Thursday, June 12, 2008
Football's Gene Hackman for KL
Luiz Felipe Scolari (pix AFP) will be making his second visit to Kuala Lumpur on July 29.
The last time he was here, the man who bears a slight resemblance to Gene Hackman was preparing Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Roberto Carlos and the rest for their Penta-stic world title.
Six years on Felipao will be heading Chelsea's travelling party to Shah Alam. He was early this morning confirmed as Avram Grant's successor at Stamford Bridge.
I wrote this for the Malay Mail in May 2002.
AS a player, Luiz Felipe Scolari was everything that Brazilian football is not.
So-so with the ball, tough rather than elegant, hard working than languid but always reliable.
There are few more high-pressure jobs in football than managing Brazil, the main advocates of jogo bonito with millions of football-mad fans who expect the samba kings to win every World Cup.
His idea for a World Cup victory in the upcoming edition in Korea/Japan would include variable tactics according to the opponents, physical training, the right to select the players and a winning attitude.
And the 53-year old has his own way of thinking things out - he makes it a point to do some brisk walking every day.
While the array of talented and multi-millionaire footballers trained at the National Sports Council (NSC) pitch at Bukit Jalil, Scolari was seen circling the warm-up track, with his assistant Antonio Lopes a loyal companion.
"Usually this is the time when Scolari discusses tactics and players with Lopes," said Sao Paulo-based journalist, Wagner Vilaron.
"He has much thinking to do. He does this almost everyday.
"It is routine for him. Sometimes he walks in the morning, sometimes in the evening."
Felipao or Big Phil, as he is known back home, is not exactly the darling of Rio de Janeiro.
Scolari's decision to drop Romario from the final 23 was seen as a big sin by the fans.
Purists too criticised his idea of modelling his 2002 team after Carlos Alberto Parreira's Brazil in 1994 than Mario Zagallo's Brazil 1970.
"This goes against our nature," noted one journalist.
Under fire or his over-aggressive style, Scolari has already announced his intention to resign when the World Cup campaign is over regardless of the outcome.
Still he has plenty to think about between now and the World Cup.
Married with two boys, Scolari yesterday toyed with the idea of taking his players for a swim at the National Aquatic Centre.
A slight drizzle forced a change of plans.
The players had disembarked yesterday morning and two hours after their arrival, they were already in training.
Scolari's main concern is the reaction of the players to the time difference of time, not Malaysia whom they meet on Saturday.
Surely the historic rendezvous at the National Stadium is a mere walk on the park for Scolari and Co.
I look forward to meeting Big Phil again.