I was coaching Ponte Preta in 2014 when I received the offer to join the Selecão.
I had just left Ponte’s training ground after an afternoon session, and I got a call saying I should return to the club for a meeting with the president. A sudden meeting with the chairman doesn’t usually have the best outcome for the manager.
On that occasion, the president told me about the Brazilian Football Confederation’s plan. I was their first option to become the Brazil women’s coach.
When I came back home that day, my wife and daughter were apprehensive. I explained to them the situation, but they didn’t believe that I was about to manage Brazil’s women. My daughter looked at me and said: “No kidding, dad. What happened?”
Perhaps, one may think that it was a difficult decision to migrate from men’s to women’s football. In my case, it was not. The offer came as oxygen for my career.
At the time, I was 58 years old. I couldn’t have been happier to imagine the prospect of leading my country at a World Cup or Olympic Games. I saw the opportunity as a reward. However, I must be honest – until that day, I had never thought of managing a women’s team.
“How many great footballers in the Brazilian countryside were waiting for an opportunity that never came?”
One of my biggest challenges as Brazil’s coach was finding new players. In Brazil, we don’t have women’s youth teams. It’s different from what happens in the United States or France. There, a six-year-old girl plays football at school. Here, they don’t. Or, at least, they didn’t play until not long ago.
As a consequence, the professional Brazilian players skipped a crucial part of any player’s career – the academy. Try and find a successful footballer in the men’s game who didn’t pass through an academy. It’s rare. However, for Brazil’s women, this has been the sad reality.
Inexperienced players were reaching the top level, the national team. How many great footballers in the Brazilian countryside were waiting for an opportunity that never came? Sometimes, we are not aware of their talent. We are trying to change it, but it takes time. Hopefully, we can keep on going in the right direction. I can see improvements, in fact, and I’m honestly confident for the future.