Canadian soccer fans – specifically fans of the Montreal Impact – certainly know Marc Dos Santos. The Montreal native started his coaching career coaching his highschool team at the tender age of 16. He worked up the coaching ranks – from the Trois-Rivieres Attak to the Montreal Impact. Dos Santos left the Impact at the end of the 2011 season and is currently the technical coordinator and under-15 coach of Brazilian giant SE Palmeiras. RedNation Online recently had the opportunity for a quick chat with Dos Santos who reflected on his new Brazilian coaching adventure.
RedNation Online (RNO): Congratulations on winning the 2012 Brazilian Youth Championship and for winning coach of the tournament! What are your first impressions after the win?
Marc Dos Santos: This was a competition that the club had never one before. To do it in my first season and as a foreigner, this was a dream come true. Even if it is at a youth level, it’s never easy to win a Brazilian Championship. The twenty best teams from the country participate in it. Teams like Santos, São Paulo, Corinthians, Fluminense and many others fought for the prize. I was the only foreign coach in the competition. Brazil protects their coaches and their is not a lot of place for people from the outside. The same happens with players in the first division. The culture is different and the people have a passion for the game that I haven’t seen in any other country. Six thousand Palmeiras fans came to watch an U-15 final that was six hours away from São Paulo. What other country would have that? This shows the passion and the culture around the game. I’m very proud of the boys and very thankful to be here.
RNO: After resigning from the Montreal Impact, many were expecting a return to Canadian soccer. You got a job however in what many people see as the land of football. Would you consider this a sort of "step up?"
Marc Dos Santos: Yes. A lot of people may think that leaving the Montreal Impact to coach at an Academy level would be a step down, but not when you join a club like SE Palmeiras that has a 20-million-strong fan base or a country like Brazil who only won five World Cups. I was sure this was the best decision and I wanted to prove to many that you can be born in Canada and still be a successful coach outside your country. This is why the Brazilian Youth Championship was not only important for me but for all the young Canadian coaches that have a dream. I know I will return to North America one day, but I’m focused to do great things in such a demanding country for now.
RNO: Before joining Palmeiras, you were successful leading Primeira Camisa's under-20 squad. Is that how you were noticed by Palmeiras?
Marc Dos Santos: Yes. The Copa São Paulo with FC Primeira Camisa was crucial. This is probably the best U-20 tournament in the World. Ninety-six clubs from the country participate and this includes all the TOP clubs. FCPC had never qualified for the last 16 before and when we were able to achieve that, the doors started to open. We finished first in a group that included teams like Ceará, XV Piracicaba and Cruzeiro and won a very difficult away game in Taubate to move to the last 16. We then lost to SC Corinthians that won the competition and were much stronger than us. After the Copa São Paulo, the people from SE Palmeiras got in touch with me and since then the experience has been great!
RNO: With your Portuguese background and your knowledge of the language, how much does that help you in Brazil? You also speak English, French and Spanish...
Marc Dos Santos: It was crucial. Speaking different languages have helped me a lot. I believe that good communication between the players and coach is vital for success. It would be almost impossible to do well in Brazil if I didn’t speak Portuguese.
RNO: How did you get the call from Primeira Camisa in the first place?
Marc Dos Santos: A friend of mine introduced me to ex-Brazilian International César Sampaio. It was César that introduced me to Roque Júnior (also an ex-Brazilian International) who was Sports Director of FC Primeira Camisa, in 2011. We spoke, exchanged ideas about our work and I left São Paulo with a proposal from them. I came to realize that the football world was very small!
RNO: Have you been following Montreal in the MLS?
Marc Dos Santos: Yes. I left Montreal for different reasons and on good terms with the Club. I don't watch all the games, but I try to follow Montreal and MLS soccer as much as I can. I have a lot of interest in the league.
RNO: Do you hope that your success with Palmeiras will be noticed and that you will return to professional senior-level coaching?
Marc Dos Santos: I’m sure I will get back to senior-level coaching. But I’m thankful for the experience in youth soccer. Especially in Brazil where you work with the best young players in the world. I’ve been able to grow, make excellent contacts and work in an incredible club. This experience has made me a better coach.
RNO: Is it harder to coach younger players who are still developing or players who are already developed?
Marc Dos Santos: None of the two are easier. They’re different. Both of them need management and you only have to do it in a different way. I always try to look at the players in a global way; knowing that they are people with thoughts, dreams, feelings and all of that counts to make the player perform at the best of his abilities.
RNO: Can you tell what kind of players they will turn out to be at such a young age?
Marc Dos Santos: Yes. We have a project at SE Palmeiras that identify the potential players who could become professionals. The level of the youth in Brazilian tournaments or competitions is the best I’ve seen. No other country in the world has that many young players competing at such a good level. In Brazil, the young players play to win and this develops a culture that I haven’t seen before. It doesn't always help in their development but it sure does in their character. I have, at least, seven players that will become 1st Division athletes.
RNO: Do you notice the different style of play in Brazil? Do even young players have that Brazilian "joga bonito" style of play in their mentality?
Marc Dos Santos: The technique in young players is second to none. So most of the teams are offensive, courageous going to goal and the players are offensive-minded. This was my first obstacle when I arrived at Palmeiras. Everyone wanted to join the attack and my squad wasn’t balanced. After a lot of work I was able to install a defensive posture without taking away their attacking attitude. I call this balance, something missing in Brazilian football.
RNO: What else am I left to say but parabéns Marc and sucesso sempre!
Marc Dos Santos: Thank you! I like to speak with people that are interested in my work. Thank you and have a good week. Obrigado!