Meet 'Gordiola' - Brazil's larger-than-life answer to Pep is making history at Ceara

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Guto Gordiola Ferreira Pep Guardiola Ceara Manchester City GFX
The burly coach takes great pride in his nickname, and is presently doing a fine job living up to the comparison to Manchester City's manager

Guto Ferreira has travelled the length and breadth of Brazil during his long coaching career.

However, a moniker first bestowed upon him in 2014 during his time in charge of Ponte Preta now follows him wherever he goes: 'Gordiola' (Fattyola).

“We had a great campaign in Serie B, and [famous Brazilian journalist] Flavio Prado, a diehard Ponte fan, ended up paying tribute to me with that nickname,” Ferreiro explained to reporters in 2019.

Rather than be offended by the reference to his weight, the 55-year-old takes enormous pride in being compared to coaching icon Pep Guardiola. 

“[The nickname] was really great because it helped to smash the stereotype of the fat man," he explained. "Fat people face quite a lot of rejection and all that brought new appreciation for my work.”

Ferreira is certainly earning plenty of plaudits for the job he is doing right now with Ceara.

He led the club to victory in the prestigious Copa Nordeste at the start of 2020 – a title he also won with Bahia – and, in Serie A, they claimed 11th place and a spot in the Copa Sudamericana, meaning participation in continental competition for the first time in 10 years.

There were several memorable results along the way. Champions Flamengo were beaten home and away, while Sao Paulo giants Corinthians were defeated in Fortaleza. Perhaps the most eye-catching result, though, was a 4-1 thrashing of Vasco in Rio.

That fine season led to overtures from Atletico Mineiro, who reportedly wanted Ferreira to replace the Marseille-bound Jorge Sampaoli.

It would not have come as a surprise to see 'Gordiola' move on, given a coaching career that spans almost two decades has taken in more than 20 stints at 16 different clubs.

For once, though, the much-travelled Ferreira decided to stay put, signing a new deal with Ceara, meaning he is presently gearing up for their defence of the Copa Nordeste, as well as the upcoming Cearense State Championship.

Guto Ferreira PS

Interestingly, Ferreira comes from a non-football background, not having played the sport to any notable level. He received a university degree in Physical Education in his native Piracicaba, Sao Paulo state, and began working with the youth team of local club XV while still in his 20s.

His promise was soon recognised by Brazil's biggest sides, and he went on to perform the same job at Sao Paulo and later Internacional, where he took future World Cup winner Lucio under his wing and won the 1998 Junior Copa Sao Paulo, the nation's most important youth tournament.

In 2002, Ferreira was appointed coach of Inter's senior team, but despite victory in the State championship, he lasted less than a year. There followed a tortuous path through the lower reaches of the football pyramid, as well as spells in Portugal with Penafiel and Naval, before he put his name on the map once more with Chapecoense in 2015.

Chape embarked on a thrilling adventure in the Sudamericana under Ferreira, downing his former club Ponte Preta and Paraguay's Libertad to reach the semi-finals. There, newly crowned Libertadores champions River Plate awaited.

A 3-1 defeat in Buenos Aires left Ferreira's charges with a mountain to climb, but they pushed the Millonario all the way in the return leg, winning 2-1 to fall just short of the last four.

The following year saw Chape lift the Santa Catarina State title but, in June, Ferreira opted to leave to take up the vacant post at Bahia.

His successor, Caio Junior, would go on to lead the club to the final of the Sudamericana, which ended in tragedy when the team plane crashed outside Medellin, killing the coach and almost the entire Chape squad in a catastrophe that echoed around the world.

Ferreira was left distraught by the accident, initially refusing to speak to any members of the press as he tried to overcome his grief.

He later told a press conference: “It's something you cannot explain, when you are at work you spend more time with them than your own family. I know practically all of the guys who were there.

“It is a very difficult time, horrible, you try to look for the words to say something, but you have nothing to say. It's an unspeakable feeling, so painful. I am here, imagine those back there [in Chapeco]. It is traumatic, to see it cut short like this is so hard, so sad.”

Guto Ferreira Chapecoense GFX

Ferreira has since become one of the fiercest defenders of the so-called 'Caio Junior Law', which aims to give coaches further protection and, among other safeguards, provide mandatory life insurance for the security of their families.

Initially resented by the Chape support due to the manner of his exit, the coach made an emotional return to the club in 2018 with the spectre of the LaMia tragedy still looming, before losing his job towards the end of the season.

From there, he went on to Sport Recife, taking the club up to Serie A and lasting more than 50 games prior to his dismissal at the start of 2020, which made possible his move to Ceara.

He might have gained comparisons with Guardiola – a name he insists he only accepts when it comes with affection: "It cannot be used pejoratively or in a discriminative sense” – but Ferreira's Ceara side are far more pragmatic than Manchester City, or any of the Catalan's former sides.

“There is a type of play for every squad,” Ferreira told ESPN . "Ceara have good technique, but it is an extremely competitive team, so we are working more defensively while also being incisive and attacking.

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"First and foremost, though, it is a team that looks to stop the opponent playing and then, from there, play its own game.”

The Fortaleza outfit nevertheless netted 54 times in the Brasileirao, the sixth-best tally of the entire league, and with 20 players getting on the scoresheet, showed that their goals could come from anywhere in the pitch.

Ferreira will now be aiming to do even better than in 2020, and he will be one to watch both in Brazil and the Sudamericana as Ceara look to prove this year's success was no flash in the pan.