Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Day When a Brazilian Legend Fell in Love with 'Azer-What'; Carlos Alberto Was Captain of Brazil's Greatest-Ever Team but, as He Tells Ian Chadband, It's the Azeris' Future concerning Him Now

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Day When a Brazilian Legend Fell in Love with 'Azer-What'; Carlos Alberto Was Captain of Brazil's Greatest-Ever Team but, as He Tells Ian Chadband, It's the Azeris' Future concerning Him Now

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

IN A Newcastle hotel lounge, the great Carlos Alberto was being interrogated by the great John Motson who was trying to glean a few clues about his Azerbaijan team line-up for tonight's World Cup qualifier against England at St James' Park.

The coach just boomed cheerily "I've nothing to hide" before proceeding to give his earnest questioner the team, the formation, in fact absolutely everything bar sweeper Rashad Sadygov's inside leg measurement. Motty looked as if he'd died and gone to heaven.

Mind, he wasn't the only one feeling a bit awe-struck in the presence of the 60-year-old Brazilian charmer who still casts an authentic legend's glow 35 years since captaining the headiest football team of all and providing their signature flourish with the goal of goals in the 1970 Mexico World Cup final.

Actually, awe and some bemusement. Because as Carlos wooed us with the tale of how he'd almost been too knackered to sprint up from fullback and earn immortality by rifling home that perfectly weighted pass from Pele, you were once again left asking how this bear of a man, revered throughout Brazil as ' The Captain', had ended up coaching nohopers from some European outpost he'd never even heard of.

On Saturday, Poland put eight past his hapless charges - "Total disaster; I've never played in an eight-zero, win or lose, even playing alongside Pele at Santos," he groaned - and I wondered if the Azerbaijan folk who'd hitherto loved him to bits might be ready to turn if England similarly went to toon tonight.

"I hope not," he grinned, actually sounding utterly unconcerned. "I do my best but I think they understand I'm too old to play for them!"

Ah, but his son Andre isn't. Carlos revealed this most splendidly weird of footballing love affairs, one which entails regular daylong trans-global commutes from Rio to Baku via Frankfurt, could perhaps one day even end with his 17-year-old lad playing for the Azerbaijan national team.

The adventure all started when the phone rang as Carlos was lounging poolside at home in the Rio sunshine last January. "My friend, a FIFA agent, had a message from an agency representing Azerbaijan saying they wanted to talk to me. I just said 'Eh?

Azer-what?'" He was then consultant to the national football federation and president of a sports foundation in Rio.

As ever, though, curiosity got the better of the nomad who'd previously coached in Nigeria, Oman and Egypt as well as in Brazil. "I told my wife, 'I'Il go and visit. At least I'll be able to say I've seen one more country'.'' He arrived at 4am on a freezing Baku morning to be greeted by hundreds of well- wishers.

Their warmth astonished him as did the city's beauty and the homework of their FA vice- president who seemed to know every detail about him, including his weakness for caviar. …

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