Ricardo Gaya, sports writer for the Noonday Express and Trike Reports, recounts the most bizarre and unexpected victories he’s ever witnessed
1. The game is won by the team who commit fewer errors.
2. Football favours whoever provokes more errors in the opposition.
3. Away from home, instead of trying to be superior to the opposition, it’s better to encourage their mistakes.
4. Whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake.
5. Whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake.
6. Whoever has the ball has fear.
7. Whoever does not have it is thereby stronger
The Special One: The Secret World of Jose Mourinho by Diego Torres
One of Mourinho’s most noted records was how the hugely respected Arsene Wenger, a purveyor of technical possession based football, was never able to defeat him in 13 games. Mourinho’s win streak, as you can see below, is only 53.8%, with numerous draws, but one can see a stark detail in the goal difference and is a sure indicator of rule 6 being a very true factor for M. Wenger’s teams when losing to Mourinho. Once you have been punctured, then having ball increases the fear. Clearly, Wenger’s team once scored upon from a mistake, made more and more for Mourinho’s teams to exploit.
But, alas, today I’m not celebrating this well-known Portuguese tactician, but another, less-known, but much adored by a very small clique of portuguese football aficionados. Yes, we can praise Mourinho for bringing a Champions League for Porto in 2004 but, no one can say that he did not have a great team. In fact, this is my issue with Mourinho’s success – he always had great players. It would be perverse for anyone to tell me that a team with Baía, Ferreira, Costa, Carvalho, Valente, Maniche, Deco and Benni McCarthy was not a strong Champions League team. Nor can you convince me that his Internazionale team featuring Maicon, Lúcio, Samuel, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Eto’o, Milito, Sneijder was not also a considerably talented team.
For me, the greatest victory drawn from the philosophy of Mourinho was not managed by Mourinho but by André Silva Ferreira the manager of Odivelas SAD football club. Odivelas’ only achievement in football in its long history, since being founded in 1939, was winning the 3rd Division Championship in 1993 .
But since then it has been a downward slide for this satellite of Lisbon. In 2012 they found themselves slipping down into the regional divisions and plunging into severe debt, which resulted ultimately in their home Estádio Arnaldo Dias was sold from their ownership. Being forced to play on a loaned field in a neighbouring Lisbon City lost them their base on local support.
In every football mad nation there is a domestic trophy that permits many teams to enter. In Portugal it’s known as the Taça de Portugal and Odivelas continued to enter; unsurprisingly get swatted out before the 3rd round, when the first class teams enter the tournament. But in 2017, that changed. The first round, where they would usually have been knocked out by their opponent, semi-professional CD Mafra. They were losing 3-0 when Odivelas were given a 60th minute penalty, it was a dubious decision and for some reason José Tinto, Mafra’s manager, lost his temper beyond any realistic necessity and grabbed the referee by the throat. The game was abandoned and after brief appeal the game was forfeited to Odivelas. They moved to the next round, with a home game against Gil Vicente. The promise of the revenue was tempting and the managing director was arranging to be loan a larger stadium for the match, in order to accommodate the fan base of Gil Vicente. But the manager, Ferreira (who also was the team goalkeeper), implored them to keep their current pitch for the game. In Ferreira’s opinion, if they could win the game they would have a chance of an away game with Boavista, highly supported team in the north, and would make a lot of money from the receipts. Considering they were previously on the verge of being eliminated from the competition by a semi-professional team, how did he expect to succeed against Gil Vicente.
“I had been reserve goalkeeper under Duarte [Fernandes, Gil Vicente manager]. and I knew he put very little focus on the Tacas … it’s sensible, his team’s financial stability is based on the maintaining their place in the national leagues. They have a small squad and they use reserves in the cups. I know this from my own experience, I only ever played for Gil Vicente in the Tacas!André Silva Ferreira interview 2006
Ferreira expected Duarte Fernandes to put a weaker side out, but bearing in mind that even a second team would still be a professional team – seven of Odivelas’ squad of 18 drove for Uber.
All Ferreira knew was that they would not be able to technically, physically and, given that, on top of uber shifts, he only had three days a week to tactically prepare his team he thought of something simpler.
“As long as Duarte sent out his second team, I knew we had one aspect; which was a height advantage. This is useful for corners and set-pieces. and, I knew my team. Andrade, Askon and Filemon, were all good at holding onto their marks. But how, I thought, how do I maintain the game only on set-pieces. Well, then I realized something quite simple.”André Silva Ferreira interview 200
What happened that day was one of the most excruciating eighty minutes of football I have ever watched. For the last ten minutes, I was screaming for Odivelas to hold on and make it to penalties.
