40 years on, back to Ghana

2008-01-18 00:00

South Africa’s Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira returns to the African Nations Cup next week, 40 years after beginning his coaching career at the tournament.

The World Cup winner, who turns 65 in February, is preparing his men for their opening game in Group D against Angola at Tamale on Wednesday.

Parreira was a recently-graduated physical education teacher when he moved to Ghana in 1967, having accepted an offer to help their football association.

Although barely 24 at the time, he took over the national side and steered Ghana’s Black Stars to the final of the 1968 Nations Cup in Ethiopia, where they lost to Congo-Kinshasa.

Since then, the globe-trotting Parreira has risen through the coaching ranks, famously leading Brazil to their World Cup triumph in 1994.

The 2008 Nations Cup gives him a chance to prepare his youthful team for the 2010 World Cup, where his side will be the host nation, and to revisit the roots of his career.

“Tactics were all a bit of a revolution in those days. I introduced a 4-3-3 system at a time when there was little thinking about pre-match approaches,” Parreira told Reuters in an interview in Durban before the finals.

Parreira’s first job was something of a lucky break, having been offered the chance to go to Ghana by the Brazilian government, who paid him a teacher’s salary.

“Ghana gave me an extra $100 pocket money,” he recalled.

As a university graduate in Brazil, he used the honorific “professor”, which meant something different in the English-influenced west African country.

“When I first arrived to Ghana, they all asked how this young boy could be called a professor. I was so excited by the job and so determined to do well, although when I got malaria I was sure I was going to die,” he added.

Parreira also worked as coach of the country’s champion club Asante Kotoko, who reached the final of the African Champions Cup in 1967.

Parreira left in 1968 to study in Germany and then went home to Vasco da Gama as a physical trainer. In the four decades since Ethiopia he has worked in the Middle East, in Spain, Turkey, the United States and for a myriad of Brazilian sides.

“Ghana was a magical place to start my career and I have good memories of that Nations Cup tournament.

“I remember getting a medal from Haile Selassie, the emperor. I am looking forward to seeing how much the tournament has changed over the last four decades.”

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