Sergio Farias is a serious man. The Brazilian seldom smiles, even when he’s joking. Once the Pohang Steelers coach sets himself a goal, his players are charged with making the dream reality. Together Farias and his Steelers have been achieving their goals for five years now.
So when the 42-year-old boss tells you that his aim is to win something, you might as well take him at his word. Although Farias and his men missed out on their chance to win another K-League title after losing a play-off semi-final last week, the Steelers will be hoping to round off this year with good results at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009.
Farias has collected every trophy a Korean club can win, with Pohang clinching the K-League Cup and the AFC Champions League this year before winning the Korean FA Cup and the K-League in the past two years. In the process, the Brazilian has not only become the longest surviving foreign manager in Korean football but also earned a nickname of ‘the Magician’ – something that causes the serious-minded boss bristle.
“I think the word ‘magic’ means something done with luck or the help from above, not by humans. But I am a human being and so are my players, and we’re closer to reality than to magic. I don’t want it to be called magic,” Farias told FIFA.com. “All the sweat and effort from the players down the years have made it possible. Of course, it wasn’t like this from the outset. We’ve made a lot of changes in the past five years so we could transform into a more skilful, more attacking and a more competitive side.”
Although beautiful football and good results are seldom a packaged deal in the modern game, Farias has always focused on the attacking side of the game. “We’ve gone through a lot of things to achieve what we have. Korean players do not lack individual skill but they just play with meaningless moves sometimes. The bottom line is: we’ve got to play to attack our opponents and to win the games,” explained Farias. “Although there are still some teams that are failing to entertain their fans, I think most of the clubs in the K-League are trying to please them with attacking football.
"If we can set a good example by playing good football and achieving good results, the others will follow us. But even if I want that, the change cannot be made overnight,” the coach added. “We needed time and effort to be acknowledged, and we need to work harder to maintain our current position.”
A big opportunity
That said both Pohang and Farias have yet another opportunity to achieve more things on the biggest club stage of them all. “When I first came here and found out that the club is sponsored by Posco [Pohang Steel Company], I thought we must become one of the world’s best like the company. We’ve managed to win at least one trophy each year so far,” said Farias. “Now that we’ve won everything in Korea, the AFC Champions League, and we’re taking part in the Club World Cup. Honestly I don’t think we’re capable of winning the competition at the moment, but I think it’s possible for us to win it someday. Nobody knows the limit in football, and anything can happen.”
And that is why Farias believes Pohang are not going there just to make up the numbers. “In Pohang, we have a very good side and we’re aiming at a higher level. It would be foolish to underestimate us, because we are the champions of Asia. Our South American and European counterparts may enter the tournament at the semi-final stage, but we’ve got some players who are more than capable of competing in the leagues in South America and Europe,” he said. “We don’t want this big opportunity to pass us by. We will give our all to achieve as much as we can.”