil´s 4-3-3 formation in 1970 is the perfect example - sensational attacking force was combined with defensive security spearheaded by Clodoaldo. The marauding rushes of Carlos Alberto Torres, Rivelino´s thunderous shots and Tostao´s neat play off the ball against Italy in the final have since become part of football folklore.
In many ways the 1970 Selecao was a refined version of Brazil 1958, which lined-up in a 4-2-4 formation. Zagalo provided Vicente Feola´s eleven with the right poise, often pulling back to help out in midfield. The industrious outside left made it thus a 4-3-3. Zagalo´s role became evident in the crucial group game against the USSR where Garrincha dazzled his way forward on the right wing. Gabriel Hanot dubbed the first three minutes of the encounter as the best in the history of football.
One wonders what Zagalo must have been thinking as Brazil desperately tried to strike a right balance in testing out a number of formations and personnel in recent friendlies against Italy and Russia. While Brazil do not longer boost players the likes of Djalma Santos, Didi, Clodoaldo, Rivelino, Gerson, etc., Brazil´s Luiz Felipe Scolari was appointed to implant more pedigree and panache into the slumbering Brazil XI of recent seasons. Gone would be the days of Mano Menezes perennially rebuilding the side, instead Scolari would with aplomb bulldoze his way to another world title.
His quest to win the world cup seems, however, to have hit a bumpy road already. After capitulating a two goal advantage against Italy in Geneva, Brazil nearly succumbed to defeat against Russia in London four days later. Scolari must have been agonized but what he saw from his team in the course of this European trip: blatant incompetence reigned both at the back and at the front of the team. The defensive frailties, so often the Achilles ´heel during Mano Menzes´ tenure, were exposed again in a barren manner while the front men showed a distinct lack of mutual understanding.
Against Italy, Brazil were on the back foot straightaway. The Squadra Azzuri pilled on the pressure, creating plenty of chances as the Selecao failed to pick up Italy´s linkman Giacherini. It enabled Italy to carefully spread the play and often get in behind the back of the Brazilian defense, often to the torment of Dante and Filipe Luis. The Italians cut at will through the benevolent Brazilian defense and only outstanding saves from Julio Cesar from Balotelli and Maggio prevented Pirlo and co taking the lead.
Against the run of play Fred, Fluminense´s outstanding striker during the 2012 Brasileirao, put Brazil in front connecting with Neymar´s cross in the 32nd minute. Oscar doubled the lead, graciously carving it past Buffon off the outside of his right-foot. It was much more a testimony to the level of efficiency - that Brazil has shown ever since Carlos Alberto Parreira truly ´Europeanized´ the Selecao during the 1994 World Cup adhering to a rigid 4-4-2 formation - than to the pure class and incisiveness that is still so often linked to the Brazilian game.
But after the break Italy deservedly managed to turn the tables. The introduction of El Shaarawy and Cerci brought more mobility and agility to Italy´s game and Prandelli´s substitutions paid dividends before the hour mark: De Rossi gently turning in a corner-kick before Mario Balotelli unleashed a ferocious drive that caught Julio Cesar badly off his line. Italy should have won the game from thereon, but failed to convert its chances.
Balotelli´s meak attempt inside the box was again saved by the admirably playing Julio Cesar; Bonucci´s header flashed past the far post. Scolari, often dubbed pragmatic, refused to alter his 4-3-3 formation, while the circumstances of the game thoroughly warranted it. He opted to give Kaka a run out, substituting Oscar. The Real Madrid star though failed to impose himself in the remainder of the game.
Rightly praising Hernanes and Julio Cesar after the game, Big Phil insisted 4-3-3 might be his preferred formation come the Confederations Cup early summer. He benched Dante, Filipe Luis and Hulk for Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Kaka for the friendly against Russia at Stamford Bridge. In 2006 Brazil last met the Russians, beating them in the freezing cold in Moscow thanks to a lone strike from Ronaldo.
Brazil began at Scolari´s fomer home ground where it had left off against Italy - with a festival of defensive errors inviting pressure from the opponents. Russia, ranked 10th on the FIFA ranking and therefore 8 places higher than Brazil, duly obliged with an encouraging tempo: Iganeshevich from a free-kick and Glushakov at the far post threatened. Russia controlled the game, pressing high and limiting the space for Brazil to express itself. Kerzhakov and Shirokov pulled the strings in a well-orchestrated Russian show.
Brazil, wandering somewhere between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2, gradually restored the equilibrium, but mustered little in the final third. There was more Brazilian huffing and puffing after the break with Neymar and Oscar briefly switching flanks and Kaka, non-existent in the first half, playing closer to the box. Russia remained very compact and a lack of coordinated interaction among Brazil´s frontplayers had Capello´s outfit never troubled. Neymar´s selfishness personified Brazil´s lacklustre perfomance up front, devoid from any inspiration and collective aspirations.
A never-ending goal mouth scramble, including last ditch blocks from Hernanes and Fernando, lead to Vazuylin finding the ball unmarked in the area and from a few yards out he left Julio Cesar with no chance. Vazuylin enforced a fair verdict on Brazil, which never fully recovered from a very jittery start. Panicky and woken form its internal struggles, Brazil did get out of jail a few minutes before the end: Fred, a true goal poacher, tapping in a Marcelo cross, after the latter´s excellent exchange with substitute Hulk. Marcelo´s fine use of space and Hulk´s cameo were a refreshing sight, but could not undo the fact that Brazil had again turned to individual guile to salvage a draw.
Brazil´s lamentable showing scarcely deserved a draw, but more importantly Russia, and Italy, were not unfazed by Brazil, comfortably holding, and for the better part outplaying the Selecao. Italy and Russia reduced Brazil to an overhyped globetrotting samba band, no longer playing with an intimidating batucada rhythm, but merely representing Brazil´s most famous export product. The days of genuine football fans nursing a soft spot for Brazil seem truly to be over.
A debate about Brazilian football identity is of remote interest to Scolari, but he will have realized that Brazil no longer command great respect on the international stage. His three games in charge underline this: since November 2009 Brazil has been unable to beat a former World Champion. It´s grim reading for Big Phil and the recent friendlies have been far from encouraging.
Taking a mere quantative approach, Mano Menezes got it right from midfield to attack towards the end of his reign. It begs the question whether in hindsight it has been a mistake by the CBF to appoint Scolari? The host nation of the 2014 World Cup can only reassure itself with the idea that a deplorable outing such as against Russia is barely possible to repeat, but it is counting on Luiz Felipe Scolari to get his balance in personnel and formation right very soon with the Confederations Cup looming around the corner.
FESTIVE USAIN BOLT CLOCKS 14:42 IN RIO DE JANEIRO
RIO DE JANEIRO, COPACABANA - SK. Wherever Usain Bolt goes, he is the talk of the town. It was no different on Sunday at Rio de Janeiro´s iconic Copacabana beach. The fastest man in the world drew big crowds as he attempted to improve his own world record at the 150 metres. Bolt fell 0.07 seconds short of the record, but it did not spoil the fun as he danced his way through four days of Rio de Janeiro, once more turning an athletics event into an entertainment show.
The organization Mano a Mano invited Bolt to run at Rio´s famed beach in a bid to democratize athletics in Brazil. Duda Magalhaes from the Dream Factory explains: " Athletics is very democratic, like the beach. Therefore the idea to take athletics away from the stadium and bring it to the beach of Copacabana, where everyone will have the chance of attending an athletics event at a very high level." Copacabana turned out to be a beach loaded with local admirers of Jamaica´s most recognizable export product.
