Otto Glória, the Brazilian behind the birth of the modern Benfica
Wembley, 1968. Manchester United had reached the European Cup final for the first time. Their opponents were Benfica, European champions in 1961 and 1962, and finalists in 1963 and 1965. The Benfica forward line was fearsome. Mario Coluna, the captain, supported José Augusto, Jaime Graça, Antonio Simões, José Torres and Eusébio. These six players had helped Portugal to third place in the World Cup two years earlier, losing in the semi-final against England, also at Wembley. On the bench for Benfica, as he had been for Portugal, was the Brazilian coach Otto Glória.
Only a few minutes remained when Bobby Charlton’s shot was blocked on the edge of the Benfica box. Simões drove forward on the counter and found Eusébio coming in from the left. He was clean through and seemed sure to score. Eusébio had got seven of Benfica's nine goals on the way to the final. He remains the highest scorer in Benfica's history, with 482 goals in 450 matches in official competitions (total of 638 goals in 614 matches). But on this occasion he did not score, smashing his shot straight into the body of Alex Stepney, who held on. Eusébio congratulated Stepney on the save and the game finished 1-1. United went on to win 4-1 in extra-time.
Nobody would have thought it at the time but that miss from Eusébio was Benfica’s last real opportunity to win the European Cup until 1988 when they lost in the final against PSV in a penalty shoot-out. It was also Otto Glória’s final chance. He led Benfica to the quarter-final of the competition the following season, only to lose to Ajax. In 1969-70 Benfica would be eliminated by Celtic on the toss of a coin.
After the final at Wembley, Glória observed that “Benfica had the victory in hand and did not know how to take the opportunity” and highlighted the physical problems some Benfica players had suffered. "I had studied conscientiously and carefully the tactics to be carried out,” he said, “but I do not accuse myself of having made a mistake, I do not even regret having done as I did. I assumed that I could always have 11 functioning units at any time."
Curiously and unfortunately for Benfica, the same had happened five years earlier, at the same stadium, as they lost the European Cup final 2-1 to AC Milan after Mario Coluna was injured, and at San Siro in the 1965 final as they lost to Inter with the sweeper Germano in goal after Costa Pereira was forced off with severe back problems.
Glória had returned to Benfica in 1968 but it was his work in his first spell at the club, between 1954 and 1959, that laid the groundwork for their success in the sixties. Glória had a long career, winning trophies with Sporting and Belenenses and taking the Portugal national team to third at the 1966 World Cup, but it is with Benfica that he continues to be chiefly associated – and with good reason.
Glória was born in the Tijuca district of Rio de Janeiro on 9 January 1917 to a family with strong links to Portugal. Both his grandparents were Portuguese. He soon fell in love with football, recalling years later how he "played from morning to night, before going to school, on the playground and then after school." On one occasion he broke a neighbour’s window and was seized by a policeman. But when he gave his name, the policeman laughed. "How lucky for you! Otto is the name of my son and Glória is the name of my mother. Get out of my sight!"
Glória’s father was a member of the board of Vasco da Gama, widely regarded as the most Portuguese club in Brazil, and that meant Otto watched a lot of Vasco games and spent much of his free time hanging around the club’s headquarters. When he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he always replied, “a Vasco player”.
When he was 14, Glória signed up for Vasco’s youth department and was chosen for his age-group side, stepping out onto the grass of the São Januário, at the time the biggest Brazilian stadium, fulfilling his dream of imitating Bolão, at the time the most beloved player in Vasco’s history, having helped them to back to back Carioca championships in 1923 and 1924, their first titles.
On his debut, Glória played as a left-winger and scored, which eliminated any accusations that he had benefitted from favouritism because of his father’s position at the club. For three years he played for the youth side, either on the wing or in midfield, and also pursued his other great passion, basketball. From an early age, his powers of observation and the insight with which he approached different situations in the game were clear.
