Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today- Portugal vs Spain- No Fear, Just Excitement!

When you start the journey that is the World Cup, there's
always a sense of anxiety.

You try to focus on the two segments of the tournament:
there's the qualification aspect, which Team Portugal has
already achieved, and then there's the knockout phase, which
requires a winning mentality. The loser goes home and the
winner stays. We've reached that stage and we don't want to
go home.

As Team Portugal prepares for the match against Spain, we're
in a good space and a good frame of mind. The game plan is
on track. We haven't conceded a goal at the World Cup and if
we can maintain that discipline and sense of structure,
we're always in a position to compete.

I think our game against Spain is going to be a lot like a
boxing match. Each opponent is going to take a few punches
here and there to see how the other team adjusts and reacts.
That will determine the rhythm of the match and I think that
will be extremely important. These are two teams with
skilful players who will try to assess the opposition. The
teams who are able to identify and expose areas of weakness
and capitalize on their opponent's mistakes generally are
the teams that come out on top.

It's only natural that the history between these two nations
gives the match a bit more significance. After all, we are
neighbors’. It's also kind of ironic that the two counties
have combined efforts to bid for either the 2018 or 2022
World Cup and now we're in opposing positions where one of
us will go home.

Entering the knockout phase, there has been a greater
emphasis on penalty kicks in training. We divide the players
into three teams with each player taking three penalty
kicks, rotating at three different goals. I've taken the
opportunity to share my philosophy on defending penalty
kicks with Portugal's three goalkeepers. Ultimately, it's
their style and personality that should dictate how they
react to a shooter.

There are a number of things a goalkeeper can look for as
the opposing player prepares to shoot. Essentially, it's
psychological warfare between the shooter and goalkeeper.
When penalty kickers train, they try to master a routine:
they get a bag balls, put them down, place one ball down in
a particular way with the valve facing a certain way, they
take so many steps in their approach. What a goalkeeper can
try to do is interrupt that routine and there are various
ways to do that: taking their time to set up, walking up to
the ball, moving on the line, switching to a second pair of

Then, you get into the technical aspects by looking at the
approach the shooter takes. If it's a normal approach to the
ball, then in most cases it's a normal swing from the
player. For example, if a right-footed shooter stands to the
left of the ball, then the natural swing would be the right
foot kicking to the right of the goalkeeper. If there's some
sort of deception used, like a long run to the ball or a
short arching one, they're likely to go against their
natural swing. Then, a goalkeeper can look at physical
aspects such as where the hips are facing. If the hips are
opened up to a certain side, then generally that's where the
ball is going. These things happen very quickly and it's
very difficult to process all this in a few
Split seconds.

Some players are getting craftier now. They have those
little hesitation run-ups to see if a goalkeeper moves. If
he does and the shooter is clever enough and skilled enough
to go to the other side, he has an advantage. If a
goalkeeper doesn't fall for it, the shooter will try going
to his strongest side.

And of course, we try to get a history on the opposing
players. Even during the match, you try to study the
tendencies of certain players. If a player has had several
shots on goal and tends to go to the same side, chances are
that's his favorite side in taking a penalty kick. Sometimes
during a warm-up before games, a potential penalty taker
wants to practice his penalties and we try to alert our team
to those types of situations.

All these may help prepare a goalkeeper, but I don't have
the perfect answer or solution. If I did, then you could
only imagine how valuable I would be to a team!

On Monday night before the match, we had a special guest
visit the Portugal team. Francois Pienaar, the former rugby
player who captained the Springboks when they won the 1995
Rugby World Cup in South Africa, spoke to the players. If
you've seen the movie Invictus with Matt Damon as Francois
and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, then you are familiar
with his story. The players watched an edited down version
of the movie and the highlight of the presentation was
having Francois there to give an incredible inspirational
message to the team.

Number one, he asked the players to imagine. He asked them
to imagine the support of the nation; to visualize those
young boys and girls who wear their jerseys with their names
on it to bed the night before in great anticipation to watch
them play.

Number two was no "ifs." Don't accept the word "if" like,
"What if I don't make the right pass? What if I don't make
the right tackle? What if I don't take the right shot?" He
told the team to remove that word from their language.
Instead use the word “if” I do this than there is a
positive outcome.