Bolt arrived on Thursday in the party capital of the world and apart from the obligatory formalities, the multiple Olympic champion proved he is a fine match for the city indulging in the festive atmosphere that Rio´s relaxed setting undisputedly brings along. Mixing a social project, a game of futvolei and his customary dj-ing, Bolt is increasingly taking a liking to Rio de Janeiro, already indicating that he intends to compete at the Olympic Games in 2016. While the beach and Brazilians girls might be a bit complicated, Bolt, a football aficionado, expressed his desire to meet Neymar.
For all his frolics and superstardom , Bolt had embarked to Rio on a serious mission: bettering his previous world record at the unusual distance of 150 metres, which he had previously set at 14:35 seconds in 2009. Bolt yet again challenged the limits of the human body trying to add another world record to his name in a race dubbed "Bolt against time". Alex Quinonez, Daniel Bailey and home favourite Bruno Lins assisted Bolt in his battle with time on a special four-lane track constructed at Leme beach, an outer stretch of Copacabana.
Sun-bathed under blue skies, Bolt took to the track in a relaxed mood. From the start, getting fast out of the blocks, he comfortably sped away from his rivals, pushing on, but lacking a dash in the final third to knock off his world record. Bolt cruised to victory with Bruno Lins finishing second in 14:91. His first performance of the season did not disappoint and a satisfied Bolt can now happily move on to focus on bigger targets this season. But not before hitting town tonight and soaking up the atmosphere and dances moves of the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro.
Usain Bolt came and conquered Rio again on his second visit. In his uncompromising style Bolt appeals to the Brazilian public and may well give the Brazilian athletics a boost with his performance at Copacabana beach. Yet as was visible at the event, problems remain - a vast majority of the crowd were unable to get up close to the track, which cost a staggering 269000 EUR and won´t be used again. These pitfalls imply not all is well in the host city for 2016 Olympic Games , but those problems are not the responsibility of Usain Bolt. He came to do what had been asked of him: for the umpteenth time push his body to the limit .
Emirates stadium, London - Grivin Chipula.
It was an evening that promised an entertaining football with Arsenal featuring a full strong squad to demolish Montpellier, as they were pushing for the knock out stage of the Champions League. The first half kicked off slowly characterised by misplaced passes and lack of coordination by Arsenal. Montpellier played knowing that they had nothing to lose, lacking pace and determination in their attack. Apart from Laurent Koscielny stunning header against the cross bar, it was a poor half with limited chances on both sides and few noteworthy moments.
The second half started on a high note with wonderful runs and passes by Jack Wilshere and Cazorla. The moment of brilliance however came through Jack Wilshere at 48:15 minutes, when he flicked the ball beyond Jourdren to give Arsenal the lead. At 62:24 minutes, Lukas Podolski doubled the score to seal the win and a qualification into the knockout stage with a stunning connection from Olivier Giroud: Giroud nudged the ball to Poldoski who took it in his stride and time his left footed volley to perfection to leave Montpellier's goalkeeper with no chance.
With Schalke beating Olympiakos, Arsenal and Schalke have already qualified into the top 16. Arsene Wenger commented that it was a question of patience before Arsenal would get on the score sheet. His assessment didn't hide the fact that Arsenal underperformed. Jack Wilshere rightly acknowledged that Arsenal will need to improve to make any further impact in the Champions League, once the knock out phase gets underway. The Arsenal midfielder was one of the brigher protagonists on the night, key in transition for Arsenal.
In another result, the champions of England, Manchester city failed to reach the top 16 after drawing one all against Real Madrid at the Etihad.
Amidst all the action in Poland and Ukraine, you might have forgotten to check out our exclusive interview with André Santos, left-back of Arsenal Football Club. Do so at the links below. Mr. Santos talks at length about his time in Brazil, his stay at Fenerbahce and his ambitions with Arsenal and Brazil. Balotelli, Van Persie and Cesc are also topics touched upon. Well worth a read!
You can read the full transcript at:
Alternatively, the interview is now also available at:
It also got picked up by:
Samindra Kunti and Radio Scorpio once more wish to thank André Santos for his kindness and hospitality in the realisation of this interview!!
This Saturday Hamburg hosts the prestigious friendly international between five-times world Champions Brazil and Denmark, as part of Brazil’s World Tour organized by Kentaro. More then 15000 Danish Vikings will descend upon Germany’s second largest city to support Denmark in their penultimate friendly before EURO2012. Mano Menezes and Brazil meanwhile consider this friendly as another useful test and building stone on the road to this summers Olympics.
Follow the latest updates live from Hamburg with World Scorpio!
Thank you, André Santos, for sitting down with us. Why don’t we start by discussing the beginning of your career. You are a youth product of Figueirense. Can you tell us about your time there and how you developed?
AS: Firstly, I thank you also for this opportunity. It is a pleasure to talk to you and I am very happy to do this interview. I began my career with Figueirense, a club in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina. I was born in São Paulo where I lived as a child. When I was 8, I went to Florianopolis where I joined the youth of Figueirense. I passed through all the youth teams, from the categorias da base to juniors. My first year as a pro was 2003. I played 31 games in the shirt of Figueirense that year. As a result, I received many proposals from Brazilian clubs the following year, nine in total. That was very nice. I left Figueirense for Flamengo, who offered me a contract for three years. At Flamengo there was a carousel of coaches who came and went. That was not ideal. Atletico Mineiro of Minas Gerais from the Serie B attracted me in 2006 and my time there gave me a lot of experience. I returned in 2007 for a year to Figueirense. It was also a return to my family and many friends. Figueirense had an excellent campaign in the Brazilian cup, reaching the final against Fluminense, but it was also the last season of Figueirense in the Brasileirao. Corinthians bought me in 2008 and I played together with big players such as Douglas, Christian, Elias and Ronaldo. I also worked with Mano Menezes, who is of course now coach of the Seleção. It was a great experience and a particularly important stage in my life, because I managed to write my name in the annals of Corinthians. My entire family is Paulista and supports Corinthians. It was a big dream to play for Corinthians and I realized my dream. I was very happy.
It is clear that Corinthians was the club of your dreams…
AS: No doubt, Corinthians is the team of my heart. All my relatives support Corinthians and I always follow their progress, but I also nurse a soft spot for Figueirense, the club that opened doors for me in Brazilian football. I am greatly indebted to Figueirense. Figueirense was my break-trough, and Corinthians allowed me to grow and become a great player. I will love these two clubs for the rest of my life.
After Corinthians you then soon moved to Fenerbahce in 2009. You played together with Roberto Carlos there. How was it to play with a great idol of your left-back position, and what did you learn from him?
AS: Fenerbahce is a great club, with an incredible structure and amazing fans. I signed a four year deal, and stayed for two very successful seasons. In the first season Fenerbahce was competitive till the very end, in the second season Fenerbahce won the league. For me, it was a very good time. Fenerbahce had a number of great players in its ranks: Deivid, Christian, Diego Lugano and Roberto Carlos. I was a big fan of Roberto Carlos, and today he is a good friend of mine. We communicate and talk a lot via the phone. He is in Russia now, playing for Anzhi. Roberto Carlos has a great personality and is a great player, of whom I have learned a lot. He inspired me, for he played for the Seleção for a long time. At his side, I grew as a player and it was a true privilege to play with him. For six months we were able to play together at Fenerbahce and he scored three goals. That was pretty cool! After that he returned to Corinthians, where he played at my position. It was an incredible experience. Fenerbahce offered me a very professional working environment. I feel I have written a little bit of history at Fenerbahce.
There was a special moment in a UEFA Cup game against Steaua Bucharest when you scored a remarkable goal, wasn’t there?
AS: Yes, it was a great game against Steaua Bucharest and I scored a beautiful goal. It was a moment of joy… a special moment to score alongside Roberto Carlos and to receive his affection with a hug. A very special moment in my life! A unique memory.
