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Mourinho magic at Nations Cup

Lucio Antunes guided by Jose Mourinho

Posted: 19 January 2013 Time: 8:53 am

Jose Mourinho might be feeling the pressure at Real Madrid, but the world's most famous soccer coach has taken time out to help a man from a tiny island nation who fully understands the importance of high-intensity decision-making.

In one life, Lucio Antunes is an air traffic controller. In another, he is coach of the Cape Verde national football team, which today will play at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time.

"Mourinho is very friendly with the President of Cape Verde so when we qualified, the President spoke to him -- and Mourinho then invited me to Real Madrid for one week," Antunes told CNN's Human to Hero series.

Mourinho is known as "the Special One," a winner of major trophies at top clubs such as Real, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Porto in his native Portugal. He is one of the most sought-after coaches in world football despite his team's difficulties in Spain this season.

Antunes is being hailed as Cape Verde's very own tactical magician, having in October guided the ‘Blue Sharks’ through the final stages of the African qualification process for the first time since the country earned independence from Portugal in 1975.

"There is only one 'Special One,' " laughs Antunes. "He is fantastic, very intelligent and has a big heart -- it was a pleasure to meet him.

"I attended five training sessions and two matches, talked tactics with both Mourinho and some of the players, but the main thing I learned was his clarity in terms of his communication with his squad and technical staff."

The 46-year-old expects to return to the control tower at the international airport on the island of Sal after his stint as national coach ends, having taken time off his day job.

He had to employ all his skills to take the islanders through a qualifying route that climaxed with a two-leg clash against Cameroon's Indomitable Lions -- four-time winners of the African trophy, and led by one of the world's leading players, Samuel Eto'o.

"In air traffic control, we have to think very fast and take decisions very quickly -- there is no time to wait," Antune says.

"There is a lot of pressure in air traffic control because there are a lot of planes. But the air traffic controller skills help me with coaching because I am also working with a lot of pressure in football as well."

He was appointed national team boss in July 2010, having worked as assistant coach for the previous year. He also led the nation's under-21 team to success at the 2009 Lusophony Games for Portuguese-speaking countries.

"It is far easier to be a football coach than an air traffic controller because you have enormous responsibility when there are so many planes flying around," Antune says.

A fine all-round sportsman in his youth, he played for leading local football side Sporting Clube da Praia, competing in a league spread over nine of the 10 islands -- with a population of just half a million -- that make up Cape Verde's archipelago.

But in 1990, a year when the islands' unemployment rate hit a high of 20%, Antunes -- who has also represented his country at basketball and table tennis -- leapt at the chance to train as an air traffic controller.

Continuing his work while also playing football, Antunes went on to play for the national team, as did his father and all four of his brothers -- one of whom enjoyed a successful professional career in Portugal.

One of the biggest challenges -- and ironies -- of his dual career is that the football federation's limited coffers mean the air traffic controller has been unable to fly to Europe to watch those expatriate players who have come on board for Cape Verde's continental mission.

Over the years, the emigration from the islands has been so great that the number of Cape Verdeans and their descendants living overseas now exceeds the population of those at home, so Antunes is forced to use the very simplest of methods to follow his footballers' form.

"We have no money to fly to Europe -- as it's very expensive -- so this makes my job very hard," he says.

"So if players are playing for their European team, then we believe that they are good -- and then they come to the national team. Otherwise, we just watch on TV or on DVDs that we have been sent."

After achieving independence as a nation, Cape Verde had to wait 17 years before winning a competitive match.

Team captain Fernando Maria Neves, known as Nando, sometimes has to pinch himself to realize the Sharks will be performing on Africa's biggest stage.

The 34-year-old defender, who won his first cap back in 2002, has played club football in Tunisia, Qatar, Czech Republic and France, but this is a career highlight.

"To qualify my team is something special," Nando told CNN.

"It's a gift, first of all to even get to the Africa Cup of Nations, but then to open the tournament, I don't think there is something better than this."

Cape Verde will take on host nation South Africa in Saturday's first match in Johannesburg, and will also play Angola and 1976 champions Morocco in their Group A matches.

