Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Brazillian Connection

I really wanted to discuss a topic about a perfect larger-than-life model and I just happened to find out that former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is the real-world example of a demanding and impressive person (definition of larger than life).

First thing that comes into your mind is that Big Phil does look like Gene Hackman.

A little interesting note about these two men is that Scolari is also called "Popeye", also a reference to Gene Hackman's famous character, Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. He is from the district of Rio Grande.

In Brazil, he is ruthlessly known to have encourage players to foul the opposition, chastise the opponents and the referee, call the ball boys to throw balls into the field to disrupt play as to help them preserve their lead (if the score is 1-0) and do encourage his team to waste time as towards the final whistle. This was prominently seen in state or national championships as well as the Libertadores tournament. He famously turned down Romario's desire despite strong support of appeal by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso to play for the 2002 World Cup, but still leads them to the fifth World Cup title.

Famously, he did called the referee who sent him off "I'll see you outside, mate!" That got him into some deep trouble.

A typical Scolari game has the hallmarks such as ruthless midfield marking, constant foul of the opposition and solid discipline and tactical movements. Almost every team who tries to get pass the Brazillian defense would not be able to beat them. According to midfielder, Emerson, when Scolari was in charge, team would commit almost 40 fouls per game. His attitude is like a drill-sergeant in charge. He would rant at players constantly like a tiger in a chained cage.

To him, a game is either a kill or be killed game, which this concept is drilled into every team that he coaches. But somehow, his larger-than-life persona towards the team - despite ending up with red cards, accusation of fouls by opponents, poor gamesmanship - would lead the team victorious over technical superior teams particularly during the penalty-shootouts.

This was evident during the roller coaster Libertadores campaign in 1999 when he was in charged of Palmeiras when they won the final and the quarter-final stages over penalty shootouts despite the opponents they faced are much more superior. The better evidence is Brazil and Portugal - which he was in charge - beat England thrice in penalty-shootouts and the 2-1 win in 2002 World Cup despite having Ronaldinho sent off.

How does he do that?

Big Phil is actually an ardent fan of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Days prior to the big game vs England in the World Cup Quarter-Finals, he reread the book a number of times. According to Sun-Tzu, all warfare is based on deception. His body language shows different meaning to his players but it sends the wrong message to the opposing team.

In Portugal's match against Holland, he criticized referee Valentin Ivanov - who sent off 4 players - for every yellow card his dished out at the players. It was a deliberate rant to deceive the opposition but admitted that one of his players deserved the red card. He criticized Mark Van Bommel on headbutting Luis Figo with the same message.

Cafu who skippered the 2002 Brazil team attributed the book to the team's success. Through the book, Scolari as taught the team to show a soft exterior but actually hard interior and vice versa. This too was practiced by Russia. I've read some things and they say Russia is soft after the Cold War. But the real thing is that they are hard in the interior so they are quite hard to take out. I think they can be prepared against the American Empire hegemony.

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