“I could be the fatherly-type, but I want to push myself and the team, work hard to achieve goals,” said the 54-year-old Souza de Brito, who was assigned this week by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to help work on the national women’s team program.
Like any other professional coach—and an FIVB-appointee for that matter—Souza de Brito has already done his homework. He has watched videos on the Philippine campaign in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and just recently, on the national team tryouts in Subic that were uploaded to social media last week.
“I’m very happy to have this chance to come to the Philippines, it’s an honor,” he said. “I love volleyball and I love the passion Filipinos have for volleyball. They love the sport so much—and there are a lot of fans.”
The Philippines is actually no alien to Souza de Brito. He learned about the country from, who else, Leila Barros, the charming former Brazilian star who became a darling to Filipino fans when she played for the Brazilian national team in the FIVB Grand Prix that Manila hosted in August 2000.
“Leila once told me that if ever it struck my mind to move elsewhere, I should be moving to the Philippines,” Souza de Brito said. Barros is now a senator in Brazil.
Souza de Brito has two Olympic titles to his name—as a player in Barcelona 1992 and as an assistant coach of the Brazilian women’s team in Beijing 2008. Too bad, only two coaches were allowed to join the team in China and he had to be left behind.
Winning an Olympic gold medal, he stressed, is incomparable in the life of any athlete.
“It was amazing, I can feel my body shaking, it’s a very special moment for all athletes,” he said. “It was the best emotion in my life.”
So amazing his feeling was with an Olympic gold medal hanging from his neck that he wants to feel that emotion once again.
“I want to repeat that feeling again—in the Philippines, in the SEA Games,” he said.
The FIVB pegged his first day of his two-year contract on July 1, according to Philippine National Volleyball Federation president Ramon “Tats” Suzara.
“Coach Jorge has to have time to transition from his family and from his job as coach of Brazilian club Clube Duque de Caxias, which he has been mentoring since February last year,” Suzara said.
Souza de Brito lives in Curitiba, a city in the southern part of Brazil. He is married to Raquele Lenartowicz, a 37-year-old former professional player.
They have three children—Julia (13), Anna Muiza (nine) and Helena (four). His daughter from a previous marriage, Marina (23), plays for Jackson State University, an NCAA southwestern division 1 team.
Souza de Brito played competitive football and volleyball as a teenager but decided to stick to volleyball when he was 17.
“When I was 12 to 17 years old, I played football and volleyball at the same time,” said Souza de Brito, who like majority of Filipinos is a devoted Catholic. “But when I was 17, I chose volleyball and became a member of the national juniors team.”
At 6-foot-4, Souza de Brito was a defender on the pitch and a middle blocker on the court.
“The moment I chose volleyball, I never left the sport,” he said.
And that love and passion for the sport Souza de Brito would be bringing to Manila hoping to get the expected results.
“I will do my best to help Philippine volleyball and I expect to see good players getting involved in the project,” he said. “We will try to get the best from what we can do and make a new page in history.”
Souza de Brito would be working with national women’s team coach, the veteran Odjie Mamon, and his assistants Tai Bundit and Grace Antigua.
Their goal? Get the team ready for the Asian Women’s Championship the PNVF is expected to host in August and more importantly, the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi in November.
Souza de Brito said he doesn’t expect the team to be battle-ready for the Asian championships but declared that the squad to be close to lethal for the Hanoi SEA Games.
“It’s too early to make a change for the Asian championship, but for November, it would be different,” he said. “Four months is actually not enough a time, but we’ll do our best, some changes will happen.”
Asia isn’t remote to Souza de Brito. He did the coaching rounds in Japan in the 2006 FIVB Women’s World Cup and mentored the Korean Air Jumbos, a men’s team, in the Korean league from 2015 to 2016.
For his Philippine sortie, Souza de Brito has already cast his goal in stone.
“We build a new one, a new order,” he said, adding he would be adjusting his plans to suit Philippine, Southeast Asian and Asian volleyball.
“Each country or continent has its own way of playing volleyball and it’s impossible to change everything,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to make the team stronger and make the athletes understand the sport better. We all have to work altogether so we can see what kind of volleyball we can produce.”
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