Parreira: I’ll always love SA

By Drum Digital
21 July 2010

It was his farewell news conference, the last time he would be addressing the media as coach of Bafana and the moment was as bittersweet as the game the country had just witnessed – SA’s exit from the World Cup after beating France. Just as the conference was wrapping up he faced the Brazilian TV camera and blew a kiss. “By the way, Letitia, a kiss for you,” he said.

Letitia is Carlos Alberto Parreira’s five-year-old granddaughter and the apple of his eye – but his singling out of the little girl got him into trouble with his wife, Leila, back home in Brazil. “She was on fire when I spoke to her later,” he admits with a wry chuckle. “What about the other children, she wanted to know.”

Yet the 67-year-old coach can’t help it. He loves his other grandkids – Lukas (3), Rafael (3) and tiny Isabella, his World Cup grandchild who was born on 3 July – but Letitia comes first in his affections.

“She is the queen of my heart,” he says unapologetically.

Soon the man who was entrusted with whipping Bafana Bafana into World Cup shape will head home to his beloved Letitia, to walk on the beach in Rio de Janeiro where he has a home and to stroll around his farm in Angra on the coast.

He’s looking forward to it of course. “It will be wonderful to have this time without any demands on me,” he says. But his departure will be tinged with sadness. Something else has captured his heart: South Africa. And he’ll be leaving a piece of his heart behind when he heads home.

“When people ask you what is your favourite restaurant it is not always the one with the best food or the one that is most expensive,” he says in his heavily accented English. “It is the one where you feel at home. This country is a part of me now. It feels like home.”

South Africans have embraced him too. We meet him in the foyer of Michelangelo Apartments in Mandela Square, Sandton, where he has stayed since returning to SA to coach Bafana. With just days to go to his departure he has agreed to one last interview and as we talk people come up to him constantly, congratulating him on his efforts and wishing him well for the future.

“That is most rewarding for me,” says Parreira, who’s addressed as Coach by everyone. “The fact that ordinary South Africans appreciate what we have achieved and thank me for making them proud.”

Read the full article in the Drum of 29 July 2010

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