And the third point was positive energy. From the moment you
wake up, maintain positive energy because it's contagious.
Francois truly captivated our players and he left them with
one final message: Don't play with fear, but play with

Live the World Cup!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Portugal's Magical Moment versus North Korea

Now that is how you play football!

Portugal's 7-0 win over North Korea on Monday was obviously
a big moment for the team.

It really was the perfect game for Portugal. Our head coach
Carlos Queiroz and staff prepared the team very well. The
tactical plan was executed flawlessly by our players. We saw
great mental preparation from the players so we couldn't
have asked for a better effort or a better result.  You
could see the desire in their eyes and could feel the
intensity in the locker room. And most importantly, it
certainly puts us in a very good position to get through to
the next round.

Having six different players score for our team was huge. To
have that kind of variation in scoring, from six players, is
tremendous for Portugal. It was a total team effort.

The team had four changes in the starting line-up from the
previous match and that can be a primary motivator for the
players. For the coaching staff, it's important to have
players who can be called upon at any given moment. We have
a roster of 23 and we know we can depend on any of those
players to get the job done.  They all have been prepared to
be called up upon if needed.

I think the biggest difference between this win and our draw
against Ivory Coast was our flank play, and quick and deep
runs from midfield. They were all very effective. And to the
credit of the North Koreans, they came to play. Even though
they use a 5-3-2 system, which is a very defensive set-up,
they came to play football.  Ivory Coast, they literally
parked the bus in front of goal against us and were just
totally reliant on counter attacking.

Portugal's last matches against North Korea, the 5-3
comeback win at the 1966 World Cup, certainly served as
motivation for our team. Two great players who played that
game and were part of that successful run in 1966,  the
legends Simoes and Eusebio, are here with the team and
that's part of the reason why they are here; to offer
inspiration and wisdom and to share their knowledge and
experiences. I would have to say that that was a factor in
our performance. And Both Simoes and Eusebio were extremely
excited and thrilled about this 7-0 win, so that shows you
how historic a result this was for the Portuguese team.
What's important now is to focus on the next task at hand.
When you're in the winning business, all a victory does is
brought relief. You only celebrate when you win a
championship so for us the win was a relief and it instilled
a tremendous amount of confidence, enthusiasm and spirit.
After the match, you enjoy the moment but as of this morning
we start preparations for Brazil.

I believe the Magic began a few days before our match versus
North Korea

It was not a great pass, spectacular finish or perfectly
timed tackle. It was Bingo! We played Bingo in South Africa.
 In Portugal we would play every other day. Often times for
no particular reason staff and administrators would win the
prizes. The players would always complain that it was the
same winners all the time.  When we played in South Africa
the players asked two servers of the hotel to sit with them
and enjoy the game of Bingo.  Well, guess who won the first
bingo game. It was me the American! I was the first to
complete one line with the correct numbers.

The second prize was won by one of the servers. He had a
huge smile on his face while he was collecting his prize.
The team leaped from their chairs and gave him a standing
ovation.  It was a celebration.  Well, guess what happened
next?  The second prize was won by the other server. Once
again there was a standing ovation and celebration. I
wondered how this was possible.

The numbers were called out in Portuguese. The servers had
no idea what numbers they were calling. The players decided
collectively that when a number was called they would tell
the servants it was a number on their card, even though it
was incorrect. The servers had no idea and believed they had
won. It was an act of kindness and concern for others.
Naturally, I could not be selfish and keep my prize.  We
called someone from the kitchen and I donated my prizes to
them. The kitchen employee put the prizes down on the floor
and starting dancing and chanting. We all were jumping up
and down with joy.  I felt I was at a church rival. His
happiness was contagious.

The Valley Lodge manager was thrilled for the employees.
She told me the winners gave her all her prizes to put into
the safe.  I asked why? She said the winners were
considering various options on how to get the prizes home
safely. Why? Because these are prime prizes that if they
walked home with them there would be a good probability that
they would get stolen.  Here we are in a room full of super
egos with great abilities to play soccer; Portugal's
national gladiators who are preparing themselves for battle
to defend their country on the soccer field. Yet, they were
sensitive enough to recognize that the servers were the
stars tonight.  For sure the servers will never forget this
evening.  This experience for me has not only been about the
X's and
O's, it’s been about the human side of things and the
goodness that we are all capable of sharing.