Those attributes contributed to the first major decision of his career. Realising opportunities in the Vasco first team would be limited, Glória accepted an offer from Gentil Cardoso – who had been Garrincha’s first coach at Botafogo, one of a wide array of managerial appointments across Brazil – to join him at lowly Olaria. He played for both first and second teams and soon caught the eye of Carlito Rocha of Botafogo, one of Vasco’s greatest rivals.
During his three seasons at Botafogo, Glória played mainly in the second team. Years later, he would say that it had been a privilege to observe Carlito Rocha, from whom he learned a lot. The renowned Botafogo manager realised that Glória was intelligent, observant, astute and always interested in correcting his teammates' mistakes. One day he asked Otto what he wanted from football, and within months of turning 21, he expressed the desire to be a coach.
When his contract at Botafogo expired, Glória returned to Vasco, where he was very well received because he had never hidden his passion for the club. For three more years, until he was 24, Glória continued to play football for the reserves and basketball, as well as studying physical education and law. At the age of 25, he obtained a coaching certificate.
The year 1942 marked the beginning of Glória's coaching career. He was put in charge of the Vasco da Gama youth teams and won several titles with them, before, in 1949, becoming assistant to Flávia Costa and taking charge of the first team’s physical preparation. That season, Vasco won the Carioca championship undefeated.
Flávio Costa at the time was both manager of Vasco da Gama and national coach. In 1949, he led Brazil to the Campeonato Sudamericano, a tournament they had previously won in 1922. But the following year, they suffered the Maracanazo, the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay that, in the final game, cost them the 1950 World Cup. It remains one of the most traumatic results in Brazilian history. Flávio Costa was one of those blamed in the great hunt for scapegoats, one of the accusations against him that he had made his players attend mass so they had stood for two hours on the morning of the game. Tired and distressed, he decided to quit the national team and, a few months later, Vasco da Gama. It was the first great opportunity for Otto Glória, who, readily and enthusiastically, accepted the invitation to take charge of Vasco.
In his role as manager, Otto was finally able to apply much of the knowledge he had acquired over the years, including some of the concepts he had learned from his time in basketball. He tried to adapt to football such concepts as zonal defence, offensive triangulations or positioning to win rebounds. After Glória had spent a season with Vasco, América, attempting to close the gap on the big clubs in Rio de Janeiro, made him an offer that, from a financial point of view, Glória could not refuse. It was his first step to transforming Portuguese football.
While the young coach was looking to make it at América, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Portugal, Sporting were living their golden age, with a forward line, known as the "Five Violins", that captured the imagination of the fans and brought them title after title. Benfica, despite being the country’s most popular and historically successful club, were facing an unprecedented sporting crisis while at the same time making efforts to solve a problem that had plagued them since their foundation in 1904: how to acquire a stadium that was commensurate with their huge support.
In May and June 1953, América toured Europe, playing 20 matches in a number of countries. In Portugal they played Benfica and beat them 3-1. A year later, when Benfica’s president Joaquim Bogalho realised that the conditions were in place to revolutionise the club's football, Otto Glória seemed the perfect man for the job. Bogalho had not forgotten the impression left by América, both in terms of the quality of their football and the organisation of the club. At the age of 37, Otto Glória became the first Brazilian coach to work for a Portuguese club.
After winning the league in 1945, Benfica had been champions only once, in 1950. In 1954, Sporting had just won their fourth consecutive title, their seventh in eight seasons. Despite lifting the Latin Cup in 1950 and four Taças de Portugal in that time, Benfica fans demanded a change. The new stadium, later known as the Estádio da Luz, was to be inaugurated on December 1: this was the time to build a dynasty.
One of the first steps Glória took was to make the players fully professional. Whereas previously they had all had jobs alongside their playing careers, he would accept only those who committed full-time to football. The crowd favourite Rogério ‘Pipi’ Carvalho was the most notable example of the change: he opted to keep his job as a salesman at a car dealership and so moved to Oriental. But he was not the only player to leave. Joaquim Fernandes, after nine seasons in Benfica’s first team, went to Torrense. Francisco Moreira, at the age of 39, abandoned his career. And Félix, another of the most admired players at the time, was kicked out of the squad for disciplinary reasons after an incident in the dressing room after a game in Setúbal.
