BIG PHIL – THE BRAZILIAN JOSE

By Paulo Conceicao
Jun 21st, 2008

Writing from Brasil, where I live in Porto Alegre, I can tell all you Chelsea fans that you’re in for a whole heap of fun. Luiz Felipe Scolari is the sort of manager that, like Mourinho before him, will deliver in spades. More than that, he’ll deliver it in his own inimitable Clint Eastwood style.

Firstly, I want to put a few myths to bed. Scolari’s English is fine. It’s not great but it’s fine. He actually attended an FA function a few years ago with no translator and the audience was knocked out by his wit, style and charm. Big Phil, as you call him, certainly has a better command of English than Mr Ranieri or Fabio Capello had when they arrived in your country. His English won’t be a problem.

Big Phil is a man’s man. He’s a 15 stone bruiser who will fight your corner like a man possessed if he’s on your side. If he isn’t, watch out. He’s just as likely to deck you and he won’t care. The English press pack better be on their best manners as he won’t give an inch if crossed.

See here for one of Scolari’s weaker punches:

His favourite film genre is westerns and one of his top five flicks is Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.In my home town, Scolari (pronounced abruptly Schole-our-ee and not Schole-rrrrrrrrr-ee) is a legend. His nickname is ‘Sargentao’ (Big Sergeant) and he was awarded honorary membership of the civil police. Even when he was manager of Brazil, he shunned the mansions off Corcavado Hill in Rio and preferred living in a flat in a ten-story block in Porto Alegre. That’s the equivalent of Jose Mourinho living in a high-rise in Dagenham.Scolari doesn’t fool around and he’s got a wife of 33 years called Olga, his childhood sweetheart. He has two sons, a 23 year old law graduate called Leonardo and a 16 year old lad named Fabricio who no doubt will travel to England with him. Scolari isn’t interested in the trappings of fame and he’ll probably settle near your training ground outside London in a modest house.

Basically, Scolari’s an ordinary guy who just happens to be a brilliant football manager. What makes him special is not his tactical genius (he’s good but not great) but his way of creating a family around his players. He can knit together a group and get his players fighting for him in a way that very few managers can. Whilst Mourinho revelled in his position as an authoritarian leader, Scolari prefers to lead from the back and hides behind an aura of informality. There’ll be no Armani coats, just an ill-fitting tracksuit that’ll make his paunch stick out further.

If there was a manager who is closest to Scolari in both style of management and tactics, it’s Alex Ferguson. Just like Ferguson, Scolari lives and breathes football and just like the Scottish manager he’ll shun media events, parties and the glamour lifestyle. Scolari’s just interested in the football and winning well.

He once offered to pay part of the salary of a goalkeeper when he was manager of Palmeiras in Sao Paulo because he wanted to keep him. Velloso, who had been offered a poor contract by the Club’s owners, stayed at the Club but when Scolari came to write out the cheque at the end of the season, the goalkeeper ripped it up because he valued Scolari so highly.

Scolari uses a brilliant sports psychologist called Regina Brandao who produces psychological profiles of all the squad which they then use to analyse the squad. It’s an interesting approach which has worked in Brasil and they’ll probably enjoy studying characters like Didier Drogba and the way he falls over. Even in Brazil we can see that Drogba has a balance problem.

Scolari’s press conferences will be good. They won’t be as entertaining as Jose because Phil is not personally arrogant in the way that Jose is, but they’ll be entertaining nonetheless because Scolari speaks his mind. We remember in Brazil when he caused howls of protest because he said that he didn’t like Kuwait, where he was briefly national team coach, because there were ‘so many gays’. Like I said, Scolari is an unreconstructed man’s man who’ll say it like it is. In that way he’s old school and the press department at your Club will be busy people.

As for a new song for your new manager, I think a good one would be:

Scolari, Oh Oh Oh
Scolari, Oh, Oh, Oh

They call him big fat Phil
We’re playing like Brasil

Scolari, Oh Oh Oh
Scolari, Oh, Oh, Oh

All the very best. I still miss London where I lived in Acton for fifteen years, but I don’t miss your weather. Anyway, enjoy Scolari – he’ll be brilliant.

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