Ferreira’s plan was to exploit the rules of offside to an extreme that I’m grateful to have witnessed, but sincerely hope I’ll never see again. Essentially, the rule states that the free kick for an offside is given where the player interfering with play broke the law. So, Odivelas played one striker, Gerónimo Gomes, who essentially remained in an offside position, often 20-30 yards behind the opposition. Gil Vicente held 93% of the possession and the remaining nine Odivelas players hounded the ball. The instant they had an opportunity they hoofed the ball forward for the linesman to call offside and for the play to be drawn all the way back into Gil Vicente’s half, wherever Gerónimo. This strategy needed very little technical ability, but it required a mental strength that I found simply improbable. The Odivelas players were simply not trying to play football, they were taking every moment as a man-to-man battle. Ferreira’s tactics gave them the simplest of intentions. But this is not easy to do as a footballer and they nearly came undone on the twelfth minute because of this lack of focus. Their left back, Jorge Sousa Nunes, took the ball and, rather than strike it up the field, he tried to push along the touchline and see if he could push the Gil Vicente defense back enough to put Gerónimo in a situation to be onside and counter. Instead, his through pass did not slip by Liedson, Gil Vicente’s holding midfielder. Liedson intercepted and clipped the ball over into the vacant space behind Nunes. Odivelas were punctured and it took a brave leap for Ferreira to save the goal-bound header. Ferreira rushed to his left back with his teeth bared, and I heard him :
“We’re not here to play football you son of a whore!”Ferreira on-pitch
I chuckled that this would be their strategy and, seeing that it took the twelfth minute, for one of the team to lose his focus and try to actually play football, I assumed the tactic was sure to fail. What fun can you really have by playing this? We play football to have fun, surely. But then the momentum altered. It was 30 minutes of watching this. Gil Vicente working their way forward, the ball being tussled from them and launched back towards their goal, and play stopping to start again. In the 30th minute, Marcos Pereira, playmaker of Gil Vicente, started screaming at the referee to book Gerónimo for purposefully standing in an illegal position. The referee insisted that they were being punished with the free kicks. The rest of the Gil Vicente team surrounded the referee demanding a yellow card for Gerónimo’s action. It was here you could see the Odivelas players realize that they were getting a psychological upper hands.
They fought for every ball. Tipping it away from the player and slamming it ahead. In the fortieth minute Pereira dropped his shoulder and left to of the lumbering midfielders in the dust, finally some space to look for his striker. Instead, a piece of the artificial grass of Odivelas’ shabby pitch slipped from under him. He hit the floor and ball bobbled away. He looked up from the synthetic grass just in time to Nunes wallop it up and away. Pereira rested his forehead on the ground and screamed in frustration.
By this time, the crowd were getting into the swing of things. Whenever Gil Vicente gained possession a core of fan would commence a low ‘ooooooh’ and maintain it until it was back in the possession of Odivelas and the crowd released a ‘ayyyyyyy’ as the ball arced high up in the air and the linesman raised his flag.
In the second half, Duarte moved a defender back to man mark Gerónimo. This was to be the moment. In the fifitieth minute, Andrade, the towering Odivelas centre back made, what was very likely, his 250th clearance of the day for Gerónimo to be onside with only a defender and the goalkeeper. He had barely run for the whole game and he was fresh and ready. He outpaced his marker and fired it low under the goalkeeper. There was a roar of high pitched joy from the 500 crowd. From that point, Duarte told his defender to go forward, they needed the equalizer now. We returned to the previous war of attrition and now Odivelas had something more to fight for. They were exhausted, but they managed to survive.
1-0 they were through. In the next round, they were beaten 5-2 by Boavista. The club received the biggest profit from a game for a good twenty-five years, but it was not enough to purchase their old ground back. They remain in temporary accommodation and out of the regional leagues, but what a game. Pereira was offered a semi-pro contract with Cove da Piedade as their reserve goalkeeper, and played four senior games for them in five years. Gerónimo was office 173 times, a record to make Filipo Inzaghi blush and it remains the highest tally of offsides ever recorded in association football history, and for the good of the game I hope it remains. Just as I, a loyal Arsenal fan, hope that Mourinho never works in the EPL again.