Undoubtedly you had a great time at Fenerbache, but unfortunately there was the infamous match-fixing scandal. Was this the spark to go and look for another club?
AS: The impact of the scandal at the club was enormous. I played two seasons at Fenerbahce and Turkey is a risky country. In all honesty I don’t know exactly what happened. On the field Fenerbahce won with dedication and commitment from each and every player. We won the title on the field, but there was unsavory business off the pitch and at the board level, of which the players were unaware. But the group of players gave it their all to capture a spot, entitling us to play Champions League. What precisely happened is unclear and I can’t explain it, but it was a motive to leave Fenerbahce.
It has always been my dream to come to Europe, and to play in the Champions League with a big club. Fenerbahce is a big club of course. It was after winning the title that UEFA communicated that Fenerbahce were barred from participating in the Champions League. It was very disappointing as a player to be that close, only to then be far away again. I consulted my agent for a solution and searched for a new club. The Champions League is an important goal in my career, especially with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in mind. It is a window where you can be noticed.
Very soon you received a phone call from Arsène Wenger…
AS: Arsenal first contacted my agent, Carlos Leite, who has been my agent for more than three years. He spoke about interest from Arsène Wenger, because during the friendly match with Scotland [Brazil-Scotland 2-0, 27 March 2011] at the Emirates I had played very well. Wenger watched me and at the moment that I heard about the interest, I wanted to do the move. The discussions and negotiations began. Arsenal were at a difficult time and it would be a good opportunity for me. Carlos Leite advised me and said that Arsène Wenger wished to get in touch to talk to me. It was very pleasing that a great manager with his qualities wanted to bring me to his club. Arsenal is a big club with a rich history. When he called, I saw an English prefix on the phone. He spoke English, I only knew a few words and my English was flawed, but the conversation still went smoothly. He understood what I said and stressed that playing for Arsenal would be an enrichment. I wanted to help and the next day I was already on the plane for the contract negotiations and medical tests.
Arsenal is indeed one of the biggest clubs in the world, but at the time that you joined Arsenal was in troubled times, with Nasri and Fabregas having left the club, a lot of players injured and North London still reeling from the humiliating 8-2 defeat against Manchester United. How did all this impact the move?
AS: I came to Arsenal to change this! To show that Arsenal had the ability to climb in the rankings. Arsenal were ranked seventeenth [in the Premier League table] when I arrived. Yes, Arsenal lost great players – Nasri to Man City and Fabregas to Barcelona – and suffered an unprecedented defeat – the worst in its history against Manchester United. It was a very bad week for Arsenal. Therefore Arsenal contracted Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Park and Yossi Benayoun – players with experience to cover the departures of key players and also to fill in for the many injured players. The new players were well received and formed a group that wanted to win. This gave the group more maturity and more urgency to win. The victories came, Arsenal climbed up the table and we finished in third place. Given the poor start, the many problems and the tough season, third place is a victory for Arsenal.
This summer brings a new set of stories about Arsenal. There is speculation that Robin van Persie might leave. The club has recently bought Lukas Podolski. How will you approach next season? The expectation of the fans is always high. Which targets should Arsenal set itself?
AS: Arsenal is definitely a great club, one of the best in the world, and appeals to fans. We have got to think about winning titles: English champions, European champions. Those are certainly the objectives for next season. Arsenal must think big. Therefore, Podolski was bought and only players with the qualifications required are recruited to strengthen the team. That way preparations for next season will be good. Van Persie has an excellent campaign behind him. I do not know what his situation at the club is now – whether he stays or not. He loves the club and is already eight years at the club and his season was really incredible. Arsenal will definitely talk to him and do everything to keep him at the club so he can help us next season. At this time I hope he makes the choice that is best for his career and his life. But no doubt that our players want Van Persie to remain.
When you came to Arsenal, you were relatively unknown in the Premier League. Arsène Wenger described you as player who has to the quality to defend but also to go forward and help in attack. How would you describe your own qualities?
AS: Arsène Wenger has described my qualities well, which obviously led him to contract me. In Brazil, we have laterais, and they attack a lot. In Brazil, you always attack. In Europe it’s the opposite: you can not attack. It is therefore difficult for a Brazilian player [in my position], when he travels to Europe to adapt himself to this mentality. He can not attack, but has to defend. But thanks to my time at Fenerbahce, I learned enough in terms of defensive work and positional play. The Premier League is obviously one of the best leagues in the world. The defense is an important part of it and I have learned a lot this season. It is certainly true that I am technically skilful and rather quick. Today I learn how to mark and support the attack when going forward, but next season I hope to make progress for Arsenal so I can become a regular starter.
A question every newcomer to the Premier League gets: what about the physical nature of English football? In the Manchester City game you put Balotelli in his place as a reprisal for his bad tackle on Alex Song. It is a sign that you deal very well with the physicality.
AS: Certainly. English football is fast and strong and luckily I have been able to adapt quickly. Big games are always difficult. So that was also the case against Manchester City, who are led by an excellent coach [Roberto Mancini] and have a quality squad. It was a game with a lot at stake. Balotelli is a player with class, but at times he goes over the top a bit. During the first half, I was sitting on the bench and I watched Balotelli tackle hard on Alex Song and Barcary Sagna. That was not to my taste and in the second half it was my job to cover Balotelli. I contained him. He is not the best player in the world. He’s a little bit searching, like all other players. Messi, that’s the best player in the world. Then Cristiano Ronaldo. Then the rest.
It soon became apparent that you were an asset for Arsenal and you scored the equalizer in that spectacular 3-5 away victory to Chelsea. Was it a turning moment for Arsenal this season?
AS: It was important for the club, the players and for myself. Winning a classico is a moral boost and you go into the next game on a high. An away win to Chelsea makes you proud and gives confidence. My goal helped the team and it was good for my confidence. Arsenal began winning matches and started to climb up the table. The victory over Chelsea ensured that Arsenal played well again and at high level.
Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick in that game against Chelsea. What impresses you most about him?
AS: Robin is an excellent player and striker. He is one of few world class strikers today. He has definitely proven that this season. He is fantastic, both on and off the field. He helps our team a lot and I think he can play for any club in the world.
The season continued and unfortunately against Olympiacos in the Champions League ligament damage to your right knee required surgery. It was a big set-back. What is worst about recovering from injury – the loneliness that you undoubtedly experienced at times or the incertitude over coming back to full fitness again?
AS: These are actually two questions. It is never good for a player to get injured. At the age of 28 this was my first serious injury. Before that I had fortunately never suffered an injury. It was hard because I had a dream to play big games in the Champions League and the Premier League and that was what I did until my injury. My surgery meant I had to recover for three months. There was no guarantee that my ankle would fully recover. There was always doubt. You feel alone and lost, but my family, friends, doctors and Arsenal supported me. I underwent surgery in Brazil and the doctors gave me confidence. The treatment went well. I am very grateful to Arsenal for their affection and good care. But it is always difficult when you’re a bit isolated: you do not know whether you will fully recover and the progression that you’ve made on the field is hindered. I was doing well at Arsenal and made progress, but the injury has been an obstacle. I am fully recovered and feel 100% fit now, both physically and technically. I want a good preparation for next season to make up for the lost time.
The injury aside, how do you reflect upon your first season with the Gunners?
AS: It was a good season. The adaptation went smoothly. After all, for me England was yet again another country, another language and another league. Arsenal has no other Brazilians in the team. So it’s not so easy to quickly adapt. Without my injury I would have played more often. What I have not been able to show this season, I can still show next season. Arsenal will definitely give me that opportunity and André Santos will show what he has got in his stride.