As the players were asked to commit themselves fully to Benfica, the club began to offer them better pay and conditions. The club bought a bus and also set up a players’ home in which it was mandatory for unmarried squad members to live and where even married players had to stay for significant periods. The home had 36 bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen. Lessons were provided in various subjects, including English and rules of etiquette for behaviour in public. The objectives were clear: more discipline, better physical preparation and nutrition and regular medical checks.
The goalkeeper José Bastos, who played for Benfica between 1949 and 1959, refers to Otto Glória as "a man who did much for Portuguese football. He was fantastic, he helped a lot, he demanded politeness, he invited teachers to teach us many things besides football." According to Bastos, Glória was fundamental for the players’ development. "Before he arrived,” he said, “we lived very badly. There were players who were paid less than their wives and we started to have better conditions, wages were raised and the members of the board could no longer enter the dressing room and decide who would play."
Glória also brought tactical innovation. "All teams,” Bastos explained, “used the W-M system and he brought us the variant of the diagonal, which was what the 4-2-4 was called at the time [technically it was a step towards 4-2-4 rather than being 4-2-4 itself].” Bastos also recalled the meticulous way Glória approached the games, offering two examples. In the Latin Cup in Madrid in 1957, "in the first game, with Saint-Étienne, who usually put a lot of crosses into the box, the goalkeeper selected to play was Costa Pereira. In the final, against Real Madrid, I played because Otto Glória thought my style was the most suitable for their type of game, in which passing was almost always the first option. When we went on tour to Brazil, he told us to play in a different way than we were used to. He told us not to run after them all the time and we should only be aggressive when they were close to our box. And then we should bet everything on the counter-attack because they didn't run back that well."
Glória immediately won the players over. In an article published in the newspaper O Benfica during the first few weeks after his appointment, several players offered their opinions on the new coach. Of course, there was a lot of praise and you wouldn't expect it to be any different. But it is notable just how consistent the praise is, and the appreciation for both his training methods and how he maintained relationships with his players.
The defender Ângelo Martins said that Otto Glória "is a great coach, something out of the ordinary"; Gonzaga acknowledged that "he is exceptional. I've never seen anything like this before, especially psychologically. He knows how to talk to us like no other." Salvador said that Otto Glória prepared him "in a way I thought impossible". Costa Pereira confessed that he was "surprised in an amazing way". And Mario Coluna, a newcomer to the club and never voluble, measuring his words carefully, called Glória "a great coach".
The quality Glória’s players most appreciated was his man-management. Bastos remembers that Otto demanded professionalism from athletes and, in return, offered protection. "When we played badly, he was very tough, but then he always had a word of appreciation and never publicly blamed us,” he said. “He defended us against the management and demanded better salaries and bonuses for us, as well as always looking for better conditions to train and evolve."
He practised, in other words, precisely the doctrine he had preached on taking the job: "I demand discipline, commitment, fruitful work,” he said. “Everyone will have my friendship as long as they loyally collaborate with me for Benfica's honour and triumph."
António Simões, still the youngest ever player to win the European Cup, only met Glória during the qualifiers for the 1966 World Cup when he was national coach but he had heard of him from being elevated to Benfica’s first team from the youth ranks in 1961. "The older players,” he said, “such as Ângelo, Costa Pereira, Coluna, Águas, Cavém or Santana, all had a lot of warmth, enormous admiration and respect for Mr Otto and they attributed to him the introduction of professionalism at Benfica and in Portuguese football.”