Despite the team's lack of resources in the face of such experienced opposition, Nando says his team will be inspired by a sheer love of the game.

"Football in the Cape Verde is the same as religion. Everybody likes football in Cape Verde. Here it's first you must go to church, after that you must play football."

And Antunes is fully aware of his team's responsibility to meet the aspirations of the Cape Verde fans.

"We recognize the effort the country has made to support us, so we will do our best to repay our country," he said.

Cape Verde's touchdown at the tournament should certainly be eased by having Antunes at their helm, no matter what turbulence the debutants may encounter on their maiden flight into the unknown.

CNN

Previous comments on this story...

Milutin Sredojević (HLABARINTO)
posted: 09:09 am
mxm do you expect me 2 read this long garbbage. 2-1 in favour of mzansi
lubisi
posted: 09:31 am
Hay'suka! Bafana Bafana once was coachd by world cup winng coach, currently is guided by GI Mr 4times with different teams, so what? Lucio go to hell with ur Mourinho!
Khosi fanatic
posted: 09:39 am
Wena editor u really have time to waste ne! Mapotokisi a ro a moera 3:1 finish n klaar
Lord Vincent
posted: 09:49 am
Floccinaucinihilipilification of this article is what we expect from Zebras. No wonder they are called idiots. Sir Isaac Newton once said "If I see farther it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants". Because of such wise words one can't simply disregard this article and say a meeting with Jose is pointless. Both Brendan Rogers and Villas Boas have drank from the fountain of knowledge that is Jose Mourinho and look at what they did with Swansea and FC Porto respectively.

Like I said I expect brainless zebras to disregard this as worthless trivia. Orlando Pirates in the form of Irvin Khoza went to AC Milan in 1993 and the result of what was a golden star on the skull and crossbones crest of the ruthless treble addicts from Orlando. I'm not saying this guy will conquer Africa, but disregard his time with Mourinho at your own peril
Murenzu Wa Lekhosi
posted: 10:37 am
This guy is lying, yesterday I read on supersports website that he is friend with Morinho and they never discuss soccer, just life, now to CNN he says the special one is friends with his president
Anonymous
posted: 10:53 am
You South Africans won't know what hit you on Saturday. Just continue your jargon on this site.
Champ Dee
posted: 10:59 am
@Lord Vinny (Treble Maniac)

That's the same thing we heard last tournament, the coach of of Burkina Faso was hailed as the Mourinho of africa because he had worked with Mourinho before, they crashed out of the tournament without a single win, so Mourinho is human and he isn't doing that well for Madrid, so bangazosi bandisa la!!!
Nyenyeletso
posted: 12:08 pm
Air trafic controler,lmao..cnt wait 4 kickoff @national stadium.up da bucs.harrismith branch
True Fuckn Player.
posted: 12:31 pm
We wil beat dc clowns
Milutin Sredojević (HLABARINTO)
posted: 02:46 pm
Lord Vinny (Treble Maniac) posted: 09:49 am | Report
Floccinaucinihilipilification of this article is what we expect from
Zebras. No wonder they are called idiots. Sir Isaac Newton once said "If I see farther it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants\". Because of such wise words one can't simply disregard
this article and say a meeting with Jose is pointless. Both Brendan Rogers and Villas Boas have drank from the fountain of
knowledge that is Jose Mourinho and look at what they did with Swansea and FC Porto respectively.
Like I said I expect brainless zebras to disregard this as
worthless trivia. Orlando Pirates in the form of Irvin Khoza went to AC Milan in 1993 and the result
of what was a golden star on the skull and crossbones crest of the ruthless treble addicts from Orlando. I'm not saying this guy will conquer Africa, but disregard
his time with Mourinho at your
own peril
.....................
Kgane wena what are you saying entlik? What do you know about Verde except that most of their players plays in Portugal's NFD, calstle & vodacom league? Mxm rubber neck you cant even give me 6 players from Verde side but yet you busy farting here about them being African super houses of African football.
kgamosha la masodoma
posted: 03:21 pm
Mourinho or anyone today you against Bafana Bafana a team that never lost to portuguse speaking nation
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