Former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas admits that driving in the gruelling Dakar Rally is an all together different ball game than executing the tactics in a football match from the touchline but says team work and passion remains the same.
Villas-Boas, who has coached top English Premier League sides like Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur before helming the affairs of wealthy Chinese Super League side Shanghai SPIG, made his debut in the motorsport’s most gruelling endurance event behind the wheel of a Toyota Overdrive car in Peru.
The Portuguese was celebrating his 40th birthday and also carrying a family tradition (his uncle Pedro Villas-Boas competed in the Dakar Rally in 1982 and 1984) by taking part in the 9,000km rally through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.
“It (this rally) is a bit different (from football). Of course, there is a lot of teamwork (in both) that has to be done, with the mechanics, with the team management and the logistics and in the car also with the driver and co-driver and the car,” he said.
“You know these machines are strong but we need to take care of these machines to hold on for 15 days. My car has the Portuguese flag and I have no sponsorship but I want to raise awareness about my charity foundation,” said Villas-Boas, who left his last coaching job at China’s Shanghai SIPG in November.
Villas-Boas is involved with charity projects in football through Laureus which is also being written on his car.
“I’m 40 and it’s the 40th edition of Dakar,” said the Portuguese, who has also worked alongside the explosive Jose Mourinho at Porto. Asked about any targets in this rally, he said: “I don’t have any target. I just want to finish the race.”
On the motivation to take part in the Dakar Rally, he said, “It is just the passion of overkill. For long time I have been following the Dakar, I had always wanted to do it and finally chance was there and I took it. My uncle took part in Dakar in 1982 and 1984.”
A motor sport enthusiasts, Villas-Boas was happy about being placed among top 50 after the first stage.
“It went very well. I was a little bit anxious when I made the start but after that everything went very well. I am very happy. This is only my second time with a car in any sand dune. It is going to be more and more difficult but very happy that I made it to the upper 50 group among cars,” he said.
“We spent the last six days before the rally in Morocco but not with the Toyota. With the Toyota, I had one day in Belgium and in Barcelona another day and in the shake down over here. So the car is good and so is the drive that you had a feeling for it. It is very quick. The shake down was very important, two days before we started. The car is magnificent and I am very happy.”
Villas-Boas may not the first football figure to take his chances in the Dakar and it will be interesting to see how he fares when the rally ends at Cordoba in Argentina on January 20.