‘Special One’ makes few friends in China
If Inter Milan were intending their trip to Beijing for last week’s Italian Super Cup to be a China charm offensive, coach Jose Mourinho was obviously not kept in the loop.
The accepted form for European club officials on pre-season trips to China is to politely praise everything local and talk up the footballing potential of the world’s most populous nation.
After Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Lazio in the traditional Italian season curtain-raiser between the Serie A champions and Cup winners, Mourinho departed from the script.
The post-match news conference got off to a bad start when the local interpreter expressed his delight at Lazio’s victory and invited Chinese media to ask Mourinho difficult questions.
Matters did not improve when Mourinho, who earlier in the week had described the Bird’s Nest stadium — China’s pride and joy — as “so-so”, arrived on the podium.
The second, from a local newspaper reporter, asked why Lazio, playing on the same pitch and in the same searing heat that Mourinho had previously complained about, were able to win.
“After the first two questions, I know why Chinese football is so rubbish and why China has won gold medals in so many sports but not football, because the journalists are so unprofessional,” the Portuguese replied.
Later, a reporter from state news agency Xinhua asked whether the match had further convinced Mourinho of the need to strengthen his midfield with a playmaker.
“After your questions it seems that my team played a horrible match,” said the former Porto and Chelsea boss. “The conclusion is that you don’t understand a thing, because all the questions are based on the result. This is not football. If we talk about the result, it was 2-1 to Lazio. If we are talking about the match, then we have to say one team played, the other was lucky. This is football.”
Mourinho, who got his break in management after working as a interpreter for English coach Bobby Robson, was unsurprisingly lambasted by the Chinese sports media.
Web portal qq.com was typical, listing “Mourinho’s seven sins in China”.
“1. Losing the match, 2. Being arrogant, 3. Insulting journalists, 4. Sneering at Chinese football, 5. Despising the Bird’s Nest, 6. Refusing to attend a charity dinner 7. Losing his temper at the Silk Market,” it said.
Mourinho would not be the first tourist to lose his cool at the Silk Market, the central Beijing shopping centre famous for its faked goods where scores of shop assistants aggressively vie for custom, but he denied accusations of an eighth sin.
A statement posted on Inter’s Chinese language website on Monday read: “Jose Mourinho today firmly denied the reports that he refused to meet China’s coach Gao Hongbo.
“After Inter’s training in the Olympic Sports Centre in the afternoon of Aug. 5, Gao met and talked to Mourinho … The two coaches agreed to meet again the next day but because of the preparations for the Super Cup, they did not meet in the National Stadium.”
The journalist who had asked the second question in the press conference was not impressed with Mourinho. “I don’t think he’s the special one,” she told me as we left the stadium.
Picture by David Gray