Former PM sidelined as media spotlight falls on Mourinho

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The Independent Online

Portugal's leading private television station revealed the priorities of the nation when it broke off an interview with a former prime minister to switch live to the homecoming of Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea football manager.

The former conservative prime minister, Pedro Santana Lopes, walked off in a huff when his words were cut short so that SIC television – a channel that specialises in Brazilian soap operas – could broadcast the triumphal return of the self-proclaimed "special one" to Lisbon late on Wednesday.

"To be interrupted because of the arrival of a football coach... I think the country has gone crazy," Mr Santana Lopes told his interviewer on the SIC Noticias programme. "I'm not going to continue this interview. People will have to learn." The former PM had been explaining his Social Democratic Party's election plans when he was abruptly upstaged. "I like Mourinho," he insisted afterwards. "But I won't be interrupted by the arrival of a football coach. There are rules."

Mr Santana Lopes is fully aware of his compatriots' enthusiasm for football. He was a popular sports commentator before he entered national politics. During the 1990s, he was chairman of Sporting Lisbon – the very club that later signed up Jose Mourinho as translator for Bobby Robson during the Englishman's stint as manager.

Mr Mourinho went on to coach rival Benfica, then Porto, before moving to Chelsea, the club he left last week "by mutual consent".

Despite his trip back to his native country, Portuguese hopes that their returning hero might lead their national football side appear doomed.

Mr Mourinho seems to have outgrown his homeland, and has ruled out coaching at home for the time being. He says he wants to coach a big or up-and-coming European club.

The television station said Mr Santana Lopes's walkout was "out of place and disproportionate".

"Mourinho's arrival was the news event of the night. The decision to broadcast live from Lisbon was taken during the programme in the light of events," said Ricardo Costa, the channel's news director.

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