Carlos Carvalhal is taking Beşiktaş JK back to his home town to take on SC Braga in the UEFA Europa League, having made friends in trying circumstances in Istanbul.
Drafted in as caretaker coach at the start of the season after a campaign tainted by match-fixing allegations, 46-year-old former Braga defender and coach Carvalhal has brought a degree of order to Beşiktaş. The Black Eagles became the first Turkish side to finish top of a UEFA club competition qualifying group, when they won UEFA Europa League Group E.
However, what impressed fans even more than Carvalhal's excitable goal celebrations was that the coach was determined to learn Turkish. "I started learning Turkish before coming to Beşiktaş," he explained. "I received two offers from Turkey but did not accept them, then I said to myself that I should learn Turkish, so I started to take lessons."
Carvalhal's willingness to learn the lingo seemed symptomatic of the former Sporting Club de Portugal coach's enthusiasm. "I do my job with a great passion," he said. "
Football and reading are my two passions; football represents 70% of my life. The main thrust of my life lies there. I first said that I would be a player and a coach when I was six years old."
Having picked up just one point in their last four Süper Lig games, injuries are biting hard at Beşiktaş, and Carvalhal must now hope that his Portuguese-accented squad's spirits will be raised by a trip back to his roots. The coach was a trainee with Braga, represented the senior side in three spells and always declares himself to be an Arsenalistas fan. "My house is not far from the Estádio Municipal de Braga," he said. "I can see it from my window."
Home ties could be strained on Tuesday when he brings Beşiktaş back to his place. "I had a strange feeling after the draw," admitted Carvalhal, whose 2006 spell as Braga coach lasted just nine games. "At first, I didn't want it; now I am looking forward to it.
Braga is my home town and my old team, where I played for years. I will be playing a club I know very well."
He knows, then, that Braga are in for a battle. "It won't be easy," explained Carvalhal, whose charges drew 1-1 with Sivasspor on Thursday. "Braga are a very strong team with big ambitions that reached the UEFA Europa League final last season. However, they aren't the same team that reached the final and, above all, we are stronger than we were last term. Both sides' chances are very similar, 50-50."
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