It was a magic moment. The feeling in the room was of joy
and happiness for the three servers who won the prizes.  I
will never forget the atmosphere and the kindness of our
players. Having the humility to understand at that moment
was really important. It was moving moment for me and those
who were present.

You know, I was thinking of the differences of being
associated with a team that qualifies for the World Cup as
compared to being a fan at a World Cup. I would not give up
my seat for anyone, but other than game day we are isolated
from the world cup atmosphere. My family called me the night
before the North Korea match. I asked, “What's all that
noise?” They told me that the Portuguese immigrants have
taken over Cape Town.  People would be having dinner and
someone would stand and begin to sing the Portuguese
National Anthem.  We are not exposed to the spirited

Just before kickoff against North Korea I had a huge
surprise.  One of the staff members sitting in the stands
was able to get my attention. I was able to run over give my
wife Mary and son’s Daniel and Jordan each of them a kiss
and a hug. It was a very surreal moment. I could see their
happiness and pride for their dad and husband.

Live the World Cup!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Game must be more than the Vuvuzelas and Jabulani

Figo 2001 FIFA player of the year and former Portugal National Team captain as well as Pauleta all time leading goal scorer of the Portugal National Team stopped by our hotel to give their best wishes.

Our first match of the World Cup was a draw versus Ivory Coast. ...This game highlighted the challenges of Group G also known as the ‘Group of Death.’ This means any one of the four teams has the potential to be one of the two teams that is capable of getting through to the next round. The Ivory Coast Coach waited until the deadline to decide if Drogba would dress and he did. He sat on the bench for Ivory Coast. No doubt he is their leader. I noticed after the game he pulled his team mates together and form a circle. This leads me to believe he is also their spiritual leader. When he stood on the touchline to come into the match, the roar of the crowd shook the stadium. When he entered the field you can sense his presence. The only time that I had a similar sensation was when I was with the South African National Team and Henry from the French National Team came into the game. Like Drogba, when Henry received the ball everyone on the pitch backed off out of respect for his ability.

There were over thirty seven thousand people attending the game. All six African teams who have qualified for the world cup will be well supported and stadiums packed to the max. Lots of attention has been given to the Vuvuzelas and the adidas soccer ball -- Jabulani. My thoughts are that we are guests of South Africa and that the Vuvuzelas is part of their culture and we need to accept the Vuvuzelas as part of the soccer match. The Vuvuzela has definitely made the South African World Cup unique. It is a reverberating sound that makes bench and player communication impossible. It's a plastic horn buzzing sound and has become an iconic accessory at the matches.

Everyone is going ballistic over the new adidas ball, Jabulani. The name of the ball Jabulani means ‘happiness.’ Apparently it has brought very little happiness to goalkeepers and field players. There are eleven colors in the ball representing the eleven languages in South Africa and also the eleven players that lined up before the game. Should Portugal get into the next round, we will play our matches in higher altitude. The ball will move a little faster and bounce higher. In my opinion, too much focus has also been given to the adidas ball.

The goals conceded that I have observed have not been a result of the trajectory of the ball but rather goalkeeper technical mistakes. It is what it is. Inside this ball are their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Players need to love the ball. Quality, technical players will adjust and discover the best way to manage the ball. The ball dips and bends and players need to keep their eyes on the ball at all times. Players cannot assume anything. The World Cup should not be about the Vuvuzelas or the adidas ball; it should be about the game.

I had the good fortunate of bumping into Didier Drogba after the game and naturally took a photo with him. My first impression was good. He was pleasant and patient. We needed to take three photos to get it right and he accommodated me. 

In the past World Cups the African players were free spirited. They played with joy and imagination -- no fear of losing, sending numbers forward. Today, many of the African players are playing in top clubs around the field where they must be responsible and accountable for their actions. Tactically they are more disciplined and the African countries expectations are higher than the past. So, the fear of losing has increased. Fewer risks are taken. More of a defensive position with quick counters is implemented.

The entire country is euphoric about Bafana Bafana. The entire country stops to watch and support their national team. I hope they move on to the next round. This world cup is more than just a soccer tournament for South Africa. It's a moment for them to shine and potentially be a moment of glory. They want to prove to the world against all odds that they can successfully host the world's biggest sporting event. It's a rebirth, a second wind for this country and continent. It was Nelson Mandela's dream to unite the nation through sport. So far the World Cup has taken my breath away. The true test in any major event is to take this amazing and wonderful spirit beyond July 11th.

