INTERVIEW-Soccer-Video game puts coach on road to World Cup glory

WINDHOEK, June 11 (Reuters) - A coach whose enthusiasm for the trade was forged by the ‘Football Manager’ video game will be thrown into the deep end on Wednesday when Nambia host African champions Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier.

Ricardo Mannetti, 38, won more than 60 caps for his country, played at the African Nations Cup finals and was a professional in the league in neighbouring South Africa but had no desire to coach.

It was only after hours of playing the video game with his brother-in-law that his interested was fired.

Seven years later he takes charge of Namibia for the first time hoping for an upset victory that will keep alive their remote hopes of qualifying for next year’s finals in Brazil.

“I wasn’t into video games before that, I never had any interest in playing them, but Football Manager captured my imagination,” Mannetti told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

“I was always winning and everyone said it proved I would make a good coach.”

Shortly after retiring from playing, Mannetti accepted an offer to coach his boyhood club in Windhoek after they were almost relegated.

“I thought ‘let me give a shot’ and that’s how I got into the job,” he said.

He won the Namibian Cup in his first season, finished second in the league and soon after moved on to the country’s biggest club, Black Africa.

In 2010 the Namibia Football Association brought Mannetti in to work with their junior teams.

He was then serving as an assistant to national coach Roger Palmgren when the Swede suddenly resigned on Monday after a month in the job, citing fears for his safety after an alleged altercation with a drunken fan.

“I’ve seen managers come and go but I didn’t see that one coming,” said Mannetti. “I’m a little bit nervous if I’m honest.

“It’s a big challenge for me and I just want the nation to shift the focus now from Roger on to the game.”

Mannetti said he had to move quickly to plot his strategy against Group F leaders Nigeria who have four points more than third-placed Namibia after four of their six matches.

One downside, he added, was that it meant there was no more time for video games. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)