You emphasize progress and improvement. The Champions League is a big window to show yourself as a player. Do you consider Arsenal to be a stepping stone to realize your dream of playing at the 2014 World Cup?
AS: As of my arrival at Arsenal, I have had a few targets in my mind: to be English champions and win titles. To make the supporters, who steer us forward and always fill the stadium, happy. Ensure that Arsenal get back to where they belong: at the top. And yes, the World Cup is also part of my ambition.
15 June 2009 is definitely a day etched into your memory!
AS: Playing for your country and pulling on the yellow shirt - those are intense emotions! But it is also a recognition of your hard work. I was very happy with my debut and I have kept that feeling until today: every time I pull on the shirt of Brazil it is like making my debut again. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has given me opportunities with the Seleção: Dunga and Jorginho, Mano Menezes and Sidnei [Lobo, assistant to Mano Menezes]. They are great moments and memories, and I’ll keep working at Arsenal to make my return to the Seleção as soon as possible. That’s always my goal – to play for the Seleção.
Winning the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup was your first taste of international success with Brazil, but unfortunately Dunga omitted you from the squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Is it true that Dunga didn’t select you because you missed a bus in La Paz during the qualifiers?
AS: I don’t not know if it’s true. Under Dunga, indeed, I won the Confederation Cup. A World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz followed. Brazil stayed in a very big hotel and the team arrived along the main entrance of the hotel. On the day of the flight many people came down at the same time and I left my room. The fact is I did miss the bus. I thought the team would leave the hotel through the main entrance, the same one we had arrived at, but all the players had left the hotel through the side entrance. I never received a reason from Dunga as to why I was not selected for the World Cup. It was sad for me and I always want to play in a World Cup. I don’t know the motive as to why I was not in the squad. But I’m not a vindictive person: it happened and Dunga decided not to include me in the World Cup squad . In any case, I remain grateful to Dunga for giving me my Brazil debut, and as mentioned I won the Confederations Cup with him. You must ask Dunga why I didn’t go to South Africa.
Dunga and current Brazil coach Mano Menezes seem to have rather different personalities. Mano is calm, relaxed and goes in a natural way about his things. Dunga was strict, and some say perhaps so strict it backfired in the World Cup. Was it from your point of view not a bit ironic that the Netherlands, through Arjen Robben, exposed the left-back position of Brazil with Michel Bastos and Felipe Melo? You were not there, but Holland found it easy to expose this weakness in Brazil’s team.
AS: It’s hard to talk about this issue. Every coach has his own style. Dunga had his own way of working and I liked his method. He is a closed and withdrawn person, but that being said, he is excellent in dealing with players: very calm and open. Mano is calmer and relaxed. He has a better relationship with the fans and the media. He is open and communicates better. This shows that each trainer has his own character, but I respect both Dunga and Mano. They are both winners. The players respect these coaches. I couldn’t go to the World Cup in South Africa, but I repeat that I remain grateful for Dunga for giving me a chance with the Seleção. It is true that I have a better relationship with Mano Menezes, but that’s logical because I worked at Corinthians with Mano and won titles for two years with him. I played many matches under him at Corinthians and know him very well. Ultimately, Dunga and Mano are two excellent coaches, but both have their own methods.
After the World Cup Mano recalled you to the Seleção and you represented Brazil at the Copa America and in numerous friendlies, but against Germany it was your error that led to Germany’s third goal, which proved to be the winning goal [Germany v Brazil, 10 August 2011, 3-2]. Since then Mano has left you out of the team. Do you feel that is a little bit hard on you?
AS: Most players were returning from holidays and I too was missing match sharpness at the time. Mano had called me up to gain confidence and I played well in the Copa America and also in some friendly matches. Mano always called me up. It was perhaps not the best option at that time, but I started in the team against Germany and blundered. Actually I committed a defensive error. I’m not sure that is the reason why Mano hasn’t called me up since, but I have also moved from Fenerbahce to Arsenal. I do not think Mano with his affection and friendship imposed this as a punishment. You have to earn your place in the Seleção. By playing well at Arsenal I will certainly get another chance to show what I can do in the yellow shirt.
Mano told me last month that Marcelo from Real is currently the better player for the left-back position. You want to shine in the yellow shirt, but how will you convince Mano from now on that you are his left-back?
AS: If Mano has said that, he has so deliberately. He is open, knows a lot about football and follows the game closely. Marcelo had a great season at Real Madrid. He was always in the starting line-up. Mano prefers Marcelo because he is currently better. If I want Mano to call me up again, I need to be a regular at Arsenal and show Mano that I have the qualities to return to the Brazil side. By playing well next season, I can make that happen. Mano will observe me and recall me. I have no doubt about it.
Is part of it an issue that no Brazilian left-back has been able to step out of the footmarks of Roberto Carlos? In that sense Ney Franco [Brazil U-20 manager] recently voiced his concern at the fact that Brazil are not producing enough quality full-backs.
AS: The positions of Roberto Carlos and Cafu were unquestionable. There were no real substitutes for them. They came to Europe early on and both had glorious careers with Brazil. Now all full-backs are compared with Roberto Carlos and Cafu and that is very difficult for these players. Today Brazil doesn’t produce a lot of laterais. Every child, whichever you ask, wants to be Neymar, Ronaldinho or Ronaldo, not a left-back. And that is a part of the problem, and when you are finally called up for the Seleção the first question you get is whether you will be the next Roberto Carlos or Cafu. This pressure is not fair, because Roberto Carlos and Cafu were unique. That comparison should not be made so that new players can develop and wear the number 2 or 6 at the Seleçao.
Allow me to pull on the shirt of a Brazilian journalist. Back in 2003 when you played at Figueirense Pelé said that you were the next Roberto Carlos. You don’t like to be compared with him, but do you think that at this stage in your career you are close to fulfilling Pelé’s prophecy?
AS: I am glad to hear that, because I didn’t know that Pele said so. I do not know him personally, but Ronaldo has told me that he is a great man. He is an icon and I am delighted with his words. Today I hope to return to the Brazil side and to seize my chance there. I have more experience today: I moved from Fenerbahce to Arsenal, I played against the world’s best players in the best league in the world, the Premier League. I may not be a new Roberto Carlos, but I want to show people that there are other players with qualities as good or even better than his.
You are definitely André Santos and the comparison with Roberto Carlos shouldn’t be made. You have had a great career so far and perhaps the 2014 FIFA World Cup is awaiting you, but that is a question for the future. Perhaps there is an even bigger question for the future: will Arthur be as good as a left-back as his father?
AS: It’s my dream to play at the 2014 World Cup and be Brazil’s left-back. As I said earlier, every left-back who makes his debut for Brazil is compared to Roberto Carlos, but each player is also aware that at the same time he must leave Roberto Carlos behind him and make him disappear, and that’s good. A certain part of the press doesn’t understand this. Hopefully my son Arthur will be much better than his dad. He will not be like his father, but much better. Within a few years I will know if Arthur will play football. I hope to return to the Seleção and for Arthur to grow up healthy, whether he turns out to be a football player or not.
Radio Scorpio would like to thank André Santos for taking the time to talk to us, and wish him the best of luck next season and thereafter.
Note: this interview is also available at The Elastico website.
LONDON, Stamford Bridge – SK. After he scored a screamer against Tottenham on Sunday, The Drog turned it on against Barcelona. Drogba scrambled the only attempt on target from Chelsea past Valdez. It was enough to secure a memorable victory against Barcelona and see the Blues take a slender advantage into the return leg.
