Happy Milutinovic Wins Race For Emerson Signature
7/12/2005 4:58:00 AM
Al-Sadd coach Bora Milutinovic signed J-League star striker Emerson after the Brazilian had gone absent without leave. Marie Waki looks at the saga...
No one can deny the power of the Emerson factor. The former Urawa Reds forward knocked in the highest number of goals in the J-league last season, and when he’s on the pitch any opponent defender makes it his number one priority to keep the ball from going to this dangerous striker. The Emerson "bento", or lunchbox, at Saitama stadium and the Emer-don (a rice and meat meal-in-a-bowl concocted by Family Mart for their Saitama convenience store chains) have been showing hearty sales in the local area.
But the man in question went AWOL. And the jokes began to start: "What do you get when you buy an Emerson bento? --An empty box."
The pint-sized Brazilian was expected to return to Japan on June 27th, after visiting his family and new born in Brazil during the summer break period. At first, it was not entirely surprising behavior coming from the oft-tardy 23 year old. He had failed to show up on time for pre-season training three years in a row. Despite the club’s efforts to curb his bad habit with high fines, the penalties did not seem to make a dent. His underpar performance so far in this season was blamed on his lack of proper training time. The result was a disappointing string of results for Urawa Reds, who were thought to be true contenders at the start of this season.
Alarm bells started to clang loudly. Emerson had never previously been late to actual games, but he has missed three already in the first week of July. Urawa manager Guido Buchwald dismissed Emerson’s "unprofessional attitude" with disgust and has warned that he should not expect an automatic spot on the team if he returned.
The club was scrambling for information, making calls to Brazil that were answered with excuses that his baby was ill and reassurances that he would be on the next plane.
The club decided to fly someone to Brazil and check on the man in person. In the meantime, the plot thickened as news started leaking into Japan that clubs like Bayern Munchen and Paris SG were showing serious interest. What’s more, the offers were reported to exceed the 300 million ($3million) yen bar the club set -- the price Urawa paid to acquire Emerson.
It was something of a surprise then when he chose to leave Urawa’s passionate fans behind to go to the Qatari champions Al-Sadd but those supporterss may have a chance to see him in action in December in Japan in the World Club Championship should he help his new club win the AFC Champion s League – what reaction would he meet, one wonders?