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Dunga Rants And Brazil's Fans Rave

By William Gildea
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, July 3, 1998; Page C1

PARIS — The Brazilian players scrambled to build their defensive wall for a free kick by Morocco when suddenly construction was interrupted. Dunga began waving his hands and shouting at Bebeto, and you didn't have to know Portuguese to understand that Dunga called him a nasty name just before Bebeto stepped toward him and the two butted heads in anger. Leonardo, the peacemaker, jumped between his teammates, and Roberto Carlos strolled up to the scrum to assist in the restoration of calm. Dunga shrugged them all off and continued to rage.

What ignited this intrasquad firefight in Brazil's second opening-round game of the 1998 World Cup was Dunga's fury at Bebeto failing to take his position in front of the ball so as to delay the kick long enough to give his teammates time to get set defensively. No sooner had the kick been taken, and batted away harmlessly, than Dunga began shouting at defenders Aldair and Junior Baiano. Dunga — pronounced "Dune-ga" — is an uncomplicated man. He's Brazil's captain and, to put it mildly, takes the job seriously.

Mario Andrada e Silva of the Jornal do Brasil told me that he devoted himself during Brazil's round-of-16 game against Chile the other night to how many times Dunga lashed out at his teammates, his coach, the referee and even the team medical staff. He yelled 127 times.

Twice Dunga wanted the coach, Mario Zagallo, to alter positions of players on the field. Once, the medics failed to patch his cut leg fast enough so that he had to miss two minutes of play and yelling at someone else. And there was always someone to yell at — including the celebrated Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is thought of globally as an artist, as well as a juicy marketing tool. But in Brazil, a country that has produced Pele, Garrincha, Zico and Tostao, Ronaldo is taken more in stride. He came on the scene at age 16, so he's called Ronaldinho, which is to say "little Ronaldo." He's the world's best striker, but Brazilians regard him less an artist than a missile. And it's Dunga who lights the fire.

In the midst of the Brazilian players' celebration of Cesar Sampaio's second goal against Chile, this party-pooper Dunga comes and yanks Ronaldo out of the happy pack and reprimands him. Dunga was mad because Ronaldo had been too far upfield rather than being ready to pounce on a possible mistake by the last defender. The exchange between the two became known because one Brazilian television network has a camera so powerful a viewer can read lips. Ronaldo assured Dunga there would be no more daydreaming.

Dunga has the look of someone to be heeded. He is stocky, with a crewcut that suggests he cares nothing for fashion. He has the steely eyes of Clint Eastwood. Dunga's criticism with most of his teammates is that they "lack humility," and he's told them that if they keep listening to others' praise, they will not win the Cup again. Dunga — whose real name is Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri — never has acted as his nickname would imply. Dunga in Portuguese means Dopey; he was named when he was young, for one of the Seven Dwarfs.

Couldn't he be a bit more polite to his teammates, Dunga was asked Monday at the Brazilians' camp nearby in Ozoir-La-Ferriere. "I do not have the time to approach someone and say, 'Sir, please be aware of your opponent.' Or, 'Would you be kind enough to mark your opponent properly?' If I took the time to be polite, in that time the opponent would score. In the World Cup, if you relax one second you could be out. That's the time it takes to make a fatal mistake."

Over the years, Dunga has imposed his will on the Brazilian team, and prevailed in spite of opposition that has included none other than Pele. Pele criticized Dunga after Brazil's World Cup failure in 1990, and again before the 1994 World Cup. Dunga wasn't creative enough. He wasn't the artist, he was more the tactician. To Pele and countless Brazilians, Dunga represented a Europeanization of Brazilian soccer. There always had been tactical midfielders in Brazil, but none had risen to become the standardbearer of the country's World Cup teams.

But Dunga persevered through a period known derisively in Brazil as the "Dunga era," following the 1990 setback. Successive Brazilian coaches had faith in him, and Dunga tirelessly won the ball for Brazil in 1994. So, he enjoyed the privilege of lifting the Cup because he was best in that tournament at assists, passes and steals. Romario took the headlines. Dunga wrote the script.

Dunga, 34, said Monday that he planned to retire from the national team, although he will keep playing for the Jubiloo Iwata club in Japan. "I have seen it all," he said. "I have played in three World Cups and I am here to win my second. But win or lose, it's time to go."

Pele now thinks fondly enough of Dunga, especially since the Brazilians won in 1994. But Dunga remains estranged from Pele, having gone on record as saying he will never speak to Pele again because of Pele's public criticism. At some point, a reconciliation may be in order because Pele is Brazil's Minister of Sport, and Dunga has been mentioned as successor to the white-haired Zagallo as coach of the national team. Then again, Dunga still may not talk to Pele because Dunga is Dunga.

"He's a perfectionist and always wants to win at whatever he does and he hates mistakes," Zagallo said. "Once the match is over, he forgets everything."

Dunga, naturally, is far from the most popular player among his teammates, although he gained more admiration for apologizing to Bebeto. No Brazilian player respects another more. While Dunga doesn't name the current lineup, he almost does, such is his status. Zagallo admires him greatly and welcomes his input. On the field, Dunga is the director amid flamboyance. When the ball comes out of the Brazilian defense, it passes through him, and he is the route Brazil is taking in quest of a fifth World Cup.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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