Football can be a bizarre and extra-ordinairy game. Barcelona had 72 % of possession, 24 attempts on target, hit the woodwork twice and utterly and totally dominated the entire 90 minutes. Chelsea were on the ropes with the ball permanentely in their half. Drogba rolled around on the ground as if addicted to feel the grass on his shirt. As to Chelsea’s individual performances, apart from Ashley Cole and Garry Cahill, it was a night to forget, yet only one statistic mattered: one attempt on target from Chelsea, one goal.
For all his diving, Drogba did neatly finish an excellent Chelsea counter-attack: Frank Lampard dispossessed Lionel Messi in the center of the park at the stroke of half-time and picked out Ramires, who latched onto Lampard’s exquisite, diametrical pass. The Brazilian found Drogba in the box with a low left-footed cross. The Drog pounced and sent Stamford Bridge into absolute pandemonium.
And so Fabregas pre-match words turned reality: it was an encounter between Beauty and the Beast. Chelsea had reverted to their old direct pre-AVB-era style, throwing the ball long in search of a lone target man. The Drog was the embodiment of the Chelsea Beast: very physical, shrewd and seizing the moment when needed to. The 34-year old Ivorian dug in with a spirited and steadfast showing, often surrounded by three or four Barcelona players. Chelsea managed to set free the Drog once and it proved to be sufficient.
Up till Drogba’s goal, Chelsea had soaked up tons of Catalonian pressure. After nine minutes Alex Sanchez got in behind Ivanovic and Cahill, who both got off to a wobbly start, but his lob over Cech’s grasp hit the bar. It was a warning sign for Chelsea and Barca kept coming. Iniesta’s shot was saved by Cech before Cesc Fabregas miscued the rebound from a goal scoring position. The former Arsenal star was not clinical enough when Messi played him in a few minutes later: his chip past the Chelsea goalkeeper being cleared off the line by Ashley Cole. It was all about Chelsea scrambling to the break on level terms. Until, out of nowhere, the Drog unleashed his devils and stunned FC Barcelona. Guardiola’s XI looked utterly flabbergasted.
The pattern of the game didn’t change after the interval with Barcelona enjoying all the possession and Chelsea digging in. Cech was heroic in goal throughout. Busy as ever, he flew to his left to save Adriano’s 20 meter curler. Fabregas picked out Sanchez, who slotted the chance wide under pressure from the relentless Cole. FC Barcelona pilled on the pressure and came closest to equalizing in the dying minutes of the game. With four minutes left Puyol’s header was brilliantly saved by Petr Cech. Pedro saw his shot cannon off the post and Busquets ballooned the rebound high over the bar. The final whistle from German referee Felix Brych, cool, calm and collected and throughout the game, brought salvation to Chelsea.
Di Matteo stood on the sideline with a small grin, the Chelsea fans celebrated and applauded the epic efforts from their players, but the mood was rather muted from both manager and supporters in recognition of the mammoth task that awaits Chelsea next Tuesday in Catalonia. More heroics will be required from the Blues then, when Barcelona will try and exploit the width offered by the Nou Camp pitch. A repeat of tonight’s performance with grit and defiance, unwilling to yield, and nothing could be beyond this Chelsea team. The Nou Camp may as well change into the Blue Camp. But for now though, the night belongs to the Drog: Europe salutes him!
Wednesday April 18 2012 has been bookmarked in many Blues fans’ diaries for a while: Chelsea FC host FC Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League. The questions on everyone’ lips is: can Chelsea beat the defending Champions? The London outfit will need to be armed with a more potent weapon than grievance if they are to beat a vastly superior Barcelona.
And so Di Matteo and Pep Guardiola meet again: at the turn of the century Di Matteo and Guardiola represented both clubs as players as Barcelona and Chelsea were paired together in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Ten goals were dished up between them in two spectacular games with the Catalans, coached by Louis Van Gaal, progressing 6-4 on aggregrate.
The recent history between the clubs is rich, but turbulent. Chelsea can’t forget the injustice of May 2009 when Norwegian referee Tom Ovrebo rejected a series of penalty claims. Michael Essien’s goal had taken Chelsea to the edge of the Champions League final to be played in Rome, until Iniesta scored a spetacular goal with seconds left to seal Chelsea’s fate. Barcelona progressed on the away-goals-rule and Guus Hiddink and his team felt hard done by. Stamford Bridge still feels hurt: revenge is on the mind of every Chelsea faithful.
But grievance alone will not be enough to contain and tackle Barcelona. The Catalonian giants have won the Champions League twice since 2009 and have the best player on the planet in their ranks. The legion of admirers for Guardiola and his tiki-taka-team is ever growing. Barcelona’s free-flowing, and at times mind-blowing, play saw them cruise past AC Milan in the quarter-finals. Messi and co simply deliver mesmerizing football.
That must be worrying for Di Matteo, but the caretaker coach of Chelsea has proved his mettle with eight wins out of nine in the Premier League and Sunday’s rampant victory over London rivals Tottenham in the FA Cup. Appointed as interim head coach on March 4 Di Matteo has been prepared to take though decisions: he dropped Lampard in the first leg of the quarter-finals against Benfica, which paid off handsomely with 1-0 win. The media credited Di Matteo with having produced a masterclass of team selection. Remember how Villas-Boas was massacred in the press for leaving Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard on the bench when Napoli defeated Chelsea 3-1 in the second round of the Champions League.
Another masterclass in team selection is required from Di Matteo when his team take the field on Wednesday. It will be intriguing to see how the Italian sets up his XI. Di Matteo relishes the chance to play Barcelona and is genuinely excited at the prospect. Moreover, he said: “ Barcelona do have weaknesses, you just need to exploit them.” He didn’t elaborate on what those weaknesses precisely are, but Barcelona’s vulnerabilities are not difficult to pinpoint: Gerard Pique at centre-back has looked a bit peaky this season. Pressure on the inconsistent Piqué may lead to openings for Chelsea. Left-back is another troublesome position for Barcelona: with Eric Abidal having had a liver transplant last week, Adriano, the versatile Brazilian, can fill in. Alternatively, Carlos Puyol can move across from centre-back, which would leave Javier Mascherano exposed in the air. The fragile Barcelona backline might be good prey for Fernando Torres, accustomed with getting behind Barcelona’s high defensive line from his time at Atletico Madrid.
Or will Di Matteo go for the brawn of Didier Drogba? Whatever way the interim coach will deploy his men on Wednesday – the inclusion or exclusion of Frank Lampard being another absorbing subplot – it will be key to produce a disciplined effort and not focus solely on Lionel Messi. Di Matteo recognizes this: “It is not about containing one player. Barcelona have a lot of players that can hurt us. We have to operate as a team to prevent danger.”
The 42 year-old Swiss born Italian admits to having watched Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Barcelona at the Emirates 14 months ago in the round of 16. Wenger’s team soaked up huge amounts of Catalonian pressure before scoring late break-away goals, with André Arshavin sending the Arsenal crowd into pandemonium. It is a fine recipe for success against Guardiola and his artists and Di Matteo will thus be tempted to use the pace of Ramires, Meireles and Kalou. It will without doubt be a difficult balancing act for Di Matteo.
Chelsea, a club in decline since that infamous game against Barcelona in 2009, will consider this test as a significant marker of its progress. Victory on Wednesday, but crucially over two legs, would be a testimony of Di Matteo as a dynamic coach, pointing a derailed squad in the right direction. It may encourage Abramovich to rethink his strategy to hire short-term mercenaries, who have to bring Champions League glory but ultimately fail to deliver. What is more, the decisions of referee Ovrebo and Iniesta’s goal will at last have been avenged.
Nicolas Maingot, the acting head of communications at FIFA, speaks exclusively to World Scorpio and reflects on a turbulent season for FIFA. Find out more by listening to World Scorpio tonight!
