July 2, 2020
As the iPhone vibrates and blares the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit “More Than A Woman”, I stir on the couch. It’s the morning after Canada Day, and the rest of the quiet lake cottage is still fast asleep — feeling the effects of the previous night.
I blink to clear my vision, and look at the number.
My mind immediately goes to grandma and grandpa, both in their 80s and spending the summer as they typically do at a modest beach house near Lisbon.
“Olá,” I whisper, vaguely worried.
— — — — —
My name is John Pacheco, and I’m something of a lost soul.
At 25, and with a degree in business from York University, my parents think I should have moved out by now.
But Toronto is an expensive city, and a sparkling university soccer career followed by a single season with Orlando City’s B team doesn’t count for much in Canada’s largest city.
The game was the one thing that ever truly interested me, and the National A License atop my limited resume is the only item remotely worth hanging my hat on.
Spending last season as an analyst at York 9 FC in the fledgling Canadian Premier League led nowhere — and is far from my foggy mind on this summer morning.
“Senhor Pacheco, eu sou Augusto Ouvidor.”
Wracking my hungover brain, I scramble for the connection. Augusto. Portugal.
Then it clicks. The resume I’d submitted, one of hundreds I’d flung to generic inboxes at clubs across the globe.
“I am Rio Ave, ehh…ehhh…” he ventures nervously.
“I speak Portuguese,” I reply in his native tongue.
“Excellent. We liked your interview on Zoom, and truthfully the fact you will come for room and board really appealed to us. With COVID, and the general state of Portuguese football…you know how it is.”
I do. Little has changed since my father bounced around the Primeira Liga in the late-80s, turning out for the likes of Estrela Amadora and Penafiel before moving to Canada and settling in at the General Motors plant in Oshawa.
Still, a roof over my head and a few hundred euro somewhere in Portugal sounds a lot better than my current situation: The parents’ basement in suburban Toronto and training sessions with whiny Under-13s at North York United.
“When do I leave,” I ask, already eyeing the Orlando City suitcase in my closet.
Rio Ave’s B’s first friendly is less than two months away, and I intend to take full advantage of the rather humble opportunity this random club from my father’s homeland has given me.
— — — — —
This save will follow the journey of John Pacheco, a fictitious 20-something Canadian manager bumbling his way through both life and coaching in Portugal.
The dream is to manage a consistent Primeira Liga club within 10 years.
Beginning with only a National A License and at a B team with minimal history (Est. 2017) under a mid-table club, this will certainly pose a challenge — one that I hope you will enjoy following.
P.S. — If this is half as dramatic as my last big save, The Other Mourinho, we're going to have a lot of fun.