We need a positive result versus North Korea. They managed a goal against Brazil. They are disciplined and well organized with two quality forwards. We need to find the back of the net more than they.

Live the World Cup!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Portugal National Team Moment of Truth (and Team Bonding)

The moment of truth is just around the corner. Portugal
plays its first World Cup match, Tuesday, June 15th 4:00pm
versus Ivory Coast in Port Elizabeth at the beautiful Nelson
Mandela Bay Stadium.

As many of you know, we defeated Cameroon 3-1 in a
preparation match in Covilha, Portugal. Eighty thousand
people bid us farewell from the Eduardo VII Park as we
departed from Lisbon. When we arrived in Johannesburg we
were greeted by thousands of Portuguese immigrants at the
airport as well as along the highway.  I’ve never seen so
much green and red colors. Portuguese immigrants are the
largest number of immigrants in South Africa. Our training
sessions are also attended by thousands of Portuguese fans.
According to the police, 200 cars followed us to our final
destination. There are eight teams who are receiving the
most security attention.  The United States is considered a
high risk team and has extensive security. The Portugal
National Team is also on that list as a result of the
popularity of the team. We also defeated Mozambique 3 to 0.
These results were beneficial on many levels. Cameroon and
Mozambique our similar in many aspects to Ivory Coast. These
positive results have build momentum and confidence that
will prepare us versus Ivory Coast.

Our players have worked very hard physically, emotionally,
mentally and tactically to meet the challenges of our World
Cup opponents. Our desire and hope is that our players can
deliver the results that will make all Portuguese citizens
and fans proud of our efforts.  Soccer is without doubt full
of surprises.  The expectations are high and the demands are
immense but our hope is that we realize our potential.  The
Portugal National Team and staff understand that is a once
in a life time opportunity. We cannot make any guarantees
but we can promise that everything they have will be left on
the field.

A strong team becomes one in purpose and desire.  Carlos
Queiroz has done a very good job in organizing events to
establish cohesiveness, both on and off the field.  Everyone
is encouraged to participate and communicate in team
building activities, creating a dynamic environment and
encouraging creativity.  You can build trust with well
planned activities.  The goal is to strengthen the group
through building team work.  A soccer team is a collection
of people who come together to share something in common. In
our case, it’s to go as far as we possibly can in the
World Cup, preparing our team to be in the best position to

Our circle is closed tight. Therefore, I cannot share our
preparation in detail. In particular, on the field
preparations and team meetings. Those are sacred areas and
require ultimate respect and confidentiality.  However, here
are some off the field activities that you might be
interested in knowing.

Portugal Air Force

Our players lived a different experience. When our players
arrived at Santos Pinto Stadium they were surprised to
discover that they would be trading their uniforms and
soccer shoes for camouflage military clothes, painted faces
with National Team colors and were given paint ball arms.
The Portuguese Air Force turned the soccer stadium into a
theater of combat and special operations.  They were
involved in a strategy of cooperation organized by the
Portugal Air Force.  The focus was on creating a spirit of
cohesion, loyalty, discipline and completing a mission.  We
all had to work together in order to achieve success.  Our
team was divided into two groups.  Each had to perform
activities that required cooperation and communication.
After each event they earned an envelope with a note inside.
Gathering all the envelopes allowed the players to group the
notes together to understand the mission.  The leader of
each group read a quote from Aristotle and Christopher

Joao Garcia

Joao Garcia is an alpinist. He is one of ten who have
climbed 14 of the biggest mountains in the world without
oxygen. His idea was that one Portuguese has climbed the
biggest mountains, and that one team can win the World Cup.
His message was that you need to love what you do and do it
with honesty and hard work; that the event should be the
motivation and that anything is possible. He said that 12
people have gone to the moon but only 10 have climbed the 14
biggest mountains.

Black Eyed Peas Concert

The Black Eyed Peas held a concert in Lisbon Portugal at the
Portugal National Team Stadium.  The Portugal National Team
adopted the song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ as its theme.  We
were in Covilha at our training camp and could not attend
the concert. They organized a live feed to the concert and
transmitted images of our team and staff viewed on a large
TV screen at the stadium as 40 thousand people chanted
‘Portugal, Portugal Portugal.’ The song ‘I Gotta a
Feeling’ has motivated us, relaxed us and helps give us
positive results.  As Nani said we would have loved to
attend the concert, but we cannot and asked the crowed to
enjoy the concert for us.