Note that as off today Walter de Gregorio, will be the new Director of Communications and Public Affairs at FIFA, as communicated by FIFA in a press release earlier in September: As of 1 October 2011, Walter De Gregorio, 46, will join FIFA as Director of Communications & Public Affairs. Nicolas Maingot, who had been Acting Director, will be his deputy. De Gregorio studied history and political philosophy, and over the last 20 years he has worked as a journalist, a columnist, and in management positions for various national and international newspapers. De Gregorio has dual Swiss-Italian nationality, has two children and lives in the Zurich area.
In case you missed the interview with TIM VICKERY yesterday, you may find the full interview transcript below - all rights reserved: Tim Vickery is the South American football correspondent for the BBC and works amongst others freelance for World Soccer and Sports Illustrated. He is perhaps best known for his contributions to the World Football Phone-In, which aires weekly on Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 Live. Vickery is known as 'Legendinho' or Vikipedia' for his vast knowledge of Brazilian and South American football. Tim spoke to World Scorpio in London just before kick-off of Brazil's friendly against Ghana and offered his in depth opinion on the Selecão.
Let us start at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where Brazil totally imploded in that infamous second half against Holland, what was the main reason – simply that Dunga didn’t have a back-up plan?
Maybe, but I think there was a lack of emotional control. I actually thought going into the tournament that the emotional factor was one of Brazil’s main strengths, because in that run of results from 2008 up to 2010 Brazil did wonderfully well, even in the Confederations Cup final when Brazil were 2-0 down against the United States they managed to come back. The emotional strength was supposed to be a plus point for Brazil. But during the course of the World Cup you saw that the pressure is much, much greater.
But emotional control was one their key strengths? Brazil outplayed the Netherlands for an entire 45 minutes, where Dunga’s team could have easily been two or three up.
There was always a vulnerability there with the position of left-back. It was a vulnerability Holland were well set-up to take advantage of with Arjen Robben. Michel Bastos had not played as a full-back for a long time. It was a point that Felipe Melo was looking to cover. One of the key roles of the coach is to set the emotional tone of the team and Dunga lost control gradually during the World Cup. It was very clear in the press conference after the game against Ivory Coast when he looked like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In the second half against Holland when the team needed calming, he was more and more nervous and angry. A nervous and angry coach produces a nervous, angry team. Once they were behind, then your point is correct, the lack of a back-up was then exposed. But then again, they could have been easily 2-0, 3-0 up and then they wouldn’t have needed a plan B. The key, according to me, was the lack of emotional control: if Brazil had been able to control themselves emotionally, they would have done without the need for a back-up.
In a way you are also implying that Dunga wasn’t experienced enough? He simply couldn’t deal with the situation in the second half?
Yes, absolutely. There is a moment when your lack of experience shows and that was the moment when it became apparent that Dunga was not up to the job. It was unfortunate and I found it very sad that Felipe Melo was treated like a criminal when the team returned home. Melo had to be smuggled out of the airport. If you look at Felipe Melo’s internacional record, there is only one game where he was on the losing side and that was against Holland, and yet he is treated like a failure. His name is seen as ridiculous – how was this player ever selected for the national team? Brazil is a very intolerant society.
Isn’t that typical Brazilian? To the rest of the world Brazil fans are a bunch of festive, colorful and vibrant football lovers. But this view is not correct: for the Brazilian fan only one thing matters and that is winning.
Exactly. Everything about Brazil from the outside world is myth. Brazilian football is a myth wrapped up in another myth, which is the big myth of Brazil.
But Brazil is, and I hope that this will change as the economic situation improves, a society with a low self-esteem, where winning is everything and football, and in particular the world cup, is that moment where Brazil appears for the rest of the world as a success.
Why do Brazilians keep on having such a low self-esteem? Brazil is now one of the big booming countries and is trying to host a successful Olympic Games and the World Cup in three years time.
That boom only comes down so far: the vast majority of the population lives on wages, which would be considered below sub-sustenance level in Europe. I have two stepdaughters and one of them recently took a bus ride from Natal to Rio, which is about 46hrs. The thing that really struck her was the number of people still living in abject poverty. The economic boom is important and there are millions of people joining a new, bigger middle class, but you are not changing an entire history of 500 years of one of the most unequal countries in the world in the course of a decade. Progress has been made, but very slowly and still a lot of people are left behind. So the aspect of low self-esteem and let us hope this changes in the future, is still very important in the way that Brazilians respond to football. Brazilians will go and watch their team when it is winning. When it is not winning, they switch off and the line is that it is not my team and that it doesn’t represent me. At the press conference Mano Menezes yesterday talked about this issue. He said that playing at home is much more complicated for Brazil, than playing elsewhere, because the crowd is so demanding. One of his key tasks is to prepare a team to cope with that physiological pressure in three years time.
The economic boom will obviously influence the set-up of the domestic game , which now has the big problem of the state championships, but will it also influence the set-up of the national team?
It is such an interesting question. I think in Brazilian football the – what I call - ‘92 moment is long overdue. It was that time in England where the big clubs broke away from a structure that didn’t attend their interests, and Brazilian football has that multiplied many times over, because of a situation where they are locked into a calendar that is build around the necessities of clubs that have no supporters. Now this is interesting in terms of trying to attract the best players: this summer saw a landmark moment, when Corinthians were able to offer a transfer fee for Carlos Tevez. Obviously the move didn’t go through and one of the reasons is that the money is only on tab next year. Why were they able to attract Carlos Tevez? Not for professional reasons, but for purely personal reasons he wanted to be close to his wife and children, who were then in Buenos Aires. For professional reasons you will not have professional players wanting to play the state championships, so that is those months entirely wasted. No professional, ambitious that is, wants to play the state championships and players will come to Europe, regardless of financial considerations now because the big names in Brazil can earn huge sums of money, they can earn what they can get in Europe, but what they can’t do is prove themselves the best. In order to prove themselves the best you have to shine in Europe’s champions league. That is the reality. If Brazilian football genuinely wants to attract top players in their peak years, it has to do something about the calendar. Now the English clubs were able to take this step in 92 because they are run on club business lines. Brazilian clubs aren’t. You can only hope, if Brazil wants to be a global player that the logic of the situation will see them break away from a calendar that for example ruins the start of the league system. All of us, who have grown up with the league system know that its strength lies in the start. That is the moment, the big kick-off, the big party. The big kick-off in Brazil doesn’t exist. It’s a damp squib. Thus Brazil have adopted the league system but thrown away its biggest virtue.
Will this set-up change any time soon? As long as Ricardo Teixeira remains in charge, it seems unlikely.
At the moment Teixeira is strong, because he controls the 2014 World Cup. Every one wants the golden reign of 2014 to drop on them. There is also the Copa America in 2015. Venues will be used in 2015 which won’t be used during the World Cup. At the moment this mechanism keeps the clubs in line. After that, and after Teixeira is gone, there might be a possibility. Brazil can be very frustrating in this respect. It is a country that has often done a bodged compromise rather than a strong stand. But this global reality is beginning to be realised and within 10 years there will be a possibility, when the big clubs break away.
This global reality currently means that Kentaro deals with all Brazil friendlies. What kind of an influence does Kentaro have? They organized the party like pre-2006 world cup training camp in Weggis, Switzerland. Kentaro has also gone to Tanzania and Zimbabwe with Brazil before the 2010 world cup. Financial considerations are most important to Kentaro, but there are limits, no ?