Simões considers that there were four coaches who left the greatest impression on him in his long career at the top of European football, "all for different reasons, Béla Guttmann for his tactical cunning and psychology, Fernando Riera for being a superior man intellectually, Jimmy Hagan for the way he prepared the team and Otto Glória for his human side and for looking at the players as a whole, as both athletes and people." For Simões, the concern for the human side of the players was a constant with the Brazilian coach, which contrasted with the norm at that time in Portuguese football. "The coaches owned the players, the power was all on his side, but Mr Otto didn't treat us like that," said Simões, who defines his former manager as "a man of affection. He was completely different from everyone else. He was motivating, stimulating, appealed to courage and pride, he was good-tempered, but extremely demanding and disciplinarian. He did not allow flaws to overcome virtues. His methods foreshadowed the leadership techniques that any coach tries to use nowadays."
Simões offered two examples: "My wife was pregnant and had some problems. Without any hope that my request would be accepted, I tried to skip the training camp before a game. Not only did he let me skip the camp, he also assured me that I would be a starter. Of course, and even though I was going through a bad time, I had a great game. The other episode was for the national team in a game with Czechoslovakia. At half-time, we were down to 10 players. He gave each of us detailed tactical directions. I was the last and when it came to me, he just told me that I was a great player and asked me to play as I pleased. When I returned to the pitch, I felt that I had grown 2m tall and I still get tired whenever I watch that game as I ran so much."
When Simões talks about Otto Glória, almost all the stories are about Portugal. "I met him in the national team, and I was immediately overwhelmed with how different he was from the other managers I had dealt with before,” he said. “He was a father to the players. Then, at Benfica, it was nothing new, it was everyday life, it was the confirmation that I was looking at a man who treated us like men and not just as players. He had fun with us, told jokes and, at the same time, imposed discipline, guided us to professional and personal success, always had a word of comfort and recognition."
At half-time in the famous quarter-final between Portugal and North Korea at the 1966 World Cup, with the score at 3-2, although the Koreans had at one point led 3-0, Glória screamed at the team and appealed to the players' pride: "Are you going to Lisbon? I'm not going, I'm ashamed." According to Simões, the message worked and was decisive in the turnaround in the second half, because "all the players, as they returned to the pitch, spoke to each other and said that the manager was right, that they could not return to Lisbon knocked out by North Korea. Any fatigue we might already have was gone. He always had the right word; he was a master in that regard."
The full-back Adolfo, who played for Benfica between 1966 and 1975, reinforces the idea that Glória knew how to have two faces: "He was a fabulous man who made us feel important, had fun with us, told us jokes, but at the same time he didn't allow disrespect or lack of professionalism. I remember a training camp in Carcavelos where some players talked to some girls and when he found out about it, he brought the whole squad together and threatened us all by shouting because we weren't there to have fun."
For Adolfo, Otto Glória "was, above all, affectionate". And he mentions Portugal’s participation in the Mini-Copa, or Independence Tournament, organised by Brazil in 1972, with the participation of 20 national teams. Portugal had 12 Benfica players and most of them had been part of squads led by Glória. "When he visited us at the training camp there in Brazil, we were all very touched and genuinely happy to see him. He was an excellent person and was very important to the football players in Portugal."
Toni, who joined Benfica at the age of 21 in 1968 and had a long career at the club as a player and manager, winning many titles, highlighted Glória’s motivational qualities. "I knew how important Mr Otto was to the professionalism of Portuguese footballers and also his unique contribution to Benfica's development and the national team's sensational performance in England, but when I first came to Benfica what impressed me the most was the way he motivated the team. He had all the players in his hand and today, after so many years as a manager, I know how difficult it is to have a whole team motivated.
"He appealed to our pride, gave us 45-minute lectures before the games and nobody got sick of it. The tactics had already been given during the week. Before the games it was mainly motivation. He had experience, leadership skills and was a master of communication.”
That skill in communication was seen also in Glória’s dealings with the media. He was always an engaging interview, revealing just enough. In his first interview with a Portuguese newspaper, he said that "little by little I will try to introduce the methods and organisation of the Brazilian football departments to Benfica.” Of his famous diagonal, he said that "to reveal what my diagonal is would be to give my opponents my best weapons. We attack with seven elements and we defend with so many other players." But his most inspiring statement was that "Portuguese football, if it evolves in every way, could soon be one of the best in Europe." That sort of bullishness was not common in Portugal. In a later interview, Glória appealed to not be asked for "miracles, because I’m not a saint."
