Brito’s safari honeymoon
Sharuko on Saturday
TWO weeks ago, a Euro 2024 qualifier grabbed headlines around the world largely because of the nature of the final scoreline — Portugal 9, Luxembourg 0.
It was the Portuguese record winning margin since they started playing games on the international scene with a 1-3 defeat to Spain in Madrid on December 19, 1921.
Another five years would pass before Highlanders was established by the grandsons of King Lobengula in 1926.
Bosso will be turning 100, in just three years’ time and, God willing, we will be there to see this amazing coming of age of our own version of Barcelona.
‘More Than A Club,’ so says the Barca signature phrase and every word there can apply to what our own Bosso represent.
When you consider that it has taken a period longer than the entire lifespan of Bosso, for the Portuguese to score nine goals, you will appreciate the significance of that record score-line.
They didn’t even need the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the symbol of their resurgence which culminated in them being crowned Kings of Europe in 2016, for them to massacre Luxembourg.
The superstar who has a record 191 appearances for Portugal, and a record 117 goals for his country, was suspended for that match.
But, in the end, it didn’t matter as Goncalo Inacio and Goncalo Ramos grabbed braces and Diogo Jota, Ricardo Horta, Bruno Fernandez and Joao Felix added further goals.
Save for our petty constituency interests, defined by our allegiances to certain English clubs and their players, it’s a game which didn’t really strike a nerve in this country.
But, after Beltmar Brito was named Warriors coach, it’s a game that has now taken significant interest, for some of us.
For it represented a collision between the country (Portugal), which Brito has called home for years now, and the one (Luxembourg) where he was last employed, before his arrival here.
Brito is a Brazilian.
He is from Recife and made his name in Portugal where he ended up being part of Jose Mourinho’s bandwagon at Chelsea (twice).
In January 2007, he was the subject of one of the best football jokes that year when Mourinho suggested he would rather field him, as a centre-back, than pay an inflated price for a centre-back.
“Just because of the smell that Chelsea needs a central defender, it has people thinking we are stupid,” said Mourinho.
“With the reality of the English market I prefer to play with Brito than pay the crazy money.”
Brito, who was a defender during his playing days, was 55 then.
For me, the Euro 2024 qualifier between Portugal and Luxembourg was key because it provided a glimpse of the levels of football, where Brito had drifted into, before he arrived here.
Luxembourg, a country which today has a population of 660 809, half of which are foreigners, has taken part in every FIFA World Cup qualifiers since 1934, when the second global tournament was held.
It has never qualified for the World Cup.
The country has also taken part in the Euro qualifiers since 1964 and it has never qualified for this tournament.
This is where Brito retreated in January 2018.
He got a job to coach a club called Union Titus Petange, which had been formed three years earlier, in the wake of the merger of CS Petange and FC Titus Lamadelaine.
But, even in such a relaxed retirement zone, where the clubs are more amateurish than professional, Brito was gone by December that year.
He took charge of 31 games, won 12, drew four and lost 15, his team scored 47 goals and conceded 57 which represented a 43.01 percent failure.
A poor run of results, including a winless run in his last five games, in which they lost three times and drew two games, saw the two parties ending their union by mutual consent.
Two of those three defeats were brutal as Brito’s team were thrashed 1-5 by Progress Nierderkorn and 1-4 by Racing Union Luxembourg.
Ironically, when Brito left, the same UTP enjoyed a revival.
They won their next four games by beating Hostert 3-0, Luxembourg City 3-0, Differdange 5-1, FolaEsch 2-1 before they fell 1-4 to Mondorf-les-Bains F91 in March 2019.
BRUNO MAKES HISTORY
Today in Gaborone, at the age of 72, Brito will make history as the oldest coach to start his adventure in the trenches of international football.
That’s just a few months older than Otto Rehhagel, when he made history, as the oldest coach to guide a national team, at the FIFA World Cup, when he took charge of Greece in 2010.
Otto was 71 years 317 years old when Greece played their first match in South Africa.
They even made a film about him, ‘King Otto,’ to celebrate his achievements in football, especially the way he guided outsiders Greece to success at Euro 2004.
The Greeks were 300-1 outsiders and had never won a game at a major international football tournament when they arrived at Euro 2004. Brito should know about that sensational success story because Otto’s men upstaged hosts Portugal in the final to be crowned the Kings of Europe.
Otto retired in 2012, after a stint with Hertha Berlin.
If Brito takes the Warriors to the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, he would be 74, and he will shatter the record, which Otto left behind, as the oldest coach to guide a team at the showcase.
In November, Brito will become the oldest coach to take charge of a World Cup qualifier, for the first time, when the Warriors battle Rwanda.