Fernando Rocha

Comedian Fernando Roach performed for our team.  Laughter is
a great stress reliever. He had us all rolling on the floor.
 By the end of the evening we felt like we had done a
thousand sit ups. Our abdominals were sore because of the
strain of laughter.

Lion Park Safari

You cannot come to South Africa and not experience a Safari.
 We had three jeeps filled with players, coaching staff and
administrators.  We saw plenty of animals and took plenty of
photos.  Although we felt save inside the jeep, it’s
amazing to see such great athletes and players fear and
respect these massive, dangerous animals, especially the
lions. That was another great team event that helped bring
the team together.  When you are together for over a month
team bonding is crucial on and off the field.


After our victory against Mozambique we attended a Gala. One
of our players and a coach sat at each of the tables.  It
was a first class occasion.  Coach Queiroz, Ronaldo, Simao
and Deco were on stage to answer questions.  We were all in
our official Portugal suits.  My guess is that there were at
least 400 people in attendance.  It was a fun evening with
excited Portuguese fans from South Africa.


Often we play Bingo.  There are lots of drama and plenty of
banter.  One night, I got up and yelled, “I Love the
Game!” They assumed I won, but I never said ‘Bingo.’
Countless dinner napkins were tossed at me. It’s on
video… cannot wait to see it!

H20 Spa

Incredible spa facility… Naturally these super stars have
traveled the world and have experienced the best of the
best. They were impressed with the first class environment.
After a demanding training camp in Covilha it was a great
move to have the players relax and
regenerate.  Players had all types of relaxation methods --
from the pool, sauna, steam, hot and ice baths, massages,
fresh and salt water, whirl pool etc.  The spa was on top of
a mountain with some great views. Everyone was chilling, big

Fernando Ferreira

Fernando Ferreira world class singer performed for us. He
imitates 100 voices of famous singing artists in several
languages. He was amazing and our players and staff truly
enjoyed his talents.

South African Magician

Each magic trick was more challenging than the one before.
Players were impressed.  They thought they had figured the
magic trick out, but they could not catch him.  He was too
quick and a professional.  Some of the magic tricks at the
end would just shake your head.

Live the World Cup!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nelson Mandela and the World Cup

The Beauty and Power of South Africa

In 2000 I had the honor of working with the Bafana Bafana soccer team. I was invited by the South African National Team Head Coach Carlos Queiroz. They were preparing for the African Nation’s Cup in Mali.  There were three profound memories from my time there that impacted my life. The first was the incredible natural beauty and power of South Africa. The lightning storms were spectacular -- the cracking sounds of the lightning makes you realize how we are not in charge. Going to the Lost City and taking a Safari was spectacular. Seeing the big five: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and buffalo forced you to respect wildlife.  The roar of the Lion made you quickly on alert. The power of the rhino made you realize inside your jeep is where you belong. The massive size and strength of the elephant makes you understand why they have survived so many years. The speed of the leopard makes you realize they were untouchable and the buffalo's stare freezes you in your tracks. 

The Mystery and Magic of Muti

The second memory was when the South African National Team was preparing for their match versus World Cup and European Champion’s, France. I was in the locker room and one of the assistant coaches came to me said, “I know you have attended a number of coaching courses and have traveled the world. What is about to happen no book or course has ever prepared you for.”   I became concerned. I quickly walked backwards and put my back up against the wall. All of a sudden there was a peculiar knock on our door. The locker room became silent. Muti entered the room.  Who is Muti? Muti is a witch doctor wearing a tribal costume.  He began chanting and spreading white powder and what seemed to be small bone chips… spreading it around the locker room. All of a sudden - poof! - he disappeared. Now, he did not vanish into thin air.  He walked out of the locker.  One by one each South African player began singing their individual tribal battle song until at the end they were all singing the same battle song. It is impossible to share with you the spirit that was created in the locker room. It was a special environment. We drew with France 0 to 0. The South African players demonstrated imagination, creativity, elegance, power, speed and no fear in taking risks. I was coaching the A League Connecticut Wolves and took the opportunity to hunt for players. Instead of returning to the Connecticut Wolves with players, I brought back Muti with me! 

