Former Brazilian striker Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz trains Gia Định FC. Photo courtesy of Gia Định FC
By Thanh Nga
Having won over many fans and with a host of memories from seven seasons playing football in Việt Nam, Brazilian former striker Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz, 41, jumped at the chance last February to coach second-division Gia Định FC.
He played for three clubs in the country after arriving in 2005 and can boast a range of accomplishments.
He left Việt Nam for Brazil in 2011, where he sought coaching opportunities with youth teams while attending coaching classes run by the Brazilian Football Federation.
After earning his B degree in coaching, Flavio then had the opportunity to coach famous youth teams in his home country before deciding to head back to Việt Nam. He spoke with Thanh Nga.
Inner Sanctum: How did the invitation to coach second division Gia Định FC come about?
I spent more than eight years as a coach in Brazil. I passed through several coaching categories and also coached professional teams. I received the invitation from the President of Gia Định FC, Huỳnh Hoàng Trường, who I have a lot of respect and admiration for.
He had been following my coaching journey in Brazil.
Inner Sanctum: Did you decide to leave Brazil for Việt Nam and Gia Định FC because the salary here was higher than what you could earn at home?
No, I was earning more in Brazil. I had always dreamed of returning to Việt Nam and when this opportunity arose I discussed it with my family and decided to take on the challenge, as I have many happy memories as a professional footballer here and wanted to relive them in another way: as head coach of Gia Định FC.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us a little about your family and coaching in Brazil?
I have been married for 15 years and am still very much in love with my wife Sabrina. We have two children -- an eight-year-old daughter Filipa and a five-year-old son Gael Luiz. They are two jewels God has given us. I am very much dedicated to my family and have now been away from them for three months because of the coronavirus, which is extremely difficult.
My last job in Brazil before returning to Việt Nam was coaching Mageense FC, where we built a great team and were champions with our senior team and U20 team. The two titles were very important to us, and guaranteed our promotion to the next division.
Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz and his family.. Photo courtesy of Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz
Inner Sanctum: This is the first time a foreigner has coached a second division team in Việt Nam. How do you feel about that?
It is a major responsibility. The club has a goal and I came here to help it achieve that goal. It is a difficult task, but I am fully prepared for the challenge.
Inner Sanctum: What can you tell us about Gia Định FC?
I am satisfied with the commitment, dedication, and professionalism the players have shown in training and in our friendlies. We are still in a building phase, but I’ve already noticed that we are becoming a winning team, with a combination of new young players and some with experience, and that’s very important in football. A champion team is mostly about character.
Our goal, of course, is to be promoted to the first division.
Inner Sanctum: You played with three clubs during your seven years in Việt Nam -- Huda Huế, Bình Định, and Navibank Saigon. What memories do you have of these three stints? Which club did you enjoy playing for the most?
In the 2003/04 season I was playing in Japan. I was approached to play in Việt Nam, but it just wasn’t possible as I still had a year left on my contract with the Japanese club. The following year I was approached again, but for other reasons it still wasn’t possible. I ended up moving to a club in Portugal.
Two years later I signed with Bình Định FC, then went to Huda Huế, where I was the leading goal scorer, with 18.
I then went back to play in Brazil, but eight months later I returned to Việt Nam and Navibanki Saigon, where we had a tough season despite having quite a good team.
I think my favourite club was Huda Huế, because we were quite successful and my family and I lived in the ancient city for the longest time out of my three stints in Việt Nam.
Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz seen in the time played in Việt Nam. Photo courtesy of Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz
Inner Sanctum: What count among your major accomplishments from your time in Việt Nam?
I helped Huda Huế be promoted to V.League 1 in 2007 and was the top goal scorer.
Inner Sanctum: What are your thoughts on Vietnamese football?
Vietnamese football is becoming more and more competitive every year. I see clubs making major investments in technology, such as GPS, to bolster performance, which is fantastic. Việt Nam is on its way to being a footballing power in Asia.
Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz seen in a training session in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Flavio Luiz Neto da Silva Cruz
Inner Sanctum: How have you found living in Việt Nam?
I like Brazil a lot, of course, and enjoyed my time in all the countries I played in, like Japan, Portugal, and Switzerland, but I found Việt Nam to be the most alluring.
I was well received here and my efforts were valued. My family and I were welcomed wherever we went, and my wife always felt happy here. We always hoped to return with our children so they could also experience Việt Nam’s culture, which is so different from Brazil’s but absolutely charming.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us a little bit about your life in Việt Nam these days?
My days are very much dedicated to training and preparing our playing group. My family, sadly, is still in Brazil. I miss them so much and hope they can come here as soon as possible, because I want to show Việt Nam to my children, who weren’t born when I played here. VNS