The Federation, The Coach, Drugs, and Nani

By | August 31, 2010

The Portuguese Anti-Doping Agency (ADoP) has suspended Portuguese national coach, Carlos Queiroz, from coaching for six months. After an almost two month long legal battle, the agency found Queiroz guilty of obstructing the drug testing of Portuguese players prior to the world cup. The punishment also comes after the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) levied its own punishment against the coach by suspending him for the first two European Championship qualifying games against Cyprus and Norway. The Portuguese manager allegedly became irate and violent after anti-doping agents interrupted a scheduled practice to administer the tests.

What makes this case peculiar is the fact that the incident did not come to light until Portugal got knocked out of the world cup by eventual champions, Spain. The investigation was also announced while Queiroz was vacationing in Mozambique, and before he was given any warning of the potential charges.

According to sources close to the Portuguese manager, the charges materialized after Portugal fell short of achieving its world cup objectives, and the FPF was looking for a reason to “justify” his dismissal, thus avoiding a breach of contract fee approaching three million Euros. The FPF has countered the accusation, claiming that the team reached its objective of progressing past the group stages.

Of course, Queiroz, has not remained passive, and has lined up some of European football’s biggest heavy-weights to argue in his defence, such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Luis Figo. Queiroz was Ferguson’s right-hand man at Manchester United for six years, and was responsible for Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing and development. It is, in fact, player development that has won Queiroz the most accolades. He was invaluable to Figo’s career, and coached Portugals under 21 squads to two world cup wins in 89 and 91. Figo, who played for Queiroz at club and national levels, has remained quiet about his deposition. Ferguson, on the other hand, has vocalized his criticism of the FPF, and has defended Queiroz vehemently to the media.

Nani with DJ Charlie Salema in Southern Portugal (photo: bigsoccerhead)

Ferguson’s defence of Queiroz is no surprise since the two have remained close since the latter took over Portugal’s national team. However, there is another piece to this case that has been ignored by the media, and that is the mysterious injury that kept Nani out of the world cup. According to FPF doctors, Nani broke his clavicle while performing a bicycle kick during one of Portugal’s last practices before leaving for South Africa. Nevertheless, Nani was taken to South Africa only to be sent back the next day. Upon his arrival in Lisbon, Nani was seen carrying two suitcases in the airport without any visible sign of discomfort. There were also reports that the United winger forwent medical attention and spent his “able-bodied” vacation in the South of Portugal. One eye-witness I spoke to claims he saw Nani shortly after his return from South Africa moving around very comfortably, saying “I’ve broken my clavicle, and it was a while before I took my arm brace off, and it sure was a long time before I could lift things.”

Queiroz’ run-in with ADoP could soon unearth some of the talk surrounding Nani at the time of his injury. The cloud of secrecy that surrounded the winger and his injury fed into the rumours that he had not really injured himself, and that the FPF was hiding something from the media. Could it be a coincidence that Nani’s injury and Queiroz’ confrontation with ADoP happened only a few days apart? There could be an answer soon as Queiroz is appealing his case to FIFA as well as the Court of Sports Arbitration.