November 13, 2022

Mourinho’s magic

Checking hooliganism in the League

By Patrick Omorodion

In Europe where black or African players are often taunted by racists white fans when they help their teams beat others, it is worthy of mention that one man sees beyond their colour but what they bring into games on football pitches.

And that man is no other than Jose Mario dos Santos Felix Mourinho fondly called several nicknames like ‘The Phenomenon,’ ‘The Special One,’ ‘The Only One’. He later added another, “The Happy One’. He is arguably among the best coaches around today. For a man that started studying coaching tricks from his father and worked under legends like Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal, it is not a surprise that he went ahead to win virtually every major league and championship titles in Europe.

Since he left the shadows of Robson and Van Gaal, he has traversed the major leagues in Europe where he managed major teams including Porto in his own country with which  he won his major European title, the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid and is now at the Serie A club, AS Roma.

He once talked so well about African players and why he believes in them. One of such players is our own John Obi Mikel who chose Chelsea ahead of Manchester United when he aspired to play in the prestigious English Premier League after he shone so bright at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2005.

Nigerian football fans once castigated Mourinho for converting Mikel from the  attacking midfield role he played under Samson Siasia in the Flying Eagles to a clumsy defensive role which stifled the Super Eagles tactics.

Mourinho however, thought otherwise of Mikel in these words, “I’ve worked with many players around the world, but players like Mikel you can’t just wish away. He always has something special to add to the team mix and sometimes, you might need him to turn around games you wanted to stabilize the midfield and slow down the pace of opponents attack. Mikel has that rare ability to hold on to the ball and play among set of players, moving the ball to and fro.”

He had good words for other African players, especially those from the west African sub-region that he drafted into the teams he handled at one time or the other.

These include Michael Essien of Ghana, Nigerian-born Togolese, Emmanuel Adebayor as well as the Cote d’Ivoire duo of Didier Drogba and Solomon Kalou. He extended his dragnet to the central African country of Cameroon where he also snapped legendary Samuel Eto’o.

“It isn’t about where a player comes from, but most West African players I have had to work with have something in common. They want to win all the time. You can see their tenaciousness and fighting spirit. These breed of players could give you the extra touch. Players like Essien, Drogba and Eto; you can rely on to win each time.”

No wonder the controversial coach and delight of the English media has won almost every trophy available in Europe, including the prestigious UEFA Champions League which he won with a lowly Porto, a title that made him say he is a ‘Special One’. And the name stuck for several years.

Read through Mourinho’s mind about the African striker in his words:

“My success is always based on having an African striker. Without an African striker I feel like I won’t succeed. My belief about African strikers started with Benni Mccarthy at FC Porto where he scored more than 20 league goals to help me and FC Porto to win the Portuguese League title. In that same season he scored very important goals for me in the UEFA Champions League that helped our careers to be well known in Europe by winning my first Champions League as a coach “

“From Portugal to Chelsea in England, I found Didier Drogba. He was a great African weapon to win with me an English Premiership. I wanted Mccarthy to join me to partner Drogba upfront but at that time he was at Blackburn Rovers and he was the only hitman there. So they refused to give us Mccarthy no matter the Oofer I put on the table “

“From Chelsea to Inter Milan, there I wanted to win the UEFA Champions League so badly. But I only had two Ghanaian midfielders and that was not enough for me to win Champions League as I was dominating the league only. So I sat down and thought hard about having an African striker again. I approached FC Barcelona and they willingly sold to me the best signing of my career Samuel E’to’o and the same season with Eto’o I won Champions League”

“From Inter Milan to Real Madrid. There at Real Madrid I had all talents but the reason I didn’t win the Champions League is because I had no African striker. I tried Emmanuel Adebayour but it was a loan move so Madrid does not like to use loaned players.”

“Brazil have great strikers, but if you look at them they are of African origin. I always teach new coaches on my coaching facilities that you must always have an African striker in your team.”

“Perfect example, at Manchester United, they don’t believe much in African strikers, no wonder I didn’t enjoy much success there. Some strikers give you league titles but African strikers give you Champions League titles”.

One coach who may however not agree with Mourinho is Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola who Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure has dubbed a black hater because of his experience with the Spaniard. 

Touré told France Football that, “He [Guardiola] was cruel with me. Do you really think he could’ve been like that with Iniesta? It got to the point I asked myself if it was because of my colour. I’m not the first, other Barça players asked the question too.”  

“Maybe us Africans aren’t always treated the same by certain people. When you see the problems he (Pep) has often had with African players, everywhere he has been, I ask myself questions.”

With Guardiola’s home record dented yesterday by Brentford’s Ivan Toney, will he listen to Mourinho and rethink his ‘hatred’ for African players? Especially as he is still struggling to win the UEFA Champions League after he left Barcelona F.C.