Glória was a born storyteller, always ready to embellish, particularly on the subject of himself, which perhaps explains the version of his career published by the Portuguese press after his arrival exaggerated his significance. "He was a creator of his own stories," said Simões. He also popularised a number of phrases that remain part of the Portuguese football lexicon: “you can't make omelettes without eggs" or "when the team wins, the coach is great, when he loses, he's dumb" (in Portuguese, the word used for great is ‘bestial’ and the one for dumb is ‘besta’). Whenever Glória wanted to dodge a question, he would have an amusing answer ready. The most famous one, perhaps, came when he was asked for a couple of words on a match and replied, “Only a couple of words? Good afternoon!”
Glória’s personality, the working conditions and his tactical innovations soon captivated the players after his arrival at Benfica in 1954, while his organisational skills impressed the board. The performances of the team, though, didn’t immediately impress fans and there were heated debates about whether the more cautious, passing style of play implemented by Glória was in keeping with the club’s attacking traditions.
Cândido de Oliveira, journalist and one of the founders of the newspaper A Bola – then Portugal’s most important sports newspaper – argued in favour of Glória's tactical approach. This was important backing, as Cândido de Oliveira had made a name for himself as a player in six seasons with Benfica and been Portugal's first captain, before having success as a coach at clubs such as Sporting and Porto, as well as the national team. He had also published literature on football tactics.
De Oliveira set out his case in a report headed, "The 11 of Benfica seem to have stopped playing the Benfica style... and play better!" From that and other match reports, it can be seen that, compared to the football previously played by Benfica and in Portugal more generally, there was more organisation, more focus on positioning, more interconnection between the players, more passes and less rush – a glimpse, perhaps, of modern football or, at least, its principles.
On 11 November 1954, the same newspaper published a survey of former Benfica players, asking whether they felt there was a ‘right’ way for the club to play, whether they liked the way the club was playing and whether they thought it was better than in the old days. For Albino (13 seasons; 462 games; 26 goals), "this team shows more discipline in the game". In the opinion of Francisco Ferreira (14 seasons; 523 games; 60 goals), “Benfica, in the previous season, had already used, every once in a while, the new system – four defenders, two midfielders, four forwards – but one sees more comradeship between its components.” Rogério Carvalho (12 seasons; 423 matches; 287 goals), for whom "there are only two types of football, well and badly played", considered that, "when I joined Benfica, there was really a somewhat different process of play and that was based, mainly, on the individual work of the players and a perhaps more accentuated idea of spirit of sacrifice.
In this team, I noticed a different process from the one used recently, and without favour, for the better.” In the words of Guilherme Espírito Santo (14 seasons; 285 games; 199 goals), "contrary to what happens today, the players had more freedom of action in the past, thus being able to give an outlet to their whole imagination. This team has a very pleasant pattern of play, it plays more and better, but I liked better, properly as a show, the process of the old times, in which the players had more opportunities to exhibit their ability and spirit of improvisation."
In the end, results spoke for themselves. Going in to the final day of the 1954-55 season, Benfica, Belenenses and Sporting could all have won the league. Benfica comfortably beat Atletico at the Estádio da Luz, while Belenenses went one up against Sporting, a result that would have given them the title. But with four minutes remaining Sporting levelled and, by doing so, handed Benfica the title. A few weeks later, Benfica beat Sporting 2-1 in the Portuguese Cup final to seal the double in Glória’s first season.
Glória stayed at Benfica for a further four seasons, and also successfully took charge of the basketball team for 14 games in the 1955-56 season (using the goalkeeper Costa Pereira in some of those matches). When he left, near the end of the 1958-59 season, he had managed to win, in five seasons, two league titles and two Portuguese Cups. His side went on to add a third cup in his final season, although Glória himself left before the quarter-final.
