For long, Edgar Davids only peered into his phone at the Ellis Park media centre on Monday. The glasses and the braided locks he wore as a footballer were in place but the branded clothing that’s since got this ITV expert into a tizzy was perhaps hidden under a long coat. By the sofa, stood a bouncer who conveyed the request for an interview of the man sent home by Holland coach Guus Hiddink during the 1996 European Championships. The denial was curt.
With Velibor ‘Bora’ Milutinovic it was different. Once described as citizen of the World Cup, the 65-year-old Serb was seen at the media cafeteria holding six bottles of energy drinks in a makeshift crate, obliging everyone who wanted a snapshot for their World Cup scrap books.
The lines on his face deeper than four years ago, Milutinovic, here as an expert, refused help with the drinks he had to carry up the winding passage to the media tribune. Every time someone called ‘Bora’, ‘Bora’, the bespectacled coach with the experience of five finals with different teams, acknowledged with a smile.
“That is life. The World Cup comes and goes,” he told HT when asked if football’s biggest event (one he calls the most special celebration of football and humanity) is missing him in the dugout. Having taken four teams into the second round led to him being called the ‘Miracle Worker’. After being at every World Cup from 1986 to 2002, Milutinovic the coach has been absent at the finals since. But he hasn’t given up hope. “If I get the right opportunity, I would definitely return,” Milutinovic said. “Let’s say, right now I am taking a break.” His last assignment was with Iraq for the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year.
Milutinovic said he isn’t surprised by Brazil and Argentina’s start here. “They are the favourites, aren’t they?” He went with the flow listing saying Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy and England as those who can go all the way.
For now, Milutinovic, who lives in Mexico, said he is busy as a bid ambassador for Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, a country where he coached Al-Sadd club. He has Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, ex-Cameroon star Roger Milla, former Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta and Saudi Arabian targetman Sami Al Jaber for company.
Milutinovic’s record of coaching five countries at the finals was bettered by Carlos Alberto Perreira this time. But if the World Cup does go to Qatar, 11 years after they host the Asian Cup, where India will play, he will again make history.