KAZAN: From Al-Wahda to the World Cup, Brazil coach Tite’s journey to reach Friday’s quarterfinal against Belgium has taken him a curious route involving not one but two short spells in the United Arab Emirates. Short but significant, according to the 57-year-old.
It was a typically muggy summer afternoon in 2007 when Adenor Leonardo Bacchi first arrived in the Middle East. Contracted by Al-Ain, Tite had never coached outside his home country and was excited by the prospect of learning outside his comfort zone and evolving, a characteristic that has stuck with him throughout his career — before taking the reins of the Selecao in June 2016, he spent a year traveling around Europe shadowing the likes of Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti.
Tite was afforded just five months in charge of the UAE club, finishing with a record of 13 wins and six draws from 25 games before being dismissed.
Yet while it might seem like a blip or blemish on an otherwise impressive resume that includes, while with Corinthians, two Serie A championships, a Copa Libertadores title, and victory in the 2012 Club World Cup final against Chelsea, he regards it as a crucial period of his career.
“I am very grateful to (Mohammed) Khalfan (Al-Rumaithi), who was the director at Al-Ain,” he said ahead of today’s crunch quarterfinal in Kazan. “He allowed me to develop my work and to put into practice some ideas that were very important to me as a form of growth.
“I developed a lot of my theory with Al-Ain, exercising two lines of four with two attackers, trying different positions and functions that would maybe play out, fluctuations that happen during games, compacting the play.”
Although his time in the Garden City was cut short after a run of defeats that included elimination from the UAE President’s Cup, he would return to the region three and a half years later, this time at Al-Wahda. His second spell in the Gulf would prove even shorter, lasting just 50 days, but the reason for his departure was more favorable — he had been offered the chance to return to Brazilian giants Corinthians.
Although Tite initially rejected the offer from the Sao Paulo club’s then-president Andrés Sánchez, after two weeks of persistent calls he finally accepted. It would prove a life-changing decision as he led Corinthians to domestic, continental and global success before being offered the national team job.
Ayman Khalil Mohammed, who has worked with Al-Wahda since 2003, remembers a driven coach with big ambitions and who remained undefeated during his spell in the UAE capital.
“Tite was only here for a short period, but he achieved positive results with us and we wanted him to continue,” said Mohammed.
“He received an attractive offer from Corinthians and apologized for not continuing with us. We were sad to lose him, but all understood and are certainly supporting him this month. We all want him to win the World Cup because he deserves it. He’s an excellent coach and I am very lucky to have worked with him. He deserves a lot of respect.”
It was not only tactical knowledge that Tite acquired during his days in Abu Dhabi. He also learnt a few words in Arabic, his most commonly used phrase being “mashi al koora,” which translates roughly as an order to always be touching the ball, keeping it moving, not letting it settle.
“I also got to know a different culture and understand better the level of difficulty involved in working with an interpreter,” Tite said. “This all helped me a lot and strengthened me as a coach. It was a big challenge, man, and I’m very grateful for it.”
ARAB NEWS PREDICTION: Brazil to win 3-2 — For all the trouble Belgium can cause Brazil, we cannot see the favorites losing this. Has potential to be a classic, but the Samba stars will shade it.