Handshake of Inspiration

Last and the most profound memory was when the Portugal National Team was invited to Nelson Mandela's compound.  Having had the opportunity to listen to Nelson Mandela share his journey to freedom while he was in prison for 29 years was amazing. We shook hands and to this day I can feel that handshake. Nelson Mandela was a former boxer. His hands were strong and thick.  Today when I encounter what I perceive as problems I reflect back to our handshake and realize that my problems are miniscule compared to his. I realize how trivial my issues are. His smile transmitted peace and serenity. He was so gracious and patient with us all.  He loves soccer. As a result of soccer I have had the good fortune to have worked with or personally witness world class coaches and players.  With all respect to those stars, none have impressed or impacted me more with simply an introduction to Nelson Mandela. The game of soccer represented diversity and we all know how he feels about that. We all hope we will witness Nelson Mandela at the age of 91 kick off the 2010 World Cup. We could not have a more deserving human being.  Ten years later I return to South Africa to participate in the World Cup with the Portugal National Team.  My hope is that once again I have the privilege and honor of shaking Nelson Mandela's hand.

Live The World Cup!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hysteria in Covilha for the Portugal National Team

The entire village of Covilha is ecstatic about hosting their special guest, the Portugal National Team. Carlos Queiroz, his coaching staff and the FPF administration lead by Carlos Godinho have left nothing to chance. The attention to details has been impeccable. This level of organization and commitment to perfection is to limit any potential surprises. Their mission is to create an environment that does not allow any excuses for failure.

Let me give you an inside tour of the steps taken to assure that all aspects of preparing Portugal for the World Cup have been taken.
We first arrive in Covilha to assess hotel facilities and field conditions back in March after our National Team friendly versus China.  Then after our initial visit our coaching staff led by Carlos Queiroz and the administration staff lead by Carlos Godinho arrived on May 12th, 2010 two days prior to the arrival of the Portuguese National Team players.
Each staff member carefully reviewed all they need to successfully execute their responsibilities related to their expertise at a first class level. Careful inventory of facilities and all equipment is taken and a back-up plan is always in place. Logistics are carefully planned. There is no doubt when and where you should be.  All staff is interrelated. One cannot function successfully without the other. You truly see the meaning of vertical integration that will provide a first class experience by all those involved in the process. Everyone is obsessive in their task.
Carlos Queiroz and Carlos Godinho had a staff meeting to request feedback from all of us on any items that we need, or challenges that we may experience.  Their goal was clear -- Portugal had a very difficult qualification process and yes we should be pleased and proud that we are going to South Africa. But everyone now must give a little bit more of themselves.  Always giving a little bit more. To succeed in South Africa, it’s not enough to just dream about a good world cup. We must work hard at all aspects of our functions in order to compete. The message was clear and no doubt that the challenge posed will be accepted by all of us.  We are consumed by the process.
We will be staying at two hotels: the Hotel Turismo da Covilha, 649 meters above sea level; and Hotel Serra Da Estrela, 1487 meters above sea level.  It is very difficult to find this variation in altitude conditions in such a close proximity.   We train in the valley and sleep in the mountains… sun in the valley and snow in the cold mountains when we arrived. It’s heating up now.

