'Miracle Worker' Milutinovic awaits approach

DOHA - Veteran World Cup managers do not fade away - they prowl the marble foyers of five star hotels cocking an ear for word of employment and offering bear hugs and back slaps to potential bosses.

That was the impression given by 65-year-old Serbian coach Velibor "Bora" Milutinovic as he navigated his way for an interview over a $10 cappuccino at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha during the 2011 Asian Cup Draw in host nation Qatar.

The only person to have coached five different teams at the World Cup may currently be out of job but he has not lost the common touch or celebrity status.

He received four shouts of "Hello, Boss!" and "Hello, Coach!" from the bell hop, two coffee lounge waitresses and the maitre'd.

His role "offering my experience" to Qatar's premier side Al Sadd and national squads means he receives the red carpet treatment wherever he treads in the energy-rich, football obsessed state.

"I have intuition. Sometimes I cannot speak the language but I make a joke with people and we get an understanding. I try and get the best of players this way. The language is never a problem. People like me," the multi-linguist told Reuters.

How to win friends and influence people with his infectious, passionate personality is not the main topic of conversation, however.

MIRACLE WORKER

With the World Cup in South Africa under two months away, is Bora - dubbed the Miracle Worker for transforming lowly national sides - as disappointed as the journalists that the North Korean delegation pulled out of last week's Asian Cup draw unexpectedly?

Bora is among those linked to train the hermit state's team at the World Cup.

"No, no, no. I did not know they had pulled out. I didn't know they were coming," he insisted.

"I have never asked for this job. I have never asked for any job. People come to me. I am interested of course (in potential positions) but I am happy with my life at the moment," he said.

He shook his head and grinned away queries that he has been approached for the vacant Iraq position - though the hearty hugs and handshakes with the Iraqi FA President on his way into the hotel fuelled the speculation.

"I don't judge my coaching success by the number of World Cup teams I have managed. I go on the number of players I have promoted into the squads, who would not have been there but for me, and who remain after I have gone," he said.

He drew a crude graph highlighting his World Cup runs over three decades - Mexico in 1986, Costa Rica in 1990, United States in 1994, Nigeria in 1998 and China in 2002.

Bora was sacked from his last national team, Jamaica, in 2007 following a string of defeats.

After a few sums he proudly calculated he had discovered 67 World Cup players - and nurtured and promoted them into the first team squad for the biggest tournament of their lives.

CHINESE SUPPORT

Married to a Mexican, Bora divides his time between Mexico City and Doha. He continues to look East, he said, and maintains a great fondness for his last World Cup success - China.

He still has ties with the country's footballing community, and writes a popular blog about his support for the Chinese national team.

"I was very happy for the Chinese people when we went to the World Cup. I never saw any corruption when I was there but getting ridding of the corruption, as they are trying to do now, will not solve the problem of how to make China good," he said.

"They feel they don't have time to develop grass roots football. The government wants instant success. No way. They need strategy, they need it even on the small details.

"It's hard to explain the way I work. God gave me intuition. I had excellent connections with Chinese players, even though I did not speak Chinese. I never let the politics interfere.

"I understood the Chinese people and the players understood me, and I got the best out of them. They stopped their bad discipline under me, but it returned when I left."

Given his insight and success, what must be done for the Chinese to become a regional and global force?

"Call Bora back," he said, only half-joking.

"People think I am always joking. People think they know me," he said.

Bora took a call in English during the interview and told the caller: "If you have a good team, nothing matters. I can't give them any more advice. Ciao."

Job, Bora?

"No, no, no. It has never been my obsession to always go to the World Cup. I don't wait for calls. I live my life," he said before departing across the foyer, shaking hands and joking with Asia's footballing VIPs.

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