Jair Ventura is a retired soccer player and coach. He is one of the most well-known names among the new generation of Brazilian managers. Despite the fact that he is just 42 years old, he has worked for several of the country’s best teams. His most notable stint so far was at Botafogo from 2016 to 2017, although he has previously led renowned clubs like Corinthians and Santos. His previous role was with Juventude, when he led the squad to victory in the Brasileirão 2021 final, ensuring the team’s place in Serie A.
Even though he has only been in the game for a short time, he already collects labels – which he believes will always remain – and considers himself a flexible professional open to sharing ideas with his players, whom he refers to as “the protagonists of the game.”
In an exclusive conversation with Sambafoot, Jair discusses what it’s like to work in football as the son of one of the sport’s most famous players, the difficulty of recovery work on national first-division teams, and his hopes for the World Cup in Qatar at the end of the year. Below is a complete transcript of a conversation with one of Brazil’s newest coaches, who does not feel that one professional “is better than the other because of his age or the color of his passport.”
Sambafoot: Let’s begin by discussing your football beginnings: Your playing career was cut short. Why? Do you have any regrets about quitting so soon?
Jair Ventura: My career was cut short because I wasn’t up to par. I was a long way from achieving my objectives. I’m a person who expects a lot from himself, and my ambition of performing and working in major clubs was slipping away. I chose to pursue a new career in football, off the field, when I found myself in the second division of Rio, at Mesquita, where I played, and two years in Africa, in Gabon. So, in 2005, I started college and completed with a degree in Physical Education in 2009. My first game as a professional coach was in 2010.
I’m delighted I came to a halt (playing as a player). Of course, I still fantasize about playing, and I could have been more insistent. But, since I was so distant from my previous objectives, I set out to find new ones. Today, I am proud to have played for great clubs and to have spent three years with the Brazilian national team’s young squad. So, although I’m delighted that I didn’t make it on one side, I’m also glad that, despite being at the start of my coaching career, I’ve already coached important clubs and the Brazilian national team.
Sambafoot: What does it mean to be the son of Jairzinho, one of the most famous players in Brazilian football history? What effect did this have on your development as a player?
Jair Ventura: I always remark about the chances I have that the weight is really heavy. It’s already a blessing that you were born a Jairzinho son. I left home when I was 16, but living next door to an idol was amazing till then. However, as a striker, the weight is significant, particularly in Brazil. Isn’t it true that there are countless cases of relatives playing football in other countries? Ronald de Boer and his brother Frank de Boer also played together, as did Maldini and his son, as well as Mazinho and his kids, all of whom are Brazilians who have pursued careers overseas.
It’s a bit more challenging in Brazil since the demand is so much larger. But if I could choose to be Jairzinho’s son, I’d do it all over again. If I could be a son again, I would accept because it is a huge honor to have a father who is both an idol and a role model for me as a person, conductor, character, and human being. He is, without a doubt, my greatest source of information for everything, not just on the field, but also as a person, for everything I’ve said.
Sambafoot: After Ricardo Gomes departed Botafogo in 2016, you took over as coach and led the team to a historic season. What do you believe contributed to the company’s rapid rise to prominence?
Jair Ventura: Isn’t it the players who come first? They are always the ones that are held accountable for everything. Of course, I spent nine years and eleven months at Botafogo, so I’m familiar with the club. The most important thing, though, is to get to know your athletes. As a domestic worker, I was familiar with all of the players’ personalities. I usually watched the basic players, and they were no exception. As a result, the coach requests a timeout. Coaches tend to remain at clubs for a limited period of time since everything gets much more difficult when you don’t know the players. “Don’t you know by watching the games and playing against?” you ask. No! When you work with athletes on a daily basis, in specialized routines, you really get to know them.
The day-to-day allows you to see what I did, for example, with Bruno Silva, who had previously played as a defender in Ava, and who was basically performing an external with us. You bring in a Lindoso, Madureira’s number ten, to play second midfielder so that we may win throughout the building period. As we did with Diogo Barbosa and Victor Luis, fold the sides. These are the kinds of scenarios where you get to know your players and their personalities, which makes your work a lot simpler. Of course, it was critical that they believe in the concept and put it into action as effectively as possible. The players, in my opinion, are always the game’s protagonists.
Sambafoot: You were wanted by other teams at the end of 2016, possibly even with larger investing power, but you chose to stay with Botafogo for another two seasons. Do you believe you made the proper choice today, looking back?
Jair Ventura: Without a doubt! When I left Botafogo at the end of 2017, after 99 games and 10 years, I was questioned a lot about it. However, that race took place in 2016, and it was an unparalleled performance in Brazilian football at the time. It has never occurred in Brazilian football before for us to take over in the relegation zone and finish up in the Libertadores, going from 16th to 5th position in a single round.
Of course, invites from other teams came after that, and they did. But I realized that there was still time for me to keep going, to keep working. I was content, and I have no regrets about continuing (in Botafogo), so 2017 was a year of confirmation for me. We got all the way to the quarterfinals of the Libertadores and lost to winners Grêmio, then to the semifinals of the Copa do Brasil, losing to Flamengo, and still didn’t earn the Libertadores classification for the second year in a row.
