Paulo Sousa

Paulo Sousa

The former footballer and current manager of Leicester City reveals how football can give you the opportunity to learn new languages and experience different cultures.

Raise Your Game: Why do you love football?

Paulo Sousa: Football is special to me. I started playing when I was very young. My father and my mother would go to work very early in the morning and I used to keep myself happy by playing football in the streets and up against walls on my own.

Profile

Name:
Paulo Manuel Carvalho de Sousa

Born:
30 August 1970

From:
Viseu, Portugal

Sport:
Football

Position:
Former midfielder

Teams:
Benfica, Sporting CP, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Internazionale, Parma, Panathinaikos, Espanyol

Teams managed:
Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City, Leicester City

Everyone was involved in football in my city and important clubs like Magnifica, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Porto brought people to the stadiums. I started to appreciate that passion and the different emotions of winning and losing that are a part of life.

RYG: What can we learn from football and the game?

PS: Football teaches many things. You learn about yourself, and in my opinion, to understand the qualities we have and the things we need to improve, we need to observe everyone around us and our environment.

Football also teaches you about good competition. Life is all about competing with others in a good and positive way and if we want to be better we need to know and identify the ways we can be better.

RYG: You've had a wonderful career, what are your best memories?

PS: I have a lot of good memories. When I was 15-years-old I left my family to play with Magnifica, which was not easy for me at that age. I never dreamt that I would be able to be a professional footballer, but life gave me this opportunity and I started to realise the qualities I had as a player.

At 17-years-old I was given my first professional contract with Benfica and at 18-years-old I started to play in my national team. I had great achievements winning national and international trophies. I also had the opportunity to move to Italy which gave me the experience of a different country, different culture and a different style of football.

A big moment was when I left Juventus Football Club with injuries. I saw one doctor who said to me 'You are finished, you can't play anymore,' but other doctors said 'You can play, but you can never achieve your best level as a footballer.' I didn't agree. I knew I needed to believe in myself and I chose to bring people to work with me to help me to improve. I managed to achieve a better level than I had ever done in the past.

The key point for me is investing in myself to be someone important in football, someone whom everyone respects not only because I'm successful in football, but also as a person. I have great moments in my life.

RYG: How did you learn all the languages for all the different clubs?

PS: I started learning English at an early age because Portugal films were shown with English subtitles. I found it difficult to speak Greek or German and the main language in Europe is English, so that helped me to improve my English.

Since 2003 I have worked with UEFA and in my role I needed to deliver speeches. This helped me to improve my English, my vocabulary, and it helped me to understand and to communicate with others.

I started learning French in school. I can understand it and I can speak slowly. When I visit UEFA in Monaco I get a chance to practice and improve my French. Also with some colleagues, coaches and managers for countries like France or Romania we talk in French.

Italian is my second language after Portuguese and I found it easy to learn because it is very close to Spanish. It's important that we communicate with everyone. We need to understand each other and it's important to learn.

RYG: What's the difference between a good player and a great player?

PS: It's recognising that the way to achieve targets and goals is to be professional and focused. Everyone can achieve. You can be born with some talent, but you need to keep building working on this talent, and in the same way to grow mentally.

RYG: Who are your heroes?

PS: My big hero was my father. He taught me the most important thing in life, to respect one another.

Zinedine Zidane was also a hero for me. You could see how focused he was in every game and what he could do with the ball. It's important to have role models as a reference to help you improve yourself and your game.

RYG: You have embraced change throughout your career, moving to different clubs and countries. What would be your advice to young people looking to trying something different?

PS: Make sure you challenge yourself and believe that you can achieve. It takes hard work, but if you visualise your goals and recognise what you need to do to improve, then you will achieve.


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