MANILA, Philippines -- The new head coach of the Philippine women's volleyball team is no stranger to the country.
Jorge Edson Souza de Brito, who was assigned by the FIVB to work with the national women's team this week, learned about the Philippines through one of Brazil's volleyball icons -- Leila Barros.
Barros, now a senator, became a darling to Filipino fans when she played for the Brazilian national team in the FIVB Grand Prix in Manila in August 2000.
"Leila once told me that if ever it struck my mind to move elsewhere, I should be moving to the Philippines," said Souza de Brito.
"I'm very happy to have this chance to come to the Philippines, it's an honor," he also said. "I love volleyball and I love the passion Filipinos have for volleyball. They love the sport so much — and there are a lot of fans."
The 54-year-old coach is now looking forward to seeing the country for himself and helping develop the women's volleyball team.
Souza de Brito's contract runs for two years, according to the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF), and his contract is subsidized by the FIVB.
"I could be the fatherly-type, but I want to push myself and the team, work hard to achieve goals," Souza de Brito said of his coaching style.
To familiarize himself with the local volleyball landscape, Souza de Brito watched videos of the Philippines' campaign in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, as well as the recent tryouts held in Subic.
The Brazilian mentor will be working with national women's team coach, Odjie Mamon, and his assistants Tai Bundit and Grace Antigua. Their goal is to get the team ready for the Asian Women's Championship that the PNVF hopes to host in August, as well as the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam this November.
Souza de Brito admits that he does not expect the women's team to be battle-ready for the August competition, but has high expectations of them come the SEA Games.
"It's too early to make a change for the Asian championship, but for November, it would be different," he said. "Four months is actually not enough a time, but we’ll do our best, some changes will happen."
Souza de Brito is familiar with the Asian volleyball scene, having done the coaching rounds in Japan in the 2006 FIVB Women's World Cup. He also mentored the Korean Air Jumbos, a men's team, in the Korean league from 2015 to 2016.
Ahead of his two-year stint in the Philippines, Souza de Brito already has an idea of what he wants to accomplish.
"We build a new one, a new order," he said. "Each country or continent has its own way of playing volleyball and it's impossible to change everything."
"But I'm looking forward to make the team stronger and make the athletes understand the sport better. We all have to work altogether so we can see what kind of volleyball we can produce," he added.
Souza de Brito has two Olympic titles to his name, having been a middle blocker for Brazil in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and having served as an assistant coach to the Brazilian women's team in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The coach said that winning an Olympic gold medal is incomparable.
"It was amazing, I can feel my body shaking, it’s a very special moment for all athletes. It was the best emotion in my life," he said.
This is something that he hopes to duplicate in some fashion with the Philippines. "I want to repeat that feeling again, in the Philippines, in the SEA Games," he said.
The FIVB has pegged the first day of Souza de Brito's two-year contract on July 1, according to PNVF president Ramon "Tats" Suzara.
"Coach Jorge has to have time to transition from his family and from his job as coach of Brazilian club Clube Duque de Caxias, which he has been mentoring since February last year," Suzara explained.
Souza de Brito lives in Curitiba, a city in the southern part of Brazil. He is married to Raquele Lenartowicz, a 37-year-old former professional player. They have three children — Julia (13), Anna Muiza (nine) and Helena (four). His daughter from a previous marriage, Marina (23), plays for Jackson State University, an NCAA southwestern division 1 team.