Titles no guarantee of safety
10 November ~ One of the constants of Brazilian football is that coaches are under pressure to keep their jobs. Three-quarters of Brazil’s 20-strong Serie A have switched coaches at least once during the national season, which runs from May to December. Last year’s national champions Fluminense sacked the title-winning Abel Braga in July and two former national bosses have been left their jobs. Dunga was fired by underperforming Internacional and Mano Menezes resigned from Flamengo – where he was one of four coaches this year – after a 4-2 home defeat by Atletico PR.
Flamengo reluctantly settled on the 60-year-old Jayme Almeida, a former player regarded as an affordable stop-gap appointment. For Flamengo fans accustomed to more flamboyant and expensive coaches, Jayme’s homespun modesty in his first principal coaching post has been an invigorating change. With a surprise 4-0 win against Botafogo under his belt, he is one game away from the Copa do Brasil final – raising the prospect of an improbable Copa Libertadores qualification for a club is only tenth in the table.
The man who brought Almeida to Flamengo as an assistant was the then coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who has been through a turbulent week himself at present club Fluminense. A week ago his relegation-threatened team lost 3-2 at home to ten-man Vitoria. Many expected Luxemburgo, whose bust-up with Ronaldinho had triggered his exit from Flamengo in February 2012, to be shown the door immediately. But internal wrangling saw a stay of execution with club president Peter Siemsen saying that he was now impressed by Fluminense’s performance and pledging his support for Luxemburgo, the man he had been desperate to sack.
It highlights the influence of Celso Barros, the boss of health insurance company Unimed, the club’s principal sponsor which bankrolled two national titles in 2010 and 2012. Barros has forced Siemsen into an embarrassingly public change of position. Aware of the club’s traumatic experiences with relegation (including demotion to the Third Division in 1998) Siemsen had, prior to the intervention of Barros, been reluctant to tie his political future to a coach most closely associated with rivals Flamengo.
While Jayme Almeida is enjoying a honeymoon period as Flamengo’s fourth coach in 2013 he should have few illusions about his longevity. Andrade, another home-made solution to a crisis, led Flamengo to the club’s first national in 17 years in December 2009. By the following April he was gone, another victim of the club’s Byzantine internal politics.
The impact of coaches such as Cuca at Libertadores champions Atletico MG and Marcelo Oliveira with national championship leaders Cruzeiro has been refreshing in a market with a tendency to recycle familiar names with exaggerated reputations and salaries. But the best advice for Brazilian coaches is not to make long-term plans. That and to hire a good lawyer to recover unpaid wages. Robert Shaw