‘Zico got me here’


Andre Santos credits coach Zico for FC Goa’s turn in fortunes in the ISL. “Zico has always given opportunities to every player. There is no discrimination. He treats everyone equally and that helps our confidence,” the Brazilian tells K. Keerthivasan.

Andre Santos, FC Goa’s creative force, has been a tireless worker for his team. His regular strikes and strong work ethic helped the Goan side to a semi-final spot in the inaugural ISL. The 31-year-old Brazilian shares his thoughts with Sportstar.

Question: How is the ISL experience?

Answer: For me, it has been a very good experience. With each match I am feeling better. I get along well with the Indian players. And I respect all of them. Because of that they have respect for me.

What made you join the ISL?

It’s a new league, so it’s been a new experience for me. The man responsible for getting me here is Zico.

At one point Goa was stuck at the bottom of the table. What are the reasons for its resurgence?

Even when we were at the bottom, we were playing well. But the goals were not coming. But now, the goals are coming. So it is much easier. Zico has always given opportunities to every player. There is no discrimination. He treats everyone equally and that helps our confidence.

Are you surprised by Elano’s performance in the ISL?

Elano is a very good player. He has a great capacity to score goals. I know him for so many years. I have played with him in Gremio, the national team and Flamengo. He is a great character. I believe his football can grow. He has the capacity to play for Brazil. I believe, he is very pleased to be here.

You have been a left-winger, a left-back and a midfielder... Do you have a favourite position?

I consider myself a playmaker. Most of the left wingers have started as left midfielders. It is completely different when you play on the left wing and in the middle. On the left side, you will always have players in front of you (to pass), whereas in midfield, you receive the ball from the back. You have to be very fast and intelligent to play in the midfield because it is crowded there. I have played very well in this position (midfielder). But to play at all levels, you need to adapt.

Winning the 2009 Confederations Cup with Brazil must have been a big moment in your career?

It was a great time in my career. I shouldn’t forget my time in Corinthians. I won some titles there, and I was one of the best players in the (Brazilian) league. Another big moment was when I got the opportunity to play for the national team (debut in 2009 June against Egypt as a substitute). But certainly, the Confederations Cup win was the greatest moment of my career. It is always great to win a title for your country. It was great playing with Kaka, Lucio and the others. I can still name the whole squad.

A lot of people want Arsenal to sack Arsene Wenger. Should he be sacked?

It’s not (just) you, but the whole world is asking this question. Wenger is a very good coach. I know him for a long time. When you are in charge for a long time but don’t win titles people are bound to ask such questions. You can’t question his quality. He has showed to the world that he is a winner. But, I think, football changes and grows every day. I think change is always welcome. I believe, the moment has come for Wenger to resign. It’s time to look for a new coach. He’s been with Arsenal for a very long time (18 years). It will be good for him and the team.

Any regrets on missing out on the 2010 World Cup?

It’s very sad. I played in the qualification campaign but was not picked for the main World Cup. But I am happy with my career. May be, there is a bit of regret… Not winning the Champions League and the World Cup. But it happens to every player. I am happy for everything that I have done and conquered.

How do you see the return of Dunga as the coach of Brazil?

Dunga is a good coach. He has prior experience in coaching the national team. I think, it is good for the Brazilian team and he will certainly transform the side. Brazil has so many young talents. It is important for the country to prepare the young players for the next World Cup. May be, Brazil has to put in the same amount of work that Germany did five or six years back.

And Brazil’s shocking defeat to Germany at the 2014 World Cup…

It is very sad for us. We all knew that Germany was better prepared, compared to us. The 7-1 was a great surprise. Not just for us, but for the world. As a fan, I felt very bad. But, even when you lose, you can learn something. So, I think we can grow.

Roberto Carlos has been your inspiration…

I am a big fan of Carlos. He is one of the players I admire even now. He played in my position (left back). I was fortunate to play with him.