Vítor Pereira: Football connects world, culture and people
Shanghai SIPG head coach Vítor Pereira during an interview.[Photo: VCG]
Over 120 top-class Portuguese football coaches have moved into clubs in China.
Among them, Shanghai SIPG's manager Vítor Pereira is emerging as the hottest recruit from Portugal this year.
When it comes to Portuguese football, most people think of Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho. But this year, Vítor Pereira might be the name that comes to mind for China's football fans.
Less than a month ago, Pereira's Shanghai SIPG claimed their first-ever Chinese Super League title, beating Beijing Renhe 2 to 1, on what was a historic day for the club.
With that win, Pereira's men extended their lead at the top of the table, with an eight point gap from serial champions Guangzhou Evergrande, with just one match remaining.
For the former Porto boss, the Chinese Super League title win means that he has won national trophies in three countries.
Shanghai SIPG head coach Vítor Pereira shouts to his team in the 29th round of CSL football game against Beijing Renhe, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Shanghai. [Photo: VCG]
Asked why he chose to move to a different league in a different country, and one that is set apart from the European leagues, Pereira said he was drawn to China by the fast-growth and potential of the Chinese League.
"We all know that Chinese football is on an upswing, and is growing fast. More and more foreign players are joining the Chinese League. The League now is very competitive and powerful," says Pereira.
For Pereira, whose five-year world tour since leaving Portugal has also seen spells leading Fenerbahce in Turkey, and 1860 Munich in Germany, the Chinese Super League title adds to a collection that boasts the Greek Super League and the Greek Cup with Olympiakos, in addition to his back-to-back Portuguese League wins with Porto in 2012 and 2013.
Shanghai, who finished runners-up to Guangzhou Evergrande last season, hired Pereira last December.
He said that the Portuguese coaches know how to adapt their skills to the local conditions, which is the key to their success.
"Portugal is a football-loving country, and we have a close relationship to football from when we are born. We know how to remember, understand, and experience games. People in the country are well-educated in football. It is one of the countries that owns the best football coaches in the world."
Pereira said that Portugal's Sporting's youth academy system has fostered some of the biggest stars of international football, such as Cristiano Ronaldo.
And Pereira believes that there are many opportunities for Portuguese coaches to connect with China's young football players.
"Football is a carrier that connects cultures and people from all around the world. It goes beyond everything. China is leading the world in many fields. I believe that in the short run, football will serve as an important symbol of China," says Pereira.
In the Portuguese National Team's victorious campaign in the Euro 2016, 10 out of the 14 players who played the final against France were players from Portugal's Sporting's youth academy.