Forget Nancy: meet the new first lady of football

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The Independent Football

When Luiz Felipe Scolari is faced with a difficult team selection decision, there is apparently only one individual whose opinion really counts - that of Olga, his wife of 31 years.

Whether the conversation over the Scolari dinner table later this summer will revolve around David Beckham retaining the captain's armband or Michael Owen being forced into retirement remains to be seen. The Football Association confirmed yesterday that it was discussing terms with the current Portugal manager to take over from Sven Goran Eriksson as England coach after this summer's World Cup in Germany.

If he accepts the £3m-a-year job, the highly rated Brazilian-born manager will find himself in one of the most closely scrutinised posts in sport. The FA, seemingly without irony, has described it as among the biggest jobs in the world.

But after five years of the Sven and Nancy Show, the circulation-boosting saga of the loves and losses of the current England manager, the domestic relations of his successor designate are less likely to get the blood pressure of Britain's red-top newspaper editors racing.

The Brazilian football coach, who likes to build his players into a "family", prides himself on his stable home life and Olga is given joint credit for his success.

One friend from the city of Porto Alegre, where the couple met 40 years ago, told The Independent: "They are peas in the same pod. Felipe and Olga are the first team in his life. They grew up together. He discusses everything with her."

Another colleague, Joao Garcia, added: "He doesn't take a decision without consulting his wife. Olga told him to take [Brazilian midfielder] Kaka to the 2002 World Cup instead of Djalminha. He obeyed her."

The contrast between Mrs Scolari, 56, and her predecessor as the consort of the England team coach, the glamorous Italian lawyer (and self-confessed footballing ingenue) Nancy Dell'Olio, is considerable.

Whereas Ms Dell'Olio has grown used to the attentions of paparazzi, given the amorous tendencies of her partner, Olga has enjoyed relative anonymity, following her husband around the world in his coaching jobs from Saudi Arabia to Japan. Ms Dell'Olio's killer heels, big hair and designer catsuits are likely to be ousted by a pair of comfy jeans and an artist's smock belonging to Mrs Scolari, who is an accomplished painter when not jointly masterminding a new off-side trap or midfield diamond.

The couple are childhood sweethearts. They met in Port Alegre when the 16-year-old Olga Pasinata was working at her family's hotel in the town and the 17-year-old Felipe was doing a part-time job as a petrol pump attendant between playing football. Scolari legend has it that the couple got together while Felipe was "looking after" Olga, his best friend's girlfriend, while the friend was away.

The pair married nine years later and Olga, a biology graduate, gave up her job as a teacher to follow her husband in a coaching career which has seen him serve as manager for Brazil, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Japan.

Mr Scolari, who takes pride in firing the passion of his players, makes no secret of his enduring ardour for his wife. When asked why he had not watched a tape of an England match before Portugal's quarter final against them at Euro 2004, he said: "I have a tape of it but I won't be watching it when I get to my house. I want to see my wife - if you know what I mean."

The couple have two sons - Leonardo, 20, who last year completed a law degree and has his eye on a diplomatic career; and 14-year-old Fabricio who, according to his father, will be loath to leave the family's current home on the edge of Lisbon. Despite Mr Scolari's celebrity status, they have stayed out the media spotlight in Portugal.

For Mrs Scolari, moving to England would apparently be a dream come true. Her husband said two years ago that she would "love to live in Florence or London".

Whether she will feel the same after a few months of the scrutiny that awaits any England manager is unclear.

A tale of two (other) halves

Olga Scolari

Age (real): 56

Age (for PR purposes): 56

How they met: Fell in love with Felipe while working in her family's hotel. He was reputedly "looking after" her for his best friend.

Life outside football: Biology graduate and former primary school teacher.

In my spare time I like to: Paint pictures as a member of the San Diego Museum of Art's Guild of Artists, look after my two sons and discuss free kick options with my husband.

Most likely to say: "I think that nice John Terry should be captain. David Beckham should be freed to express his creativity with the ball."

Least likely to say: "Felipe, why are there reporters at the door asking about a holiday with your secretary and a television presenter that you never told me about?"

Footballers' wives rating (in chardonnays): None, in a homely "I don't like high heels, gold taps and SUVs" kind of way.

Forgiveness rating: Low, in a "We've been together for four decades and my husband is mad about me" kind of way.

Nancy Dell'olio

Age (real): Understood to be mid-40s

Age (for PR purposes): 38

How they met: Allegedly playing footsie under the table on their first date. Sven then took it upon himself to inform Nancy's then husband he was a cuckold face to face.

Life outside football: Left behind a career in law and Italian politics, as an early member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia Party, to run The Truce - a project which brings football to children in war zones and refugee camps.

In my spare time I like to: Sit in Claridge's having high tea, look sad yet stoical in the face of the latest front-page article about my partner in the News of the World and write the diary I am going to publish after the World Cup.

Most likely to say: "Love and football are the same - full of ups and downs and every couple of weeks someone seems to play away."

Footballers' wives rating (in chardonnays): A full cellar. Sequinned catsuits, smouldering looks and an example of Italian footballing consort chic to outclass anything in Alderley Edge.

Forgiveness rating: Seemingly endless.

Managers' wives

Debbie Klinsmann

Wife of the German coach and former Tottenham striker Jurgen Klinsmann, Debbie is from Orange County, California. Jurgen controversially decided to stay living in the US while coaching the team so that he could be with his family. He commutes to Germany twice a month. Fans say he has committed the crime of loving his wife more than the game.

Sandra Carvalho De Sa

Sandra has been married for 31 years to Zico, otherwise known as Arthur Antunes Coimbra, the Brazilian football legend who scored 52 goals in 72 games for his country, and is now coach of the Japanese national team. The couplegrew up living next door to each other, and Zico's brother is married to Sandra's sister.

Estelle Denis

The 32-year-old wife of the French coach, Raymond Domenech, who took over after Euro 2004, is a football journalist. After commentating on games and presenting for several sports shows, she is now the face of the French television programme 100% Foot. In 2004, she gave birth to their daughter, Victoire.

Emily Dugan