Zico: I'm living out my passion
Arthur Antunes Coimbra, better known simply as Zico, rates as
one of the most enduringly popular Brazil stars of the 70s and 80s,
after scoring 52 goals in 72 appearances for his country. Pele
nominated him for the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 living greats of
the game which includes the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby
Charlton, Michel Platini and Emilio Butragueno.
The man hailed as the 'White Pele' lives with his wife in the teeming metropolis of Istanbul, where he is currently in his second season at the helm of Turkish top flight giants Fenerbahce. Last term, Zico helped celebrate the famous club's centenary year by guiding Fener to a 17th domestic championship, and the Brazilian is now looking forward to his team making a mark on the international scene.
The team featuring stars such as Roberto Carlos, Stephen Appiah and Mateja Kezman started the new season on a high by winning the Turkish Super Cup 2-1 against city rivals Besiktas. FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Zico about his job in Turkey, Brazilian football, the players he would love to sign and his personal goals.
FIFA.com: Zico, you won the Turkish league title in your very first season as Fenerbahce coach, and you've now added the Super Cup to that. What are your targets for the new campaign?
Zico: We're determined to go as far as we can in the UEFA Champions League. The club has made a few signings and upped the quality in the squad. We have alternatives for every position, so I can rotate my line-ups and give every player plenty of recovery time. That's a major plus compared to last season. Defending our domestic title won't be easy, as we face stiff competition from Galatasaray, Besiktas and Trabzonspor. The players and I owe it to Fenerbahce to repay the club's investment.
Fenerbahce is your third coaching position, following a spell with Kashima Antlers in the Japanese top flight from 1994 and one as Japan coach from 2002 to 2006. What's it like working in Turkey?
The biggest difference between my time in Japan and here at Fenerbahce is the organisational support and a fully-functioning club structure. I'm free to focus 100 percent on my work with the team here, and don't have to worry about anything which goes on away from the playing side. In Japan I discovered a passion for coaching, and I can live out that passion here in Turkey.
You sound very happy at Fenerbahce. Can you speak any Turkish?
No, Turkish is a very difficult language. When I work with the team I always have an interpreter by my side, and he's also a trusted confidante. He has to convey my philosophy, motivational speeches and tactics to the team with the same enthusiasm as I have. My interpreter has to speak my language in two senses of the phrase.
You come across as an unruffled, organised and friendly personality. What are you like as a coach?
It depends on the situation, but it's a big advantage that I played professionally under a variety of different coaches. I have a feel for the needs of all my individual players. Our successful partnership is based on trust between myself and my players. I'm always willing to listen to every player. I lay down the law when it matters, but I'm sometimes a bit too nice to my lads (laughs). At the end of the day, the coach shoulders the responsibility, and that has to be clear to everyone at all times.
Working on a daily basis with so many different personalities also poses a few problems. How stressful is the job of coach?
I'm very good at dealing with stress. I avoid fights with my wife - provided I don't bring my work home with me (laughs). Since my time in Japan, where I drove over 100 kilometres to work every day, I've become used to thinking through problems in the car. I'm alone and clear-headed, I don't disturb anyone and nobody disturbs me. I don't even get stressed about the fans, even though they're really fanatical here in Turkey. It's a love-hate relationship. You simply have to learn to live with it.
Let's turn to your home country for a moment. How would you rate Brazilian football at the moment?
My biggest concern at the moment is the fact that players are leaving for Europe at an ever-younger age nowadays. Alexandre Pato has only just turned 17 and he's on his way to AC Milan. I hope he continues to develop and makes the breakthrough there. The problem is that these clubs expect instant success, but what these talented youths need is time to improve. Unfortunately, we've had a few cases where Brazilian youngsters haven't been given that time, and have been shipped off back home after a couple of years with their confidence in tatters. This trend is bad for Brazilian football as a whole.
The Fenerbahce squad features six of your fellow countrymen...
But that's exactly the difference compared to some other European clubs. Our Brazilians are established professionals. Roberto Carlos, for example, can make a real difference out on the field. Players aged between 20 and 35 are at exactly the right age for football.
If you could pick another Brazilian for your squad, who would it be?
Kaka of AC Milan, because he makes a difference.
Looking back over your playing and coaching career to date, what have been your most memorable games as a player and as a coach?
As a player, I always think back fondly to the 1981 Copa Libertadores final. I was with Flamengo of Rio de Janeiro when we beat Chilean side Cobreloa 2-1 (Zico scored both goals). It was a victory for artistry over muscle. As a coach, it can only be winning the 2004 AFC Asian Cup with Japan. Nobody gave us a chance in the final against China in Peking, but matches are won and lost on the field of play and not off it. That was my most significant honour.
You've been coaching for a while now, and very successfully too. Do you have a role model?
I had the greatest admiration for Tele Santana (Santana coached Brazil at the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups™ before passing away in 2006). He's the person who impressed me the most, because he repeatedly reminded his players that football is about fairness, and that aggression was usually out of place on the field of play. Instead, he continually emphasised the benefits of attractive play.