After what seemed like ages, it’s been finally confirmed. Football Association of Malaysia, under the new leadership of Tunku Ismail ibni Sultan Ibrahim, have announced the appointment of Nelo Vingada as the new Harimau Malaya boss.
The 64 year-old certainly comes in with a massive CV, having coached across the world for over 30 years now. But expectations in Malaysia are completely different at this juncture, and it’ll won’t be easy for Vingada to win over the long-suffering Harimau Malaya fans in an instant.
What’s even trickier is the fact that his match in charge of the Tigers will be a precarious away trip to face North Korea at the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, next month. Of course, none of this will faze a man who been involved in football for over 30 years but is he really the man to rescue the national team’s fortunes from the brink of absolute abyss?
WHO IS HE?
Don’t be fooled – Nelo Vingada is merely a shorter version of his name. Like a proper Iberian warrior, Malaysia’s new boss goes by the full name of Eduardo Manuel Martinho Braganza de Vingada.
WHERE IS HE FROM?
Vingada hails from the Alentejo region of Portugal, where a small city called Serpa is housed. With a total population of about 16,000 people, the city is relatively close to Spanish borders, which made it an important defensive location during the Moors’ invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. A quick Google search for images of Serpa will show you a host of thick castles outlining large portions of the city. Today, it’s widely regarded as a laid-back town that attracts plenty of people from all over Portugal, over the weekend.
It’s difficult to extract explicit information on Vingada’s playing career but what Google will tell you is that he played for three different clubs across a span of 15 years. He started his career with Atletico CP in 1964, before making the move to Sintrense in 1974. After a short one-year stint, he eventually shifted to one of Portugal’s oldest footballing institution, Belenenses. He spent four years with them, before retiring at an early age of 28.
Unlike his straightforward playing career, Vingada’s managerial career has been largely ceremonious. He started off by managing Belenenses, and went on to manage three other Portuguese sides before becoming Carlos Quieroz’s right-hand man at Portugal’s U-20 team. As a pair, they guided Portugal U-20 to a third place finish at the 1995 World Youth Championship, before inspiring the team to fourth spot at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
What followed after this stint was a pivotal moment in Vingada’s career. His first foray into Asian football arrived in 1996, when he was officially handed the task of spearheading Saudi Arabia’s national football team. He guided them to Asian Cup success in 1996 and went on to help the Falcons qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Unfortunately, he was sacked prior to the World Cup.
He spent a couple of seasons as an assistant coach to Graeme Souness at Benfica before taking over Maritimo for four years. His stint with them was largely topsy-turvy, though he did famously lead them into the Portuguese Cup final in 2001. But a Deco-led Porto side turned on the style and clinched a comfortable 2-0 win to seal the title.
His next few managerial forays were in the Middle East, beginning with Egypt’s El Zamalek in 2003. In just his first season with the club, Vingada inspired them to a hat-trick of titles – winning the Egyptian Premier League, the Saudi-Egypt Super Cup as well as the prestigious African Super Cup. He became an instant hero with the fans, but even this was not enough as he was eventually sacked after falling out with several big name players within the team.
This was the beginning of a frustrating period in his career. He struggled to make an impression with Egypt’s U-23 team, resigned merely six weeks after taking over Wydad Casablanca in Morocco and punched the quit button yet again after failing to take Jordan past the first round of the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Then came the Persepolis stint in Iran, which only lasted a few months.
After a short gig back in Portugal, Vingada was back in Asian football by 2010. This marked a major upturn in his career as he led FC Seoul to the K-League title for the first time in 10 years. He also won the K-League Cup in the same year, and his winning percentage (71%) was one of the highest ever in the history of the K-League at that point. He left the Korean side after failing to agree a new deal, and signed for Chinese outfit Dalian Shide. But there was little Vingada could do over there, with plenty of off-field issues beleaguering the club. Sadly, Vingada turned out to be the final manager in the history of the club as it was dissolved and rebranded as Dalian Aerbin FC in 2012.
What came next was a reunion with Carlos Quieroz, who had accepted the Iranian national team gig at this point. Vingada helped Team Melli qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and then transitioned into becoming the Iranian U-23 team boss. The original deal was meant to be a two-year contract, but Iran’s disastrous outing at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games eventually led to his early dismissal in September 2014.
