The Tite of all seasons

IT’s Tite this and Tite that for Brazil football fans. It seems Tite is the only superstar in the Brazilian team. When Tite took over the reins of the Brazil World Cup squad in June 2016, the team was languishing at the sixth spot in the South American qualifying rounds. Nine months from then, Brazil was the first team to confirm their appearance in Russia after the host country.

Then a record stretch of eight wins in the qualifiers, which eclipsed their own six-match winning streak on the road to the 1970 World Cup, made the impossible possible.

But who is Tite? Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, better known as Tite, was born in Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande do Su, Brazil, 57 years ago on May 25, 1961. Tite was brought up in a state where football was played more with physical power and that is the basic which shaped his professional career.

As a young Brazilian, he too was attracted towards soccer. Starting as a defensive midfielder for his state Caxias, Tite soon showed his class and became a professional footballer in 1978. During his playing career, he played for different clubs in Brazil but a serious knee injury ended his career at the age of 28. Without losing heart, Tite took up coaching as a challenge.

Initially Tite started coaching at some clubs in Rio Grande do Sul before returning to Caxias and making them state champions in 2000. In the final, his team beat Ronaldinho’s Gremio. The win brought him to the limelight and he got the contract to train Gremio. At Gremio, Tite began to flourish. Under him, Gremio won the Copa do Brasil championship and Tite became one of the top coaches of Brazil.

From 2003 to 2010, he coached various clubs in different countries, before returning to Corinthians in 2011. At Corinthians (2011 – 2015), Tite’s career took a definitive turn. He coached Corinthians to their first Copa Libertdores and FIFA Club World Cup in 2012, apart from winning the Brazilian championship in 2011 and 2015.

After his colourful stint with Corinthians, Tite decided to stay away from coaching and wanted to learn more about modern football. He focused on studying the game. He got offers of coaching but his urge to learn prevailed. He started following games, watched the 2014 World Cup. He visited European clubs that included Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.

Tite was expecting a call from the Brazilian Football Confederation but the assignment went in favour of Carlos Dunga. Brazil’s debacle at the centenary Copa America and the World Cup qualifiers forced the Confederation to replace Dunga with Tite.

Under Tite, whose pet word is ‘balance,” Brazil has become a squad that now plays like a European team with Brazilian flair. Till the World Cup, Brazil played 25 times with Tite at the helm, suffering only one loss, conceding just six goals. In the four games at the ongoing World Cup, Brazil has scored seven goals, conceding just one against Switzerland.

What makes Tite click? His faith in shared leadership, having a different captain for every match, which has forced every player to share the responsibility. A tightened defence is another plus. The 4-1-4-1 formation, in which the team has flourished so far, is also a strong point. And last but not the least, his faith in youngsters. He has inspired players like Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firminho and Casemiro.

To sum it up in Tite’s own words: “As I see it, the best way I can contribute is by applying the principles that have guided my life and career up to this point: Transparency, democratisation, excellence and modernity.”

When this piece was written, Brazil was going strong in this World Cup. Now that they have lost in the quarterfinals against Belgium, that doesn’t mean Brazil fooball federation should go for his head. Rivaldo, the 2002 World Cup triumph hero has rightly said in a recent column: “Tite has done more rights than wrong and Brazil should continue with him and focus on the next World Cup.”

— Jagannath Chatterjee/New Delhi