Sambafoot: Then, in 2020, as Sport’s coach, you rescued the team from relegation in the Brasileirão, prompting a fan to tattoo your face as a sign of homage. What were your thoughts on the situation?
Jair Ventura: I believe there has never been a higher type of thankfulness than that, right? The fan didn’t only tattoo my face on his thigh; he also tattooed my full body. His limb was “closed.” It was a scenario that I believed was a fabrication when they told me, but when they began publicizing it in the media and I saw it, I was terrified. Of course, that’s quite satisfying; it just goes to show how much we, as football employees, are responsible for delivering pleasure to the supporters and understanding the depth of their devotion to the team.
This drives us to concentrate and commit ourselves even more so that we may provide these people wonderful times. Sport was widely regarded as the first team to be demoted; it had the lowest investment that year, and we were able to save them from relegation two/three rounds ahead of schedule, keeping the club in Serie A the next season.
Sambafoot: What occurred to Chapecoense in the Brasileirão last year that prevented you and other managers from preventing the team’s relegation? By a wide margin, Chape’s season was the poorest in Brasileirão history. What, in your perspective, were the team’s issues?
Jair Ventura: I’ve already gone through the Chape situation many times. I was in the prime of my career at the time of the tragedy, and I lost a lot of friends on that aircraft. Caio Junior, my former assistant coach, was one of them. At the time, I had no idea what would happen in my life or profession. But I promised my family and my commission that if the chance presented itself, I would work at Chape. I would not accept the offer if you examined the conditions, which I usually do with clubs that invite me.
To address your question, the Serie B squad was disassembled in order to participate in Serie A. So it becomes hard when you move to a much stronger competition with a lesser club than you had in Serie B. That’s what occurred when Chape misplaced the primary components and didn’t replace them. Because the squad was disassembled from Serie B to Serie A, they had five managers last year and none of them could provide a solution.
Sambafoot: Your presence at Juventude in the previous Brasileirão provided the team a lift, and they were able to avoid relegation in the last round. What considerations influenced this decision? And why hasn’t there been a follow-up to this year’s work?
Jair Ventura: It was the third time we had caught a club in the relegation zone and successfully rescued them. At Botafogo, Sport, and subsequently Juventude, it was the same way. We were six points away from exiting the zone after 11 games, but we managed to remain in Serie A. Was it a challenge? It was! Is it from the previous round? Yes! However, we had a high proportion of players who qualified for the Libertadores, more than Fortaleza, for example. Once again, the players were crucial. I had a lot of faith in those sportsmen. Despite the fact that I lost Paulinho Boia, a key player who only played with me once and was later sold… We lost a guy like that at the most crucial period of the championship, and we were left with less resources. I’d already lost the team’s leading scorer, Matheus Peixoto.
However, we were able to accomplish this milestone owing to the athletes’ hard work and commitment. Juventude, like Sport, had the smallest budget at the time, but we were able to continue for the next year. Isn’t what occurred the other year exactly what I said? I can’t explain anything to you; those responsible for the dismissal must do so, but it’s apparent that if you don’t get the results in only four games, things will change. This isn’t simply a problem in Juventude; it’s a problem in football in general.
Sambafoot: You’ve previously played for Botafogo, Santos, Corinthians, Sport, Chape, and Juventude at the age of 42. What are your long-term goals? Do you spend all of your time studying?
Jair venture: Yes, I am always studying. Particularly at these times when we are at home, because we feel the club, its squad, and the next opponent while working. When we are at home, though, we may see global football trends. We can no longer watch other leagues. It is usually beneficial to study diligently. They asked whether I was prepared to take over Botafogo in 2016, and I declined. At the press conference, reporters were given a scare: “If you’re not ready, what are you doing there?”
And I don’t think I’ll ever be ready. I believe that you should constantly learn and strive to better. I am unquestionably a better coach than I was yesterday. We meet with the committee on a weekly basis, and we’re already searching for fresh training and experiences. I can’t expect different outcomes if I keep doing the same things. We’re continuously trying to improve and find new methods to grow. Not only as a professional, but also as a person. That’s one of the benefits of being a young coach: there’s always something fresh to learn and attempt to improve on.
Sambafoot: Some media have dubbed you a “retracker” coach, and you’ve previously said that you’re happy of the title. What are your thoughts on the reactive playstyle being criticized? Do you think this is the ideal way for the team to act on the field, depending on where you play?
Jair Ventura: Isn’t it true that the labels are there? Especially for those in positions of power. There isn’t a chance! I didn’t have a label when I was an assistant since I hadn’t taken on any major teams. Cuca, who is now one of the best managers in Brazilian football and a champion of everything, was the first coach who allowed me to practice. He was dubbed a loser when I first began interning, but now he is one of Brazil’s greatest winners. Labels exist to be broken, and they will continue to exist in the future.