After taking a minor sabbatical, Vingada jumped into the ever-growing Indian Super League franchise, taking over NorthEast United FC in July 2016. But after a blistering start to the campaign, the Highlanders only managed to secure 5th spot under Vingada’s guidance.
There’s very little doubt that Vingada has tasted success at various different levels. His first taste of international success came during his Saudi Arabian stint. After getting thrashed 0-3 by Iran and finishing second in Group B of the 1996 Asian Cup, Vingada’s men went on to claim revenge by knocking Team Melli out in the semi-finals, before beating United Arab Emirates in the final.
His short stint with Zamalek also proved to be a major positive note, with the Egyptian outfit rampaging past opponents en route to winning four different trophies across the span of two years. Then there’s the double success he accomplished in South Korea. In a year where almost every other Korean side opted for local head coaches, FC Seoul’s gamble on Vingada paid handsome dividends as he led them to the K-League title in emphatic style. Armed with Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic, he also inspired them to League Cup success in the same year.
Here’s a list of things he accomplished as a manager:
Nelo Vingada’s preferred style of football bears close resemblance to his place of birth, Serpa. Just like the defensive strength of all the castles that outline Serpa, he’s a fan of tight units, structured, disciplined and cautious-minded football – these are the common characteristics that can be observed in a large majority of his successful teams. He is never afraid to grind out results when it matters and believes in being a pragmatic football manager. These traits are widely recognized by key individuals in Asian football, including Carlos Queiroz, who reportedly holds Vingada in very high regard. He brought Vingada to work him him on two occasions (Portugal U-20 and Iran National Team) and unsuccessfully tried to make him Real Madrid’s assistant manager, when he landed the job back in 2003.
VIEW FROM REST OF ASIA?
We spoke to two individuals who have closely observed Nelo Vingada’s teams in the past. First on the list is Iranian football expert Behrad Taadoli, who claims the Portuguese was never given the right environment to maximize his potential with Persepolis and the Iran U-23 team.
“Nelo came to Persepolis and everybody thought with his resume, he was going to save the day. Unfortunately, the Persepolis management had plenty of internal issues at that juncture, which affected Vingada’s ability to get the job done. He wasn’t happy with the players at his disposal and he was never really given the resources to do his job. Yes, his stint there ended disappointingly, but Persepolis fans don’t blame him for it. He never had the right environment to do well,” Behrad told FourthOfficial.com
“The situation was slightly similar with the Iranian U-23 team as well. He only had one week to train them before the Asian Games. I’m sure he was responsible for our results to a certain extent, but you can’t blame him entirely either. In fact, some of the players loved his style of coaching and never blamed him for their poor performance,” he added.
The next person we spoke to was Indian football writer Ayush Srivastava, who doesn’t think Vingada’s stint with NorthEast United was positive in any way.
“So, Vingada had a great start to his ISL campaign, however it all petered out towards the end. People felt that he didn’t rotate his squad enough, and tactically he didn’t solve the problems that North East faced in the second half of the season. Tactics were seen as a bit too conservative, leading to chronic lack of goals at crucial moments,” Ayush explained.
IS HE THE RIGHT MAN FOR MALAYSIA?
There’s a need to manage expectations here. Vingada hasn’t been hired to revamp the entire national football blueprint. He’s been hired to steady a sinking ship, based on his knowledge and experience in Asian football. Malaysia’s fortunes have been on a decline over the last few years and Vingada’s main target will be to stop the negative trajectory.
His tactical approach may not go down too well with Malaysian fans, but his pragmatic view and experience in dealing with the different rigours of Asian football could exactly be what Malaysia needs at this juncture. And Behrad, who lived in Malaysia for approximately six years, agrees.
“Vingada’s nickname is ‘The Professor’. He is well aware of what’s going on in this part of the world as he has spent a large majority of his time in Asia. He won the U-20 World Cup with Carlos Quieroz and there was a time when Quieroz even asked the Iranian Football Federation to sign Vingada to coach the team for a couple of games, when he was suspended.
“The man has the necessary Asian experience and if he is given enough time and is supported well, he should be able to rejuvenate the Malaysian national team to some extent. Picking him is a smart choice,” Behrad concluded.
What are your thoughts on this appointment? Is he the right man to revive Harimau Malaya?