Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Absolute responsibility, the unforgiving nature of excellence

Twelve years ago, on December 17th of 1995, Santos and Botafogo met in a historic final match to decide the Brazilian Soccer Cup.

To put the subject of this entry in perspective, these teams had not won a title of that significance for many decades.
They were not only playing for the title, but also for the reinstatement of their former glory, when their teams were often used as the basis for a national team that won three world titles.

For those who are not soccer fans, Santos used to be the team for the most famous soccer player of all times: Pelé,

Santos needed to win the final match in its home stadium. A 1-goal tie persisted almost to the end when Santos scored the winning goal. Relief lasted a few moments, shattered by the referee's inexplicable decision to invalidate the goal.

Later that day, Santos' coach, Emerson Leão, was invited to several talk-shows.

Known simply as "Leão" (lion in Brazilian Portuguese,) he had had a very successful career as a goalkeeper and was considered by many as one of the best in the sport. As a coach, he was notorious for his excessive, almost unforgiving, discipline with the players; demanding a level of professionalism that was unusual amongst Brazilian coaches.

Asked about how he felt about being 'robbed' of his victory and whether he blamed the referee for the loss of the title, his response came in a calm and composed tone:
Victory and success are in the details. It is in the day when we missed those 10 extra minutes of practice, it is in the moment we missed the chance to score another goal, or in that moment we did not pay attention and let them score theirs... In order to be successful, one cannot make excuses. I blame ourselves, I blame myself.

After passages as the coach for several other teams, including the national team, Leão would return to Santos once again, ahead of the winning campaign for the 2002 national title.

No excuses needed.

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