When you arrive in your room you have a beautiful hospitality basket waiting for you and nice note from management stating, “It is our pleasure to welcome the entire National Team delegation.  Our mission is to help in your success to the World Cup”.  Players will be at one end and coaching staff on the other end. Administrators will be above and below the players and coaching staff. Security guards are placed at the entry points on the floors. Any time we move, the security guards communicate to each other in advance to let those involved with security where we are at all times.  Both hotels were completely scrutinized by the Portuguese National Police, including sniffing dogs for explosives.  Blue prints of both hotels and fields were obtained. This gave a good visual of the field dimensions and hotel access points. All these measures are to protect the safety of the players and the confidentiality of the group. To create an environment that gives the group comfort and peace.
The hotel in the valley was fully equipped by the Portuguese Football Federation with the latest in gym training equipment. The hotel in the mountains is primarily to live and rest, although we do have medical rooms set up.
Game rooms are offered to the players at each hotel.  It's great to see them away from the field and enjoy themselves with table soccer, ping pong, pool and video games. They still remain competitive regardless of the game they play.  There is a third hotel which is a beautiful spa -- fantastic for relaxation. We will visit that hotel on occasion for recovery purposes. 
During our meals the players sit at one long table.  The coaching, medical staff and administrators sit at another long table.  There is an established meal protocol; the staff and administrators will begin to eat only when everyone has arrived.  When the players are done with their meal, they all stand up and leave at the same time. That is determined by the senior players.
We have two South Africans on our coaching staff that will make sure our transitions form Portugal to South Africa is seamless.  All the precautions that have been taken in Portugal will be implemented in South Africa as well.  Having the South Africans with us assures that there will be no surprises awaiting us. They were here for our match versus China in March and were fully briefed on what the level of expectations is.
Also, in the room is a detailed training camp binder of our itinerary and plan for the 2010 World Cup Preparation.  The program takes us from Portugal to South Africa every step of the way. All daily events are outlined; the traveling delegation is highlighted with photos of each member, photos of all the hotels as well.  The program indicates what training sessions are open or closed to the public and press. 
We also have Nike gear inside our rooms.  We have a little green basket where we leave our clothes after our training sessions and then it's replaced with new gear daily. 
There are sacred areas that only the coaching staff and administrators are allowed -- soccer fields, locker room, bus and specific hotel areas.  Anyone who wishes to enter our hotels must be approved by security.  There are a number of fenced off areas where the public is allowed to take a peak or sneak an autograph from the  heroes as they enter the bus or enter or exit the fields we train in.  Essentially, the players are isolated. In every turn or twist you always are in the presence of security.  Outside or inside, they are everywhere. No one is allowed near the team unless they have proper credentials.  Either they have the official Portugal gear or have a badge that identifies them. You must remember that these players are national treasures. Both hotels are exclusive for the Portugal National Team.
Transportation to and from hotels and fields are with the official Portugal National Team bus as well as two shuttle buses.  All travel is by police escort. As we travel to and from our destinations all intersections are controlled by police as they wait for us to drive by.  The traffic is stopped to allow our bus to move with ease. The roads are tight and winding.  The police who travels with us are responsible for taking a head count. During our travel it's amazing the passion of the people as they wave Portuguese flags with excitement and cheer us on with encouragement.

Our first training session was open to the public and press.  We had approximately three thousand fans attend plus an incredible number of press members.  We have two soccer complexes at our disposal and all the training equipment that you may ever need to do your job.   The soccer stadium up near the mountain is Estadio da Estrela and the other soccer stadium in down in the valley is named Complexo Desportivo Covilha.  You request what you need for training equipment and they set it up for you on the pitch -- including the official World Cup adidas ball! 
Portuguese television is obsessive with soccer. You cannot watch any channel without soccer coverage every few minutes.  The game of soccer is as important as the general news coverage or any popular show in the Portuguese culture.  You get all the Portugal National Team details in real time. 
Portugal National Team World Cup Committee:
President, Vice President and Director of Sports of the Portugal Football Federation
National Technical Consultant
Portugal National Team Soccer Ambassador
Head Coach, two assistants. Goalkeeper and fitness coach
Four Physiotherapists
Two Doctor’s and one Nurse
Video Analyst
Audio visual Technician
Two Chefs
Two Media Press Officers
Six Security Personnel
Four Kit Managers
Bus Driver
Travel Agent
Two Scouting Observers
Nike Representative

Monday, May 17, 2010

Portugal National Team World Cup Player Gala

I almost did not make it to the Portugal National Team official player presentation. I had flight delays resulting from airplane technical difficulties and then the volcanic dust cloud. The airport was absolutely chaos. I just made it in time, but my bags arrived a day later. That is another story for another day.

