Mumbai: When he dribbled past defenders as a youngster in the neighbourhood of Quintino Bocaiuva in Rio de Janeiro, few had the courage to attempt a tackle and were in awe of Arthur Antunes Coimbra, better known as Zico. After creating music on the turf as a player, he wore the coach’s hat and now, FC Goa – an Indian Super League (ISL) football franchise – brought him on board as manager and chief coach.
Was he surprised at first, hearing about a football league in India? Well, not at all. “India is a very large country but it is unfortunate the standard of the sport isn’t that high. When I came to Kolkata for World Cup preliminaries in 2004, I was overwhelmed to see the crowd. If there is so much of enthusiasm, things will get better,” he said.
Zico who also declared, “James Rodriguez from Columbia is one of the best footballers at the moment,” added, “ISL is a big league and I will do the same in India as I did for my country.”
His coaching stint started with Japan and despite a thorny start, he did manage to inject energy into the team. It was his single-handed effort which won Japan the 2004 Asian Cup. Two years later, they also qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. However, Zico said Japan had no professionalism but the team was united and wanted to improve which did the trick. He also signed a coaching agreement with Al Gharafa, a Qatar-based sports club, but lack of results led to his termination leaving the country in his bad books.
“Youngsters in Qatar were not interested in football at all,” he stated.
Talking about the co-existence of I-League and ISL, he said: “There is synergy between them and they can co-exist. Players can move across teams. We are participating in all tournaments and have to play throughout the year. Both are important for development of Asian football.”
Though Zico arrived after the signing of players, he said he will get to business as soon as possible.
“My objective is to reach the finals and win and I am optimistic about it. We have to prepare well though. I can’t wait to meet the players. As soon as I get to know them, I will share my philosophy,” said the 61-year-old adding: “In Brazil, if you lose four matches, you are sent home but in England, a coach can stay for 12 to 15 years,” said the 61-year-old, also known as ‘White Pele’.
Being a man of character, he does make FC Goa a strong contender for the ISL title. Though he could not be a part of Brazil’s World Cup winning squad thrice despite turning up thrice (1978-1986), he remains a legend in his own right....