Yes, there are huge limits, because friendlies are all Brazil has. Brazil don’t have to go through the best qualification campaign in the world - South America. The last World Cup showed just how well that marathon qualification campaign prepares teams for the World Cup. Now Brazil don’t have that, only friendlies. As is so often the case with Brazil, political considerations then come in. The original line from Mano Menezes was that Brazil were going to take on different schools and top line opponents. Brazil has done that so far, but results haven’t been very good. When results are bad in Brazil, the heat is not only on the coach, but also on the president of the Brazilian FA Ricardo Teixeira. There has been a change now for in November Brazil will play Gabon, whereas they could have been playing Italy or Spain. You wonder whose interests that serves? Brazil don’t need to play an African school. They are playing the top African school now – Ghana. You can’t see of any football necessity to take on a game against Gabon. Perhaps not even a commercial necessity, but maybe it is a political necessity from Ricardo Teixeira to protect himself against criticism if Brazil take on high-standing opponents and lose. Obviously the risk is if Brazil play lesser opponents and lose, the egg in the face is even greater. But there is still a long way to go until 2014 and Mano said yesterday that there will be more friendlies at home and that is important, because preparing the team physiologically for the pressure, the like of which no team has ever experienced, has to be priority. In 1950 there were only 50 million Brazilians to put pressure on, come 2014 there will be 200 million Brazilians. The pressure they will have to cope with in 2014 is immense and you can win your first four, five games 4-0, but if you lose the next game by half a goal to nil you are out and the world cup dream is over. They need to be strongly physiologically prepared and friendlies are all they have to do it with, apart from the Confederations cup in 2013, which is glorified friendlies.
The pressure will indeed be huge in 2014. The Brazilian public will expect nothing but victory. Mano has now been in charge for just over a year, how do you evaluate his reign so far? He came in at a transitional phase, he has an exciting, young generation to work with, but how can he prepare these youngsters for the massive task that awaits them?
You are in the anti-Mano camp? It is a fascinating time to follow Brazil, because it is a transitional time in two ways: firstly, with the obvious generational change that had to be made after 2010, but also Mano’s analysis, which was I think correct, that the style had to change – away from the dependence on the counterattack of the Dunga team. The Brazil crowd will not get fully behind the team if that is the style of football, which is played in 2014. Secondly Brazil need to learn against opponents who don’t offer them the counterattack. No one will offer them the counterattack in 2014! In the last set of world cup qualifiers under Dunga Brazil won 0-3 away to Chile, which was a great result, but a few days later Brazil drew goalless against Bolivia. That was the only game that Bolivia didn’t lose of all of their away games. It illustrated a problem that Brazil have had in recent years, which is breaking down teams which don’t offer them the counterattack. That is the context in which Mano took charge. Mano wanted Brazil to play more extensively through the midfield and the big change has been the replacement of a Gilberto Silva type-figure by Lucas, who is not a natural in that holding midfielders role, but someone who can generate more football. As Mano said in the press conference yesterday, there has been an imbalance between the objective and the achievements. Brazil try to do things that they haven’t been able to do. Brazil have found it much harder to play their way through the midfield then expected. Many people in Brazil just thought that picking Paulo Henrique Ganso would be in itself enough to resolve this problem. In reality it has proved to be a little harder. The impression I had watching the Germany game last month, was that it the first time that Mano was a bit rattled physiologically. The line that he came out with after the game that he didn’t think it was possible to play Germany at this stage toe to toe, was a little bit worrying. This was Germany in pre-season without some of their best players. The result shouldn’t matter that much. It would have been better for Brazil to play Ganso and give him the expierence of playing the Germans and learn from the expierence, whatever the result was. It was the first time that you wondered is Mano being blown of course? That is the fascinating thing about today’s game. You asked Mano yesterday if he thought this was a must-win game? He batted of the question, but the pressure is beginning to rise. The Brazilian press are speculating that he might not last for much longer. The game tonight is not a meaningless friendly, the stakes are rising for Mano and let us see how he responds to the pressure he is under.
May I say you are pro-Mano?
I am a bit disappointed with him, to be honest. He hasn’t stuck to his own ideas. I was at the Copa America back in July in Argentina and the best 45 minutes that Brazil offered was in the first group game against Paraguay, which ended up being a 2-2 draw. The half time score was 1-0. Jadson scored the goal. Just in a few flashes you could see a glimpse of a nice partnership being build between Jadson and Ganso. It was interesting. But Jadson was removed during that game at halftime, because he was close to a red card. He had picked up a yellow card and just before he scored, he very nearly got send off. Mano decided to take him off, but he hasn’t reappeared since and I have no idea why. It disappoints me for an interesting partnership was about to be forged. Obviously you never know what happens behind the scenes. There was the story around the Scotland game in March about Marcelo. He didn’t play that game and didn’t appear in the team anymore. It was only afterwards that the media discovered why. Marcelo had send an e-mail back to Real Madrid saying that he had managed to convince Brazil that he shouldn’t play and he was very happy about this. It was an issue about commitment to the national team, but he made a bad mistake by sending that e-mail, not only to Real Madrid, but also to the Brazilian coaching staff. You can never fully know what happens behind the scenes, but you can’t begin to understand the treatment of Jadson. He was given 45 minutes and then dropped. Robinho, who is injured and not playing today, has been given opportunity after opportunity. You worry that there are a kind of double standards? That is a concern. That is disappointing from Menezes, but it is worrying in general that he clearly has his favourites. That might be difficult to administer in the long term if players feel they are not being selected, because Mano is being too loyal to his favourites. In general though, Mano comes across as a very calm, intelligent and rational figure.
After Dunga’s dismissal Mano was appointed as head coach, but he wasn’t first choice to succeed Dunga. Does that in a way undermine his position in the eyes of the Brazilian public?
No, the whole thing about not being first choice, was over and done with very quickly when Brazil played the USA, played well and won. It was forgotten. If Mano is under pressure, it is only because the results haven’t been good enough. It doesn’t have anything to do with not being first choice.
Imagine Mano gets sacked in one of the next games, who would be a good replacement?
There are shadows emerging and one of those shadows is Vanderlei Luxemburgo. He is responsible both in tactical and physiological terms for the fact that Ronaldinho is back in the squad. A year ago it looked like Luxemburgo’s career was going down the toilet. He has managed to haul himself back into contention with Flamengo. There is another one, which is Luiz Felipe Scolari. If you look at what Scolari did at the start of the decade: he didn’t want the Brazil job, he didn’t want the Brazil job. With a year to go before the World Cup, he wanted it. He took it, won the world cup and then left. Right now he must be thinking if the job is vacant a year before the world cup, he’d like it again. Those are the principal shadows at the moment: Luxemburgo looming and Scolari lurking.
Brazil find it difficult to break down opposition that sit back deep and don’t offer them the counterattack, but it is these days still possible to play the truly beautiful game that we all associate with the Brazilian teams of 1958, 1970 and 1982? Interestingly enough, Daniel Alves was asked by the Brazilian press whether or not Brazil could copy the style of FC Barcelona!
A lot of Brazilian coaches would tend to say no: it is not possible. The direction that Brazilian football has taken, puts a lot of emphasis on height and physical strength and on counterattacks. At conferences of Brazilian coaches the statistics are rolled out that if the move has more then seven passes the possibilities of a goal are reduced. But there you go, then Barcelona come along and prove that all of this isn’t true. It is difficult for the moment to see Brazil do what Barcelona are doing, because Brazil are not producing the players. Who is the Brazilian equivalent of a Xavi or an Iniesta? There is quality available in lots of positions but is there enough quality in central midfield? And again that is disappointing about Mano: Hernanes is an excellent player. He can play in a deeper role for Brazil then he does for Lazio Roma. A player, who strikes the ball so well with both feet, should be looked at. He was badly selected in the friendly against France when he played wide on the left. He doesn’t have the pace to play there and he couldn’t get into the game. He got frustrated, went in with a high foot, got send off and he hasn’t been back since. He is a player that should be involved in this transitional phase. It is back to thing that Mano seems to have favourites and other are not so much favourites. The treatment he has given Jadson and Hernanes has been bad. These are two players who could improve Brazil in the middle of the field.
