In his swan song on the Greece bench, the 2014 World Cup, Portuguese manager Fernando Santos has chosen to add his personal touch to the squad that will travel to Brazil next month: He has added a Brazilian-born Greek amateur player to his 23-man squad, showing how much he appreciates local knowledge.
To the surprise of everyone listening to the announcement of the official squad to represent Greece in Brazil, Santos stated that he has called up a 24th player, the 33-year-old Manos Sergios, a part-time player at amateur team APE Antirriou in western Greece, who was born in Brazil to Greek parents.
He has played as a midfielder for a number of amateur clubs in Brazil and in Greece and admitted he was taken aback by the Santos announcement.
“I still cannot believe it. When [Greece team manager Takis] Fyssas called me last night to inform me about me being invited to the national team, I was sure he was having me on. I was actually at work and I almost passed out,” Sergios said on Monday.
The symbolism of this selection is multi-faceted: He has picked an amateur player who will know his way around Brazil, who plays soccer in his local team and could have never dreamt of making the World Cup showing that nothing is impossible, and who lives in the village known for its location opposite Rio – albeit not Rio de Janeiro but the town near Patra on the Peloponnese.
His membership in the squad may well add to the atmosphere among the players adding a different color and easing the pressure on the team with his off-beat presence. It is not a coincidence he is a marketing professional and as such he will promote the corporate cause he has been commissioned for, while offering some light entertainment.
The completely unknown part-timer was on Monday dubbed a “huge player” by Santos, with the Portuguese coach showing a rare smile on his face. He will know that deflecting media attention from his players could only do them good on the way to the World Cup.