Coach gets a kick out of China
Updated: 2013-06-05 01:57
By TANG ZHE in Tianjin (China Daily)
It has been one year since Alexandre Guimaraes of Costa Rica took the helm of Chinese soccer team Tianjin Teda.
The seed for his curiosity about the country and its soccer scene was planted a decade ago, when he managed the Costa Rica national team to a 2-0 victory against a Chinese lineup managed by his mentor, Bora Milutinovic, during the group stages of the 2002 World Cup.
Coach Alexandre Guimaraes of Costa Rica says taking a job in China is an "interesting challenge". PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY
Serbian coach Milutinovic won a lot of respect in Costa Rica when he led the country to its World Cup debut in Italy in 1990. Guimaraes was then a member of the national team.
By defeating China's only World Cup generation and his teacher, Guimaraes caught the eye of Chinese fans and clubs, and started receiving offers from the Chinese league.
"I have a very good connection with Bora, he is always concerned about what is going on here, and how football can be more developed in China," Guimaraes said. "He encouraged me to come here, he always said good things about the Chinese people and the experience. He loved it here, and people love him."
After a stint with Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa last summer, Guimaraes signed a contract with Chinese club Tianjin Teda, which is now at the bottom of the league.
"I was very curious to come here, live here and work here, to see what my friends told me about Chinese football," he said. "I want to see how the Chinese league develops and be part of this, it's an interesting challenge. ... I haven't regretted it."
Taking over a team at its low point is a tough job, but life in China has helped him balance the pressure to an extent.
"My job helps me to travel around China, so if we have days off after an away game I stay a little bit longer to get to know the city," Guimaraes said. "It's a very nice experience. I have witnessed the kindness of the Chinese people; I live in China without any problems, and I am enjoying my life here."
He was also excited to see a young man wearing a T-shirt bearing the Costa Rican saying "Pura Vida" while walking the streets of Tianjin in his second month in the city.
"It's a saying in Costa Rica that people use to say 'I'm happy' or 'Life treats me very well'. I have no idea where the guy got this shirt, but that was a huge surprise for me," Guimaraes said.
Soccer is also a bridge of friendship and kindness between China and Costa Rica.
The Chinese government offered Costa Rica a new national stadium as a gift in 2011. The completely Chinese-financed stadium was inaugurated in the capital of San Jose in 2011 with a friendly between the two countries' national teams.
"My son was playing for the national team," said Guimaraes, who didn't attend the game due to coaching responsibilities in the United Arab Emirates. "He told me it was an incredible, great experience, the stadium was full and it was also a tough game, we drew there 2-2."
The 35,000-seat stadium is the largest and most modern event venue in Costa Rica, and is just one block away from Guimaraes' house.
"I just need to cross the street and I am there," he said. "Costa Rica is very satisfied and grateful to the Chinese government for helping us to have the big venue that the country deserves."