Let us focus a little on the game with Ghana. Ronaldinho has been recalled to the squad, where does Kaka fit in?
Kaka has to get fit. The long term of his career is worrying. He has two fairly chronic injuries. Kaka is a player, who needs that explosion. He needs to be at top physical condition. If you take that away from him, he is not a world class player. First Kaka has to prove that he can be physically fit, and also that he can be physically fit in three years time. He will be 32 then. Probably Menezes is thinking - if we get anything from Kaka, that’s a bonus.
One of Brazil’s big problems has been the left-back position. Michel Bastos played at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, then André Santos, who had a disappointing Copa America, was tried out and now Marcelo is given another chance.
It is a great chance for Marcelo. To me, André Santos wasn’t that disappointing in the Copa America. He is better going forward than he is defensively, but he doesn’t score the goals that he should considering the positions he gets into. But one of the highlights of what Brazil did at the Copa America came against Ecuador. Brazil played an absolutely terrible first half. The first goal, that came out of nowhere, was a beautiful cross from André Santos. It curled in behind the defensive line and Alexandre Pato got in front of the defender to score. It was the kind of cross that invited, and you didn’t have to be six foot tall to meet it. Santos didn’t provide enough of those moments. He has been punished now for giving away the goal against Germany, which turned out to be the winner. He has a long history with Mano Menezes and it has to be seen whether his omission from the squad now is a one game punishment or more permanent. I think Alexandro, who has just joined FC Porto, is an interesting prospect. He is a very promising left-back and he could be the long term solution. You can be assured that in most positions, and especially fullbacks, if Brazil don’t have a player now, they will have one soon.
On the right-back Mano has always preferred Dani Alves instead of Maicon. Yet the former is more frail in defence and had a terrible Copa America.
Before the first game against Paraguay, the then coach of Paraguay Fernando Martino said that when Dani Alves cuts in, he has the precision of a number 10. He countered by picking Estigebarria – left sided and quick. He set up the two goals for Paraguay and Daniel Alves was dropped. Martino was very happy with his work, because he neutralized what he saw as Brazil’s strong point. Danilo is in the squad now, who can play right back or central midfield. The question mark over Maicon is first of all – can he fight Gareth Bale? Secondly – is he still going to be around in 2014? He will be nearly 33 and that is pushing it for a player, who relies on physical explosion. At Manchester United the rising of Chris Smalling is a disappointment for Rafael. He is not getting the opportunities that he got last year. He was in the Brazil squad last year. He falls back. Overall though, it is a lovely problem to have. Most coaches around the world would love to have Daniel Alves, Maicon, Danilo and Rafael to choose from.
In the centre of the field there is the interesting figure of Paulo Henrique Ganso, who didn’t get a start against Germany.
It would have been a wonderful experience for him – to start a game in Europe against a top European side. Besides he was fitter in August then he was back in July at the Copa America, when he had just returned from a long knee injury. That was a game he could have learned a lot from. It will be interesting to see if he gets a game today – how he gets on against the big, strong and physical Ghanaians. And how about Neymar, how will he deal with such a strong team?
Could we say that Fernandinho of Shakhtar Donetsk is a bit of an oddity in this team?
Ramires has not been included. Fernandinho can play that role, as a midfielder who can force the transition and can bring the ball forward. But playing for Shakhtar, having not played for a big club in one of the big centres of Brazil, makes it very difficult for him to stay in the squad. There simply is no lobby for him back at home. If he is dropped, like Jadson, who is in the same category, no one in Brazil will protest, because he has no lobby in Rio, Sao Paulo or even in Porte Alegre or Belo Horizonte. Under those conditions it is nearly impossible to stay in the squad.
In the final third of the field, there is Neymar – a petulant boy but with huge potential!
Against Germany he failed to get involved, he wasn’t up to the mark. He is still at Santos, despite rumours that he has been sold to FC Barcelona for an estimated 60 million EUR as of 2013. Mano said he has a strong personality. Can Neymar make it in Europe?
It is going to be one of the fascinating narratives over the next few years. How Neymar gets on in Europe? His ability is absolutely phenomenal, astounding. But there are question marks about his lack of physicality, about his tendency to dive all the time - that he gets away with in Brazil – and question marks about his personality – his petulance. The Germany game was fascinating for a number of reasons. He played badly and was indeed not up to the mark, but he scored a fantastic goal. How many players could have done that? In a low scoring game like football, some one who can play badly and still score a wonderful goal, is useful. Rivaldo used to do this a lot. He would have game where he received the ball hundred times, 98 times he’d give it away and twice he’d score a goal. That is still cost effective. It was astonishing goal that Neymar scored against Germany: given half a metre at the edge of the area – BANG! His precision in front of goal is extraordinary. But can he cope with the weight of expectation? Can he cope with physicality and the fact that he is not going to get a free kick every time? It is going to be an intriguing soap opera to watch.
Neymar has already won the Copa Libertadores, which should be enough prove that he is a real talent, or does the Libertadores get undervalued in Europe?
It probably is. The time difference doesn’t help because the big games kick off at 2 in the morning European time. In general the English media don’t pay enough attention to South American football, be it domestically or the national teams. The English media treated the Copa America more as a backdrop to Carlos Tevez deciding where he was going to play his football than tournament, which is very interesting in itself. That unfortunately is the English mentality, which is all the stronger it seems for the fact that all players from all corners of the world are playing in England. The English seem to not worry about abroad and just think about Carlos Tevez here. Rowing against this tide has proven to be rather difficult.
The English may seem to bother only about the Premier League, but has the Premier League become slightly ridiculous with multimillionaires using it as their back garden to toy around?
In England a vast majority are thinking that the Germans have got the balance better. Having said that, I spoke with Sandro from Tottenham yesterday about how his first year had gone. He is so happy to be playing here and he says this is where everyone wants to be, because there are so many great players from all over the world, great facilities. Sandro feels he is a much improved player. He has learnt to do things much more quickly and good football is exactly that – precision at pace.
What do you expect about Brazil tonight?
I expect to be intrigued, fascinated and hopefully moved at times. It is such a fascinating time to watch Brazil, specifically because they are trying to find their way and trying to rediscover a footballing identity. It is not easy doing that under pressure.
Is it significant that today’s offensive quartet for Brazil – Damião, Neymar, Ganso and Ronaldinho – all play their football back home in the domestic league?
It is not coincidence. The Brazilian league is paying big money, but if you ask this question in two years time, that Neymar, Ganso and Damião will not be playing their football in Brazil. The terms of trade are changing, but still the best players will play their big years in Europe. That is unavoidable for the foreseeable future.
Is Mano’s mission slowly becoming near mission impossible? The Brazilian public don’t seem to be to please with his experimental approach over the last 13 games, but with the 2012 Olympics coming up, you can expect more of the same, will the CBF and the Brazilian public except that for another year?
It depends on results. Everything does. But it is hard to see Brazil not winning the Olympics. Who will beat Brazil in the Olympics? Who is going to take it more seriously ? It is the same year as the European championships. No one from Europe is going to be full strength. Uruguay are there and will put out a decent team, but they have got only 3.5 million people, Brazil has 200 million. Africa? They will be strong, but Brazil will be stronger. Mano Menezes will see that as his salvation: let us just get through these friendlies, next year we win the Olympics. That will give him some breathing space.
A silly question to conclude: who will win the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Haha! Always make you predictions after the event! I can tell you with no problem at all that Brazil will win the 1970 World Cup. About 2014, I haven’t got a clue!
zondag, mei 26th
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