Coach Leao beaten during visit to former club

SAO PAULO: Brazilian coach Emerson Leao was attacked and beaten by a group of old foes during a visit to his former club.

Leao, a former Brazil coach and goalkeeper, was attacked by eight men at the entrance hall of Santos’ headquarters on Thursday after meeting with directors to negotiate past payments owed by the club.

Leao, who was not seriously injured, said among the men who beat him was a security guard he fired during his tenure as coach of the two-time Brazilian champions earlier this year. Leao also said members of a fan group that constantly opposed him at the club were involved.

Security cameras captured images of the men charging toward Leao and throwing punches at him as he raised his hands to protect himself. At one point, he fell on his back while trying to escape from the attackers.

One of the assailants used an iron bar to try and hit the coach, who eventually was able to run back inside the club until police arrived.

“I wouldn’t be here talking to you if he had hit me with that,” Leao said.

Leao, who currently coaches Qatari club Al-Saad, had to leave Santos escorted by police cars.

“The images will help us investigate those responsible and they could face a one-year prison sentence,” police inspector Joao Milhan Goncalves told Brazil’s SporTV.

Leao’s latest tenure at Santos began last December and lasted until he resigned after the team’s elimination from the Copa Libertadores in May. He had already coached the club two other times, including when it won the 2002 Brazilian league title.

Earlier this year, he was heavily pressured by fans who were unhappy with his coaching tactics and hard-nosed attitude. Several times he was jeered and called “stupid” during games.

Leao coached Brazil briefly in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. He played for the national team in the 1970, 1974, 1978 and 1986 World Cups. – AP

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