But even more important than the titles, he laid the foundations for Benfica’s European success under Béla Guttmann: organisation, professionalism, an updated model of play and a squad full of good players. Seven (Cavém, Coluna, Costa Pereira, Mário João, Neto, Santana, Serra ) of the 13 European champions of 1960-61 had been given their debuts by Glória, while a further three (Ângelo, Artur Santos, José Águas) had played under him.
Glória's departure from Benfica was a demonstration of his ability to anticipate scenarios. The end of his contract was approaching and he soon realised that Benfica wanted to move in a new direction. No one at that stage was aware that Guttmann, the Hungarian who had led Porto to that season’s title, had already committed to Benfica. It was such a well-kept secret that only two or three people at Benfica knew about it. But Glória preferred not to wait for the club to tell him his future and signed a contract with Belenenses, even though that meant leaving Benfica before the season was over.
He was at Belenenses for a season and a half, winning the Portuguese Cup (the second in the history of the club, or the fifth if you count its previous guise as the Campeonato de Portugal) and also the Cup of Honour of the Lisbon Football Association in 1959-60. Midway through the 1960-61 season, Glória moved to Sporting, but his links with Benfica hung over that venture. He himself didn’t seem happy at Sporting, publicly criticising the quality of the squad at his disposal. "I can't make omelettes without eggs," he said, using one of those aphorisms, which drew a lot criticism, including from the newspaper of Lisbon's second biggest club. Glória came to be nicknamed “Watermelon” because "he was green on the outside, but red on the inside", alluding to the colours of Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, and his exit from the club followed soon after.
Glória went on to work for Marseille, Portuguesa de São Paulo, Vasco da Gama and Porto, without a huge amount of success, although the latter’s second place in the championship and in 1964-65, when they also reached the final of the cup, represented one of the club’s best seasons of the sixties (they didn’t win the title between 1959 and 1978). Yet, surprisingly, Glória returned to Sporting for 1965-66 and won the league for a second time there, only to leave at the end of the season because Sporting wouldn’t match an offer from Atlético Madrid.
Before he went to Spain, though, Glória first took charge of Portugal at the 1966 World Cup. Even being there was something of an achievement. Portugal’s only previous significant performance on the world stage had come in 1928 when they took part in the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. To reach England, Portugal had had to eliminate Czechoslovakia, Romania and Turkey, which they did by winning their first four games of a qualifying competition in which Eusébio scored seven of their nine goals.
Portugal were drawn with Hungary, Brazil and Bulgaria and won all three group games, making Glória the first Brazilian successful to win a match against Brazil. He was heavily criticised by his countrymen for the way he had João Morais, a Sporting defender, man-mark Pelé, effectively kicking him out of the game. But one Brazilian newspaper didn't shy away from praising one of their own: "We have paid off a debt of 466 years. [The Portuguese] Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil and [the Brazilian] Otto Glória has just discovered football in Portugal."
After beating North Korea in the quarter-final, Portugal faced England at Wembley. Many in Portugal still protest about Nobby Stiles’s aggression as he marked Eusébio, the tournament’s top-scorer with nine goals, but it was no different to the way Morais had dealt with Pelé. England won 2-1, and Portugal then beat the USSR in the third-place play-off.
In Madrid, Glória, as in 1954, took over a club inaugurating a stadium. They had two outstanding payers: Luís Aragonés, who later coached Spain to success at Euro 2008, and Jorge Mendonça, a Portuguese player whom the Spanish call Mendonza. Fourth place in the league impressed nobody, and further stagnation the following season led to Glória’s return to Benfica, two further league titles and a European Cup final.
Glória returned to Brazil in the seventies and was in charge of Portuguesa in the controversial 1973 Paulista championship. In the final, the referee declared Santos the winner only later to acknowledge he had miscounted in the penalty shoot-out, leading to the title being shared. There was then an African Cup of Nations triumph with Nigeria in 1980 before another stint as Portugal national coach. With the qualification process for Euro 84 beginning poorly, Glória quit, citing fatigue and ill health.
He went back home, for one final job as coach of Vasco da Gama, the club he had always loved. He died, in 1986, at the age of 69.