The big secret of labels, in my view, is to accept people’s opinions while not allowing them to define you. You must respect what others think of you, but keep in mind that labels do not define you. Everyone’s viewpoint is respected, but it does not define me. In the 2017 Libertadores group stage, I qualified with Botafogo in first position after a round early with 44 percent ball possession per game, i.e. reactive football. I moved to Santos, where I had a cast of players with very different qualities than Botafogo’s, and I qualified first in the 2018 Libertadores group stage, again with a round to spare, but this time with 78 percent ball control.
That is, you can get excellent outcomes with a variety of game models as long as you have players that fit the bill. I’ve always said that I’m not going to be a one-note coach. If the squad I join has the traits of playing in a specific style, I will join them. I’m simply not the kind of coach that will go to a location and force guys who lack a distinguishing quality to perform something they won’t be able to achieve. I will always adjust to the needs of the clubs with whom I work. As a coach, I’ve now coached over 220 games, and that’s something I’ve always tried to accomplish at all the clubs where I’ve played.
Sambafoot: When you made a remark about foreign technicians arriving in Brazil a few years ago, you sparked a debate. This conversation has been much more often since then. How did you handle criticism in the past, and how do you perceive the issue now? And do you have any plans to work in another nation in the future?
Jair Ventura: I’m situating myself via one of my identities. I will always remain firm in my beliefs and opinions. I believe that in order to be a leader or a manager, you must be a man who understands how to position himself. In connection to this, I positioned myself and positioned myself again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe there must be reciprocity. Why is it that you demand a license for us to work outside the nation but not for those who come to work in our country? When the wave of young coaches arrived, many people wondered whether we had to have just young reigners, and I responded no. I said that you should look at who is the finest, not simply their age.
I’ve seen the same thing with immigrants. The greatest foreigners must come, but the best must remain in football. It makes no difference whether they are young or seasoned. In my perspective, thinking that one person is superior than another because of their age or passport color borders on stupidity. Regardless of where he was born, his age, or his experience, a person may be excellent. I believe that all of the more competent players should remain in Brazilian football so that we can continue to enhance our game as a whole.
Sambafoot: Which coaches do you appreciate the most and why?
Jair Ventura: I look up to a lot of coaches. I worked as an assistant for over 10 years at Botafogo, and due to all of the coaches I worked with, I am now a coach. I won’t mention names since there were so many, but I owe them all respect and thanks. Thanks to them, I’m merely a coach today.
But Zagallo is my main point of reference. He is a champion of all causes and a source of inspiration both on and off the field. However, I follow the work of multiple coaches, each with their unique personality traits, and since I am a changing individual, I learn from all of them because I am not a one-note coach.
Sambafoot: Who has been the greatest player with whom you’ve ever collaborated? Is the coach also learning and evolving as a result of the players with whom he works?
Jair Ventura: That’s a difficult question to address. I’ve worked with a number of talented people, and it would be unjust to single out just one. We can learn a lot from athletics, I feel. For many years, I worked as a member of the staff. Until I became a professional coach, I worked as a physical trainer, performance analyst, technical observer, assistant coach, and under-20 coach. I’m not a centralizer; I value all areas equally. When things don’t go as planned, demands are made, and we learn a lot not just as professionals, but also as athletes, in such instances.
I don’t have this imposition management style; I’m not a leader who imposes; I admire those who do; nonetheless, it’s not how I think to operate. I also discuss ideas with my players. Of course, the coach has the last say, but I listen to them, and the door to my room is always open for us to discuss and develop together. As a result, it is only natural that we expand. We grow up with the most basic people in a club; can you imagine growing up with the show’s protagonists, the players? We are definitely growing as a result of our discussions with them.
Sambafoot: Finally, I’d want to address a concern concerning the Brazilian team: What are your thoughts on coach Tite’s efforts? Can you put your faith in this year’s long-awaited hexa?
Jair Ventura: In terms of Tite’s job, I believe we now have the best coach in the greatest situation. We have other excellent coaches, but you can’t help but wonder, “Why did Tite make the decision?” He won the Libertadores and the World Cup, for starters. He had attained the summit of titles. In Brazilian football, he is the last global club champion. As a result, he has merit. Second, he has the greatest outcomes out of all of the coaches that have made it through the selection process. Then you question why he gets chastised, and I tell you about Zagallo, the greatest Brazilian team champion of all time. After every game, he would go to the cameras and proclaim that we had to “consume” him. That will be the case with all of the coaches that work in the selection process, as I’ve said many times.
When I went to audition for a player in Caxias, Tite turned me down, and I joke that he was a visionary. He appointed me as an early career coach today. Even back then, when I was auditioning in Caxias for three months, I could tell he was a different instructor. Even when he was little, he won the Gaucho and flew to Grêmio. Even though he sent me packing, I had the honor of being his player for a brief period.
But, without a doubt, we now have a fantastic coach in charge of the national squad. There was the pass from Renato Augusto that went near to the goal and an unmarked penalty on Gabriel Jesus in the game against Belgium in the past World Cup, and it would have affected the outcome. Despite the fact that we were eliminated, we put up a terrific show. Not just in the Cup, but now in the qualifying rounds as well. The stats he’s been putting up show that we’re well represented, and I’m hoping he can bring the championship to Brazil, which is something we all desire.