Another great coach from Porto: Ricardo Gil Moreira

After Sergi Badal, we continue our series of interviews with Ricardo Gil Moreira, from Penafiel, just 30 kilometres from Porto, whose adventurous life has brought him to Hungary for the third time. The 34-year-old also spoke about the difficulties of the past, his integration, his philosophy of life and his ambitions for the future, and said that for the time being he is focusing on the present and not on the future.

- Our first question is the usual one: how do you feel in Budapest?
- Very well, thank you. Let's quickly get one thing straight before we go any further: I'm a new face at the academy, but not in Budapest: I've been living and working here since December 2019.

- So you've had time to get used to the place, you feel at home, since you've been here in Hungary for almost three years. What brought you to Budapest?
- I first came here 10 years ago for two days when I spent half a year in Bratislava on an Erasmus scholarship, and then in 2016, but for a longer period - half a year - I moved to Budapest. Also on scholarship, I was able to study in the Hungarian capital, which made such an impression on me that I moved here from Portugal in 2019. The public transport system is very well developed, the architecture is one of the most beautiful in the world, and the nightlife is buzzing, not to mention the Hungarian food. Fantastic!

- I understand you didn't come to Budapest specifically to coach, but...
- ...because I got a job here. I'm working in the customer service department of an international company and I'm also training at the academy.

- Isn't it tiring to ride two horses at once?
- The motivation to be with kids, to train them, to help them on their way means more than anything to me. I go to work at seven in the morning, I get off at half past two in the afternoon, then I go straight to the training centre, and I usually finish at half past six in the evening and then it starts all over again. But I don't mind at all! I have a saying: for me, football is paradise. I forget that I'm tired, and after a while your body gets used to the strain. I've been looking for an opportunity like this for two and a half years and I'm very grateful to fate for giving me this opportunity.

- Speaking of the profession: Is Budapest your first stop, or have you been a professional manager elsewhere before?
- I had already coached in Portugal for a short time, and after university I moved to Sofia for work, but I couldn't work there because of the language barrier. In Budapest I faced another problem, besides the fact that Hungarian is a beautiful language, but it is also very difficult: my work schedule did not allow me to work at the academy.

- As I understand it, you wanted to work here before, but the stars aligned only this summer to give you the opportunity.
- I was rejected for the first time during the recruitment process for the reason mentioned above. I spoke to Balazs Farkas and Martí Nadal, who outlined the goals and ideas, which I really liked. Thankfully, from this day on, my boss allowed me more flexibility in my work, told me to follow my dreams and finally gave me the opportunity to apply again, this time successfully. I'm also getting better at Hungarian - of course, living in your country for six months before is a part of that.

- For a man who has lived in many countries, I suppose it was easy to settle in!
- You don't say! I found myself in a great environment. In all walks of life I seek friends, not enemies, and that's how I try to approach new relationships. My colleagues in Budapest have been very helpful in helping me to fit in. At Barca I have everything I want: talented youngsters who I enjoy coaching, and a supportive team with friendly colleagues who contribute to my professional development and from whom I get positive feedback. This means a lot to me because I know I'm on the right track. I want to give as much as I can to the guys, improve day by day and enjoy life at the same time, which for me is what Barcelona means.

- Football is a popular sport in Portugal too.
- Of course, but for me Barcelona will still be my favourite team, no matter what anyone says. I feel like I was born with this club and I will die with it. At home, I support Benfica, even though I come from Penafiel, near Porto.

- Sticking to football, please tell us about your philosophy. What do you consider most important on and off the pitch?
- Team unity. For me, this is the most important thing. For me, football is paradise, but only if it has everything that makes the game enjoyable for me. And from that point of view, unity, dedication and the fight for common goals are the most important factors. Everyone in the boat has to pull in the same direction if we want to win the competition. And this is true not only when you cross the sidelines, but also outside of it: at home, in the family, at work, everywhere. Attitude, perseverance, empathy for each other are also very important, without which you cannot achieve good results. I have an excellent relationship with the guys and I do my best to help them improve. My job is to give them the Barca feeling, to integrate them into the system, to make them feel important. For many people, football changes their lives, and for many people, sport teaches them how to live. That's the purpose of football: to prepare you for life, and Barca's academy wants to develop children who will be able to stand their ground not only on the pitch but also off it, and become men of great character. I stress this in every training session and I'm very happy to see that I'm finding receptive ears.

