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Ze Maria: Gor Mahia players are as good as Brazilians

Former Gor Mahia coach Jose Marcelo Ferreira has heaped praise on Kenyan footballers, describing their ball control technique as “equal to Brazilians”.

Ferreira, commonly known as Ze Maria in football circles, coached the Kenyan giants between 2016 and 2017 where he is remembered for infusing an attractive style of football inclusive of a fast passing game.

In an interview with the Guardian, Ze Maria, who won the Serie A title as a player at Inter Milan and the Confederation Cup with Brazil’s national team, also lauded Gor Mahia fans for their passion while supporting their favourite team.

The 47-year-old has also highlighted the challenges Kenyans face on the pitch, including a lack of adequate infrastructure.

Outgoing Gor Mahia coach Ze Maria on the touchline during a past SportPesa Premier League. The Brazilian coach has quit the club. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU
Former Gor Mahia coach Ze Maria on the touchline during a past SportPesa Premier League. The Brazilian coach has quit the club. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU

“There were difficulties. Sometimes you go to a stadium where the players don’t all fit in the changing room, so you have to change on the bus. But the passion is absurd. African players are technically similar to Brazilians, but they lack opportunities to move to bigger leagues. Because of the pitches, when you dribbled the ball would bounce a metre up in the air, but the quality with which they controlled and conducted it, not even a Brazilian would do that,” he explained.

Ze Maria also recalls meeting zebras on the road while in Nairobi, and people who just wanted to touch him owing to his legendary status as a player.

“I arrived in Nairobi and, when I got off the plane, I almost caught fire. The sun burns your skin. I walked down the road and there were zebras on the other side. I was having lunch next to Lake Victoria and a guy came over and said: “Careful if you see any waves here, because it might be a hippopotamus. People wondered what I was doing there. ‘Ze Maria who played for Brazil and Inter’? They wanted to touch me. People wanted to hear my stories. It (Gor Mahia) was the biggest club in Kenya, so every game was like managing Flamengo it Corthinians in Brazil. The stadium was packed.”

After leaving Gor, Ze Maria moved to Europe and managed Albian club FK Tirana and is now in charge at Brazilian club Portuguesa.