The moment of truth is just around the corner. Portugal plays its first World Cup match, Tuesday, June 15th at 4:00 pm versus Ivory Coast in Port Elizabeth at the beautiful Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. As many of you know, we defeated Cameroon 3-1 in a preparation match in Covilha, Portugal. Eighty thousand people bid us farewell from the Eduardo VII Park as we departed from Lisbon. When we arrived in Johannesburg we were greeted by thousands of Portuguese immigrants at the airport as well as along the highway. I’ve never seen so much green and red colors. Portuguese immigrants are the largest number of immigrants in South Africa. Our training sessions are also attended by thousands of Portuguese fans. According to the police, 200 cars followed us to our final destination.
There are eight teams who are receiving the most security attention. The United States is considered a high-risk team and has extensive security. The Portugal National Team is also on that list as a result of the popularity of the team.
We also defeated Mozambique 3 to 0. These results were beneficial on many levels. Cameroon and Mozambique are similar in many aspects to Ivory Coast. These positive results have build momentum and confidence that will prepare us versus Ivory Coast. Our players have worked very hard physically, emotionally, mentally and tactically to meet the challenges of our World Cup opponents. Our desire and hope is that our players can deliver the results that will make all Portuguese citizens and fans proud of our efforts. Soccer is without doubt full of surprises. The expectations are high and the demands are immense, but our hope is that we realize our potential.
The Portugal National Team and staff understand that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We cannot make any guarantees, but we can promise that everything they have will be left on the field. A strong team becomes one in purpose and desire. Carlos Queiroz has done a very good job in organizing events to establish cohesiveness, both on and off the field. Everyone is encouraged to participate and communicate in team building activities, creating a dynamic environment and encouraging creativity. You can build trust with well planned activities. The goal is to strengthen the group through building team work. A soccer team is a collection of people who come together to share something in common. In our case, it’s to go as far as we possibly can in the World Cup, preparing our team to be in the best position to compete.
Our circle is closed tight. I cannot share our preparation in detail, in particular on the field preparations and team meetings. Those are sacred areas and require ultimate respect and confidentiality. However, here are some off the field activities that you might be interested in knowing about.
Portugal Air Force
Our players lived a different experience. When our players arrived at Santos Pinto Stadium they were surprised to discover that they would be trading their uniforms and soccer shoes for camouflage military clothes, painted faces with National Team colors and were given paint ball arms. The Portuguese Air Force turned the soccer stadium into a theater of combat and special operations. They were involved in a strategy of cooperation organized by the Portugal Air Force. The focus was on creating a spirit of cohesion, loyalty, discipline and completing a mission. We all had to work together in order to achieve success. Our team was divided into two groups. Each had to perform activities that required cooperation and communication. After each event they earned an envelope with a note inside. Gathering all the envelopes allowed the players to group the notes together to understand the mission. The leader of each group read a quote from Aristotle and Christopher Reeve.
Joao Garcia is an alpinist. He is one of ten who have climbed 14 of the biggest mountains in the world without oxygen. His idea was if one Portuguese has climbed the biggest mountains then one team can win the World Cup. His message was that you need to love what you do and do it with honesty and hard work; that the event should be the motivation and that anything is possible. He said that 12 people have gone to the moon, but only 10 have climbed the 14 biggest mountains.
Black Eyed Peas Concert
The Black Eyed Peas held a concert in Lisbon, Portugal at the Portugal National Team Stadium. The Portugal National Team adopted the song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ as its theme. We were in Covilha at our training camp and could not attend the concert. They organized a live feed to the concert and transmitted images of our team and staff viewed on a large TV screen at the stadium as 40 thousand people chanted ‘Portugal, Portugal Portugal.’ The song ‘I Gotta a Feeling’ has motivated us, relaxed us and helps give us positive results. As Nani said we would have loved to attend the concert, but we cannot and asked the crowed to enjoy the concert for us.
Comedian Fernando Roach performed for our team. Laughter is a great stress reliever. He had us all rolling on the floor. By the end of the evening we felt like we had done a thousand sit-ups. Our abdominals were sore because of the strain of laughter.
Lion Park Safari
You cannot come to South Africa and not experience a Safari. We had three jeeps filled with players, coaching staff and administrators. We saw plenty of animals and took plenty of photos. Although we felt safe inside the jeep, it’s amazing to see such great athletes and players fear and respect these massive, dangerous animals, especially the lions. That was another great team event that helped bring the team together. When you are together for over a month team bonding is crucial on and off the field.
After our victory against Mozambique we attended a Gala. One of our players and a coach sat at each of the tables. It was a first class occasion. Coach Queiroz, Ronaldo, Simao and Deco were on stage to answer questions. We were all in our official Portugal suits. My guess is that there were at least 400 people in attendance. It was a fun evening with excited Portuguese fans from South Africa. Bingo Often we play Bingo. There are lots of drama and plenty of banter. One night, I got up and yelled, “I Love the Game!” They assumed I won, but I never said ‘Bingo.’ Countless dinner napkins were tossed at me. It’s on video… cannot wait to see it!
Incredible spa facility… Naturally these superstars have traveled the world and have experienced the best of the best. They were impressed with the first-class environment. After a demanding training camp in Covilha it was a great move to have the players relax and regenerate. Players had all types of relaxation methods — from the pool, sauna, steam, hot and ice baths, massages, fresh and salt water, whirl pool etc. The spa was on top of a mountain with some great views. Everyone was chilling, big time!
Fernando Ferreira, a world-class singer, performed for us. He imitates 100 voices of famous singing artists in several languages. He was amazing and our players and staff truly enjoyed his talents.
South African Magician
Each magic trick was more challenging than the one before. Players were impressed. They thought they had figured the magic trick out, but they could not catch him. He was too quick and a professional. Some of the magic tricks at the end would just shake your head.