- You really love your teams and you do everything you can to help your guys develop. Are there any players who stand out from their peers that you now say will turn professional?
- Of course there are better ones, but I don't want to say names. It's important to point out that if someone is better than his peers at the age of ten, it doesn't necessarily give him an advantage. There are early and late maturing types. Someone may be considered the best in their age group at ten and then stop developing, while others start to really develop at 14-15. I think the latter category is where the later professional footballers come from, but there are individual cases. The path is there for everyone, with enough perseverance, attention and will you can go far. The academy is the best place to achieve this: we help the boys in everything, our main goal is to help them develop as much as possible. If they take their job seriously, if they have the right attitude, then nothing is impossible. My biggest wish is to see them as professional players in the future.

- As a coach you have to have a lot of qualities. Not only can matches be decided on tactics, but, as you said earlier, you have to pay attention to all aspects of life. Do you give advice to the players on what to do off the pitch in order to become even better?
- I don't give advice specifically. There are parents who are very attentive to that. I can easily discuss with them why it's important for players to sleep in before games, what to eat, to develop their bodies, to be more focused, stronger, more tactically prepared on the pitch.

- Another key issue for a coach is motivation.
- You are absolutely right! If you are brought up in this academy, you have to have the right motivation. We are a team, we motivate each other. We work like a big family: if one of us can't run, the other is there to help out. We move together on and off the pitch, and the boys know that's the key to success. You are for the people, and the people are for you. That's what I try to give them in every training session, my job is to integrate Barcelona into that system. And when I see them improving and helping each other, I sleep better because it means that my work is paying off.

 - Speaking of goals, the inevitable question is: where do you see yourself in the future?
- I am focusing on the present, but my longer-term goal is to be a professional coach in a top league anywhere in the world in ten years' time. Barca provides me with the right environment to do that, as I can learn from the most qualified coaches. I can see my strengths and weaknesses and I know that professionalism is not just up to me. Circumstances and the future will decide that, but I will do what I can to make my dreams come true. In the world of football, it is not easy to stay on top for many years, it is not only a question of talent but also of attitude. I want to improve every day, train better and better and be successful. I feel the motivation to achieve this, I can see the right path in front of me and how I can get better and better.

- What has been your greatest experience since the summer? Whether it's a match or a good training session...
- It might be surprising to say, but my greatest experience was a defeat. We were playing the 2008 team in the championship and a lot of our players hadn't finished their training yet, so we had to play with ten men. Despite this, the boys played with great discipline, carried out the tactical instructions we asked of them and showed that they were giving their all. I think their attitude improved a lot during the game and I was particularly pleased that they didn't lose their identity. For me, following the tactical instructions and keeping the Barca style is even more important than the result. I see this as a kind of moral victory. And our first victory in the Bozsik tournament with the 2012 team will remain an unforgettable memory. When I saw them coming off the pitch, they were all smiling and I was very happy because I knew they deserved it.

- You still have a life outside football because you need to relax. Tell us about your hobbies and Hungarian cuisine, as you also mentioned at the beginning of the interview how much you love the flavours of Hungary.
- That's right! My favourite dishes include goulash soup and kürtőskalács, and my favourite summer dish is lángos. When I spent my Erasmus semester here, I came back to Portugal overweight, so I had to go to the gym to work off the delicious Hungarian cuisine. I love to go for walks along the Danube, take photos, and my colleagues and I often go out for dinner in one of the city's restaurants. I also love singing, although I don't have the best voice. And to mention Hungarian football: I have been to several matches in both the first and second divisions. Fast-paced, enjoyable matches with tough teams!

- Do you have a favourite team in Hungary?
- No, I usually go to matches with a group of friends. I've been to Ferencváros, MTK and ZTE games, and in the second division I got to see TVE III. district live.

- How will the next few weeks at the academy be? I understand that besides training and matches, you will also be taking time for yourself, as you are about to reach an important milestone.
- I've got a coaching exam coming up. I'm coming to the end of my UEFA C course, I've got a few practical lessons in Scotland and then an exam. And then the next step is to get my B-licence.

- Are you studying in Scotland?
- Only in theory. The classes were held via zoom because of your covid, which is why I went on the adventure. Many of my fellow Portuguese compatriots choose to train in Scotland, including José Moreira, who was once a member of the Portuguese national team and also defended the goal for Benfica. It's a great feeling to have him among my peers! The Scottish system produces excellent professionals. That's not to say that Portugal can't do it, with the likes of José Mourinho, who went from Porto to becoming one of the best coaches in the world. My ambition is to become a professional, but as I said, it's not just up to me. For now, I'm just focusing on the present, on Barca, and time will tell.

 Kristóf Bartha 


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