Former player sees racism toward black coaches in Brazil; goes to Europe to become qualified

Former player Roque Júnior  is in Italy training for a coaching opportunity that he feels in lacking in Brazil
Former player Roque Júnior is in Italy training for a coaching opportunity that he feels in lacking in Brazil

Note from BW of Brazil: As preparations for the 2014 World Cup continue, today we bring to the fore a topic that is rarely discussed in the realm of Brazilian futebol: the absence of black coaches. Of course fans of futebol throughout the world are familiar with names such Neymar, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Romário and “O Rei” (The King), Pelé, but how many prominent black coaches can one name in Série A  (Division A) Brazilian futebol? And what can explain this absence? Below, a former player details the challenges of being black and having aspirations of leading futebol squads from the sidelines. 

Roque Júnior sees racism toward black coaches in Brazil and is going to Europe to become qualified

By Paulo Passos

At 36, Roque Júnior prepares to start on his third career in soccer. After being a player and manager, the former defender, a champion with Palmeiras and the Brazilian national team, now wants to be coach. On Sunday, he set out for Italy, where he will do a Uefa course to become qualified to work in Europe.

“I’ve wanted to work outside (of the country), it’s a dream. I adapted well when I was a player. If I had the opportunity to get there, I will, but also if I had it here,” he reveals.

Beyond what he classifies as “going back to feeling the adrenaline” that football brings, the chance to compete and be a coach in Brazil would to serve for the ex-defender to break what he sees as a barrier: veiled racism. In a sport where the average population of professional players is multiracial, rare are examples of preto (black) and pardo (brown) coaches.

“There are many negros (pretos and pardos) playing and many who stopped playing. How many are coaches, directors? I see that there is indeed racism, but that is something that is not isolated from society.”

“I think that there a barrier to be broken. I see that racism exists, yes, but that it’s something that’s not isolated from the society. What is the percentage of pretos and pardos in the population? More than 50%. And among doctors? I read the other day that it doesn’t come to 20%. In soccer it’s the same. Among positions of command, directors and coaches are rare,” says the future coach.

“I see knowledge as a weapon to overcome this. You have to prepare yourself, be competent. It was the example I had at home, from my family and what I will follow. My mother is a teacher; I have an aunt that’s a doctor. Knowledge helps break down those barriers,” he adds.

While still working as a manager of his club, Primeira Camisa, Roque completed an MBA in management and sports marketing. The project of a team in which he worked with youth teams in São José dos Campos was frozen last year.

When he was sure he wanted to be coach, Roque Júnior decided to see up close how it worked in the models he most admired. Therefore, in October 2012 he packed his bags and spent nearly two months in Europe. Porto, Bilbao and Dortmund were the destinations.

Marcelo Bielsa, coach of Athletic Bilbao
Marcelo Bielsa, coach of Athletic Bilbao

“I wanted to understand what guys like Bielsa (of Athletic Bilbao) and Klopp (of Borussia Dortmund) were doing. I went to see trainings, the everyday work and games,” says Roque Junior.

An acquaintance of an Argentine who is Bielsa’s assistant, he was able to follow two weeks of  work of the coach, a former commander of the seleção (Brazilian national team), judged by none other than Pep Guardiola as one of the best in the world.

“I have not had much contact with him. In these times, I understand that you have to maintain a certain distance. The most important thing I saw is that training is the guys’ key, the key to everything. Training is essential. His interaction at work is very important, as he guides every work,” he recalls.

With Klopp, who led Borussia Dortmund to the final of the Champions League, there was more interaction. “I knew him from my days as a player, we talked. But the best thing was seeing the practice and outcome in the game. They were very intense works, with a great demand. There were drills in which players needed to change mentality very quickly, they changed from attacking to defending in a rapid way,” he says.


It’s a more difficult path, long and requiring a greater cultural repertoire than in Brazil. This was the route chosen by former Brazilian national team players Zé Maria and César to become soccer coaches: the Italian school, considered one of the most renowned in the world for the function. The process to be a coach in the country of the four-time world champion is simple: you have to take a course of the FIGC (Federação Italiana de Futebol or Italian Football Federation), which has three stages, lasting one year each. The permission to command teams of different categories varies with the time of the course taken. César, a former player for São Caetano and Corinthians, played in Italy from 2001 to 2009. He also spent time with by Lazio, Inter de Milão and Bologna, among others; until he decided to take the course to coach. Done just the first year, which allows him to be an assistant coach for whom he graduated, or command base teams. César is currently coach of the under-17 Lazio team.

Source: UOL Esporte

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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