On May 10th, 2010 Carlos Queiroz announced his selection of 24 players who will have the honor of representing the Portugal National Team and defend the Portuguese national pride.
It was a gala event, not unlike a Hollywood red carpet affair. It was a attended by the Who’s Who of Portugal.  Pedro Pinot from CNN was the host, and he did a magnificent job.  The honored guests were: Fernando Couto and Carla Couto; former Portugal National Team captains as well as Joao Pinto; Eusebio, Portugal’s legendary player and Portugal National Team Ambassador; Monica Jorge, Women’s National Team Head Coach; Portugal Football Federation President, administrators and Men’s National Team staff; various politicians, and of course there was an incredible number of TV and radio reporters as well as journalists.  This event was televised live for an hour.  The broadcast covered the history of the National Team, highlights of the qualification games, interviews as well as action highlights of the players that were selected... It was a fantastic production.
Portugal soccer fans were all sitting on their edge of the seats and holding their collective breath in great anticipation of Carlos Queiroz's final selection.
Professor Queiroz and his staff spent many hours in tracking players, both attending live matches and evaluating game footage. It was a very tedious process that consumed a great deal of time and effort, as expected.  The staff established rigorous criteria and logged the data collected. The selections were based exclusively on the player’s merit. Professor Carlos Queiroz signed off on the official player roster document with his lucky pen and handed it to the Portuguese Football Federation Director of Sports, Carlos Godinho.

Unlike the typical soccer fanatic who sees a match once and is a loyal supporter of their club. Naturally, these influences affect the fans perspective.
Portugal National Team 24 Players
Name                           Club                             Position                       Country
Eduardo                       Sporting Braga                        Goalkeeper                  Portugal
Beto                             FC Porto                       Goalkeeper                  Portugal
Daniel Fernandes        Iraklis                          Goalkeeper                  Greece
Paulo Ferreira              Chelsea                       Defender                     England
Miguel                         Valencia                      Defender                     Spain
Rolando                       FC Porto                       Defender                     Portugal
Ricardo Carvalho         Chelsea                       Defender                     England
Bruno Alves                 FC Porto                       Defender                     Portugal
Ricardo Costa              Lille                             Defender                     France            
Jose Castro                  Curunha                       Defender                     Spain
Duda                            Malaga                                    Defender                     Portugal
Fabio Coentrao            SL Benfica                   Defender                     Portugal
Pepe                            Real Madrid                Mid Fielder                  Spain
Pedro Mendes             Sporting Lisbon           Mid Fielder                  Portugal
Miguel Veloso             Sporting Lisbon           Mid Fielder                  Portugal
Raul Meireles              FC Porto                       Mid Fielder                  Portugal
Tiago                           Atletico Madrid           Mid Fielder                  Portugal
Deco                            Chelsea                       Mid Fielder                  England
Simao                          Atletico Madrid           Mid Fielder                  Spain
Danny                          Zenit                            Mid Fielder                  Russia
Nani                             Manchester United     Mid Fielder                  England
Cristiano Ronaldo       Real Madrid                Forward                       Spain
Liedson                        Sporting Lisbon           Forward                       Spain
Hugo Almeida             W. Brennen                 Forward                       Germany
When the team was announced there was an immediate buzz in favor or against. The debates were and continue to be intense.  It is impossible to keep everyone happy, and there will always be disappointment at certain players being left home.  But there were some far more contentious decisions made by the managers of other countries.  Diego Maradona has left the Inter Milan captain, Javier Zanetti, at home;  Marcello Lippi has ignored Luca Toni; and the organizers of the World Cup in South Africa expressed their disappointment that Brazilian Head Coach Dunga excluded Ronaldinho from his squad.  Even the US squad couldn't escape controversy when Bob Bradley told Charlie Davies that would be left home after receiving a letter from Sochaux indicating that the US ace would not be fit, and that they would not medically clear him before the World Cup.
After the ceremonies we had a wonderful dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant it was impossible not to sense some disappointment as well as agreement with the players selected from all that were in the restaurant. We sat, raised our glasses and toasted to “Go Work”.
Carlos Queiroz and I took the taxi back home.  But it was also clear that in the end, Carlos Queiroz, the wait staff and patrons at the restaurant, and I all want the same thing -- to win the World Cup.
The next day there was a live broadcast on Sport TV reviewing the player selection. At the end of the broadcast they shared the final results of those who were in favor and in disagreement with the selection. I cannot think of a better way to motivate the Portuguese National Team players.
Despite the opinions, Joao Pinto former Portugal National Team player said during his TV interview, “From this moment on, these players selected are my National Team”.
Dan Gaspar
University of Hartford Head Men’s Soccer Coach
Portugal National Team World Cup Staff
Connecticut Soccer School
Star Goalkeeper Academy