- Jose Manuel Figueira is set to achieve a rare coaching feat
- Team Wellington to debut at upcoming FIFA Club World Cup
- Spanish by name, English by birth, proud New Zealander
By his own admission, Jose Manuel Figueira is a football fanatic. And it is a good thing too, because it is harder to imagine someone that has successfully managed to “keep all the plates spinning” than the English-born New Zealander.
In a rare feat, Figueira is set to coach two different teams at two different FIFA tournaments over the next nine months. He will lead out Team Wellington for their FIFA Club World Cup debut next month in the United Arab Emirates, and will return to the big stage with New Zealand at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, having successfully guided the nation’s youngest national team through their recent qualifiers.
Figueira somehow also finds time to provide his expertise as an assistant to New Zealand’s senior national team. The coming month also marks his return to a FIFA tournament after a decade’s absence, having featured as a national team assistant at the maiden edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, hosted by New Zealand.
It sounds like the resume of a grizzled coaching veteran. In fact the opposite is the case. At just 36, Figueira has achieved much since arriving in New Zealand in 2003 with his sights on a career in coaching.
In that sense, the upcoming month is a dream come true. Should Team Wellington progress past host nation representative Al Ain, they will have a shot at competing among the world’s best, headlined of course by the iconic Real Madrid.
The chance to match football wits with the star-studded Madridistas would be a dream date for any football coach, but for Figueira it would be particularly poignant. Though born and bred in England halfway between London and Brighton, Figueira’s lineage is distinctly Spanish. The family arrived in England just before Figueira, who speaks fluent Spanish, was born.
Figueira continues an unlikely Spanish connection, with long-serving Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx a Barcelona native The Aucklanders have, of course, been familiar figures at the Club World Cup, having competed at every edition dating back to 2010 when Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United featured.
Team Wellington had come close to breaking that hegemony over several seasons, and the capital club finally got their reward after seeing off their compatriots last April en route to the OFC Champions League crown.
“The first emotion is one of excitement and going to experience rubbing shoulders with some of the best players and clubs in the world,” Figueira told FIFA.com.
“But more than that we are a team that wants to challenge, compete and show our personality on the field. We realise the task ahead is huge but it is something where we are going to give our absolute all.
“The biggest thing I would like to see is for us is to replicate the way we want to play on the biggest of stages. We want to show ourselves in the best light and represent our region well.
“Who knows what can happen on the day? We have seen it before at the Club World Cup and other FIFA tournaments, we have seen before that the small dogs can upset the big dogs, so we are looking forward to testing ourselves.”
Figueira speaks with passion when asked about the principles he has built his team around: “I like my teams to have the ball, to attack and to make things happen. It is very much a philosophy based on positional play and players that are good on the ball and trying to dominate through those concepts.
“The challenge for us is to stay true to our principles against professional teams, and players at the top level.”
It remains to be seen if the debutants can match the heights reached by Auckland City in the past. But whatever happens the TeeDubs, as they are affectionately known, will lack little for ambition given the passion with which Figueira speaks.