You could call him laid-back, and it’s odds-on Kleiton Lima would take it as a compliment. The Frankfurt World Cup Arena media centre was a bustle of confused activity, but Lima merely looked on with calm equanimity.
A little earlier, a European record 44,825 crowd saw his team display the same serenity in securing a 1-1 draw with world champions Germany. The 35-year-old proceeded to answer reporters’ questions in quiet but confident tones. And every now and then, his gaze drifted off to an indefinite point somewhere beyond the room’s pristine walls.
The young Brazilian suddenly emerged from his trance-like state to offer a rapier-sharp commentary. "We need the kind of setting we’ve had today every time we play. My dream is for these teams to meet again two years from now," he declared.
The match in Frankfurt represented a first real step into the international spotlight for the shooting star among women’s football coaches. The date was 22 April 2009, the game nothing more than a friendly, but it meant a whole lot more to Kleiton Lima. He coaches the Brazil women’s team, and his goal is to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™. And the scene of the yearned-for triumph? It would be Frankfurt, venue for the final. According to Lima’s plan, his next visit to the media centre will be a triumphant one.
From Santos to the world stage
"We want to play attacking football and go on the offensive,” Lima told FIFA.com later the same evening. It is an understandable approach from the coach of the nation currently lying second in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking.
The moments of magic conjured up by the likes of Marta and Cristiane have thoroughly enriched the women’s game in recent years. All that is missing is a major triumph: the Brazilians trudged off defeated from both the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Shanghai two years ago and the final of the Olympic Women's Football Tournament in Beijing less than a year ago. Lima’s mission is to change that state of affairs.
The springtime clash with the Germans was Lima’s first game as head coach. "We’ve opened a new chapter with the game in Frankfurt and we’re hoping to close it at the same stadium, by winning the Women’s World Cup 2011,” the man from Santos stated. In a decade as coach of the women’s side at Pele’s former club, he led his team to more than 15 regional, national and international trophies. However, he is desperately hungry for more.
Perhaps Lima is attempting to claim what was denied him as a player. A model pupil of the Santos youth system, he signed pro forms at a young age in the USA, but was forced to end his playing career aged just 22. Already a coach in the making, he worked as a scout for Brazil boss Carlos Alberto Parreira at the 1994 FIFA World Cup™ in the US, thereby adding his contribution to his country’s triumph at the global showcase event. "It was a wonderful experience,” he recalls.
Top of the world game
The next instalment in his footballing journey carries an unmistakeable air of romance. Lima returned to Santos, working as a fitness coach to future stars such as Diego, Robinho and Alex. Even now, the Brazilian recognised his affinity to the women’s game, which he had grown to appreciate and respect in its American hotbed. Knowing all along it would be a Herculean task, Lima set himself the goal of popularising the feminine variant of the world’s favourite sport in the often conservative environment of his home country.
"We have to remain among the top sides in women's football,” Lima told FIFA.com in Chile last year. That was where he guided the Brazilian women to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals, cementing his reputation as the one individual who knows the women’s game in Brazil like the back of his hand.
Lima had already worked with no fewer than 16 of the Brazilian squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007. Solely based on his thorough and expert knowledge, the man who succeeded Jorge Luiz Barcellos unquestionably strikes the right chord when he says that his team can only succeed as a unit, Marta or no Marta.
Lima has pursued his team-based philosophy rigorously since stepping up to the senior helm. Combined with his laid-back nature and dream of a night of glory in the summer of 2011, Brazil may just have stumbled upon the recipe for success. And if he leads his team to the trophy, maybe even this cool customer will show some passion in the bustle of the Frankfurt Arena media centre.