Until Brito’s arrival, the oldest foreign coach to guide the Warriors was Rudi Gutendorf, in what was a suicidal experiment by ZIFA, in 1995.
He was 69 and it soon became clear that if this was an attempt to find another Reinhard Fabisch, then it had failed miserably.
For Brito, today’s mission in Botswana is just the honeymoon.
He can use this game to get an idea of what the trenches, when it comes to the national team battles, really look like.
He knows the real assignments will only come in November when the World Cup qualifiers start with those two matches against Rwanda and Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
If anyone told Brito, this time two years ago, that he will not only be in charge of a national team but about to take charge of World Cup qualifiers, I’m pretty sure the Brazilian would have taken it as a very bad joke.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, suggested that his rehabilitation, after his failed mission in Luxemburg, would be a safari adventure in Zimbabwe.
And, above all that, a stint as the Warriors coach.
Some will say he earned his right to coach the Warriors, which is a fair call, because he has been absolutely excellent with the toothless Highlanders, in the two seasons he has been in charge.
He has transformed them into a club which can now dream again of winning the league championship, which is by no means an easy task.
I even believe it’s an easier task to coach the Warriors than to coach either Highlanders or Dynamos.
For a start, the Warriors assignments are few and far between, with about six major games a year and then the minor battles like the COSAFA Cup.
Compare that with 34 league matches for Bosso and DeMbare, virtually every week under the microscope, and the additional Cup matches.
The politics at the Warriors isn’t as pronounced, and as toxic, as that found at Bosso and DeMbare and there is more quality, in terms of players, at the national team than at the clubs.
BRITO APPEARS A DECENT MAN
So, someone could also argue that Brito will find it easier to coach the Warriors than coaching Bosso, which is a fair point.
But, it’s also true that the quality of the opposition, when it comes to the Warriors, is also of a higher notch than what is found in the domestic league battles.
Brito looks like a decent man and I have to say that I have a soft spot for him both as a man and a coach.
My real concern isn’t about his age because I asked myself this week if I would have issues if, for instance, ZIFA announce that Manuel Pellegrini is the new Warriors coach?
And, Pellegrini is 70, just two years younger than Brito, and just a year younger than Sunday Chidzambwa.
The difference, though, between Pellegrini and Brito, even though they are virtually of the same age, is that the Chilean has a clear and strong track record of taking charge of big teams, while the Brazilian doesn’t have that CV.
Pellegrini has been the boss at River Plate of Argentina, Real Madrid, Villarreal, Manchester City, West Ham and Real Betis.
His strong CV shows that he is the first manager from outside Europe to lead a team to the English Premiership title.
We remove the backroom staff role, which Brito has as a lieutenant of Mourinho, and everything gets a little bit hazy.
The last time we had a flirtation with a Brazilian coach, when it came to the Warriors, it turned into a very rough period for us.
His name was Valinhos.
He was hired under a cloud in a deal which involved the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in January 2008 and 10 months later, he was gone, fired after a poor run by the Warriors in the 2010 AFCON/World Cup qualifiers.
His Warriors won just once, a 2-0 win over Namibia at Rufaro, with Gilbert Mushangazhike scoring both goals.
He resurfaced at Free State Stars in South Africa, in 2009, where he was given a two-year contract but, after just two games, he was GONE.
Valinhos will probably argue that he had a traceable record when it comes to national teams after he had a stint as coach of the Brazilian Under-20 side.
It’s the kind of experience which Brito cannot boast.
However, those who are singing in his corner will probably argue that this is the kind of coach the Warriors want — someone whose template has not been used before, at this level of the game.
Because, they will rightly argue, what did this so-called experience, which Valinhos had, take us during that miserable 2010 AFCON/World Cup qualifiers?
After all, it ended in the tragedy of us being expelled from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers after ZIFA failed to pay him his outstanding US$81 000.
They will also rightly argue that when Gutendorf came here in 1995, what did his so-called experience take us in what was a miserable 2006 Nations Cup campaign?
This is a man who arrived here with a CV which showed that he had coached Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Antigua & Barbados, Australia, New Caledonia, Nepal, Tonga, Tanzania, Sao Tome & Principe, Ghana, Nepal, Fiji, China, Mauritius and Botswana, whom we playing today.
This week Brito probably got a glimpse of the amateurish approach at ZIFA when he was forced to take that bus ride from Bulawayo to Harare.
It’s something which Callisto Pasuwa experienced EIGHT years ago.
Nothing has changed at ZIFA in those EIGHT years and, maybe, even a coach like Manuel Pellegrini will fail if he chooses working for this association.
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys still in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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