Football Land


    The new coach for the national soccer team is Wanderley Luxemburgo
    da Silva, 46. He is the 36th man to occupy the post. As expected, the Brazilian media are
    treating him with kid gloves.
    By Rodolfo Espinoza

    An offensive bathroom door on soccer star Romário’s recently-opened bar in Rio has
    been brought down by the justice. It was a victory for Mário Lobo Zagallo, the man who
    last June and July coached the Brazilian soccer squad in the French fields into a
    second-place in the World Cup. Zagallo is also suing for $1 million in damages for a
    painting on the door that showed him with his pants down sitting on a toilet.

    All of this happened weeks before the Bar do Gol, located in the Barra da Tijuca
    neighborhood, was even opened to the public. Romário alleged that the drawing was an
    homage to the coach and that the door was going to be auctioned after three months with
    the money going to charity. Zagallo didn’t buy the explanation and accused the player of
    using the caricature as retaliation for being cut from the national team 10 days before
    the start of the Cup. The reason for the cut was a calf muscle injury, which two months
    after the Cup’s final game is still plaguing the striker.

    Since the Cup’s end Brazil mourned and overcame the grief over its loss to France, CBD
    (Confederação Brasileira de Desportos—Brazilian Sports Confederation) fired Zagallo
    and chose his substitute, and the country seems resigned to have not discovered the truth
    behind the ill that befell superstar Ronaldinho in the final match, turning him
    unrecognizable and useless on the field. But the media continue to give him star treatment
    even when announcing that Ronaldinho also had opened its own hip bar in Rio and that his
    name was left out the list prepared by the new coach for the first friendly of the
    post-Cup national team.

    New Blood

    By the way, the new coach in the land where 10 out of 10 are born with the soccer coach
    genes, is Wanderley Luxemburgo da Silva, 46. He is the 36th man to occupy the much-coveted
    and ulcer-inducing post. As expected, the media have been giving him the honeymoon
    treatment despite his habit of using rococo terminology and expressions that don’t make
    too much sense and his insistence on always wearing a suit in the European tradition even
    during the games he is coaching. He dresses in Giorgio Armanis, Gianni Versaces, Tweeds,
    and Vila Romanas and is believed to have an extensive collection of ties to go with 120
    shirts and 30 suits. Forty pairs of shoes complete his wardrobe.

    With a college degree in administration and another one in PE, Luxemburgo is a serious
    adept of marketing for his own work even though he sounds humble when talking about his
    plans and the help he will need from aides. He is also an avid reader of neurolinguistics
    books and in high demand on the motivational seminary circuit where he is paid an average
    of $15,000 for a conference. He talks about creating a "macro plan" for the
    national team and preaches the need to "escalate parameters." One of his
    favorite maxims: "The fear to lose takes away the will to win."

    Luxemburgo believes in computers and always uses animation software Data Show to make a
    point. He has even his own Internet site: As his
    predecessor, the new coach also appeals to the supernatural and has his superstitions and
    lucky charms. For example, he will not stay in any other suite than the 171 when at his
    favorite hanging-out place, the Park Hotel Atibaia, 37 miles from São Paulo.

    Born in Tinguá, Rio de Janeiro, on May 10, 1952, he is considered a Paulista
    for having developed his career in São Paulo. He has been married for 25 years with
    Josefa with whom he has three girls: Valeska, Vanessa, and Vanusa. A Campinas (interior of
    São Paulo) manicurist sued him for sexual harassment, but nothing could be proved against
    the coach.

    In a show of independence, and a hint that things might have changed, he presented
    early August his first team. For the surprise of everybody, among the 22 names a mere four
    (Cafu, Émerson, Rivaldo, and Denílson) were in the squad that went to France last June
    for the World Cup. He preferred younger and more versatile players who can be used in more
    than one position on the field slighting experience. Even superstar Ronaldinho did not
    make the cut.

    The new coach was a mediocre soccer player from 1971 to 1982, having played at Botafogo
    and Flamengo, both from Rio, before starting a glorious coaching career that took him to
    15 different clubs, including two from Saudi Arabia. Notorious for fighting prima donnas,
    the coach has clashed with several soccer stars, including Romário from Flamengo, Edmundo
    from Palmeiras and more recently Marcelinho Carioca from Corinthians.

    As coach for Palmeiras, a team from São Paulo, he won the national soccer championship
    in 1993 and 1994. He got his first head-coaching job in 1983 at Campo Grande, a Rio team.
    His first brush with fame came in 1990 after Luxemburgo took the small soccer club
    Bragantino to the São Paulo state championship. He coached Flamengo in 1995, returning to
    Palmeiras where he won the 1996 Paulista (from São Paulo) championship. In 1997 he
    moved to Santos Futebol Clube. The coach is with Corinthians now and intends to accumulate
    the functions of national team coach with his work at Corinthians, until December,
    planning to dedicate himself solely to the national team starting January 1999. That’s
    when he will begin in earnest the so-called Cup 2002 project.

    How long is the honeymoon with the media and the public going to last? While the new
    coach keeps winning. It is a daunting task. Much maligned Zagallo was at the helm when
    Brazil became champion of the latest Confederations Cup (to be disputed again in January
    1999) came in first on the America Cup (the new tournament is June 1999), and won the
    pre-Olympic (to be disputed again on January 2000). He has an obligation to at least win
    them all. How about this for a challenge?

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