BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hugo Faria cut his teeth alongside one of the greatest players of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now he is determined to pass on his own wisdom to the latest batch of gifted Livingston kids.
Faria, now 32, was one of the hottest prospects in Portuguese football as a youngster, enjoying a stint in Porto’s youth team before making his name with home-town club Louletano.
He won 14 caps for his nation’s under-20 side and played alongside some of the most talented Seleccao stars to emerge in recent years, including Raul Meireles, Hugo Almeida and Real Madrid icon Ronaldo.
A journeyman career would subsequently take him to Romania, Cyprus, Malta and Greece. But he never forgot the lessons learned as a teenager.
Faria told Capital City Press: “It was a great experience to work alongside great players – Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, Danny, Hugo Almeida – there was a lot of talent in the squad and you were always learning.
“I played in the Porto youth academy with some great players but, in all the time there, I did not get selected for the national team, despite people thinking that would be the easiest route – playing for a big team.
“I went back to my home-town club, Louletano, and I was called to play for the national team.
“In that time, Cristiano [Ronaldo] was just starting to show his quality – he is two years younger than me, so he was 17-years-old. But he already had the mind and the mentality to look forward, try to improve and get better every single day to achieve his targets.
“You can never say that you expect someone to become one of the best players in the World, but you cannot be surprised by his success when you see how he works.”
Faria, a summer arrival at Livingston from Greek side Apollon Smyrni, won a six-month deal at Livi after impressing during a trial period and he will combine his playing responsibilities with coaching duties alongside Mark Burchill and David Hopkin.
He continued: “If I can help my teammates here and use my experience for the academy players, then that is something I want to do. I have always had in my mind that I would like to do coaching.
“Livingston has a very good record of producing talented players and I would love to play a part in that, and Scotland has a fantastic reputation in Europe for having one of the best coaching courses. That is something I would like to do.”
Faria’s arrival on these shores is largely due to his relationship with Livi gaffer Burchill, who was his teammate during a spell with Enonis Neon in Cypriot football.
And he already knows plenty about the Scottish game – thanks to the former Celtic striker’s tales of starring in the Hoops, with his three-minute hat-trick against Jeunesse Esch a regular highlight.
Faria added: “He would always be talking about Celtic. He would say ‘you know, I scored the fastest hat-trick ever’. I have heard it all many times!
“But we had a great time there and if we can bring that good environment to the dressing room here, that can only be good for results.
“When we played in Cyprus, we had a lot of conversations about Scottish football and I used to watch a lot of the games on TV and the computer. So I had a good idea what I would face.
“I have always had in my mind that I would try British football one day and I am delighted to be here.”