When you first talk to José Tavares, you’re greeted by a charismatic and kind individual who exudes confidence. At the same time, it’s quickly noticeable that Tavares is a scholar, a deep thinker, and is mesmerized by design and structure; in another life, he could have taught architecture at a university.
“I love the structures, but I love the moving structures. I like creating things that move and that interact. So the interaction for myself is really important. So, when you ask me about my [socccer] philosophy, it's about having heart inside of it, and really connecting it with science.”
Tavares grew up playing in youth academies in Portugal, but early on he realized he could take his soccer career further by going through the coaching route. He studied sports science and physical education at university and finished at the top of his class. He started coaching at the ripe age of 22 years old.
Coaching was something that Tavares had knack for, and he quickly rose up the ranks. After furthering his footballing education in London by getting his master’s degree, he was immediately invited afterward to coach at the youth levels at the prestigious Portuguese team, FC Porto.
He started at the U-14 levels, worked his way up to the first team, and eventually being entrusted with the newly formed B team of FC Porto. It was here where he was directly involved in the transition of young players from the Academy to the first team. Like your favorite college professor, Tavares is passionate about developing others. Not just as players, but as humans too, because he believes the two should be intertwined.
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“I'm someone that wants to live my life, developing myself and helping others, as human beings and professional players.”
“I am more than a football coach, because I really care about the players that I have, the staff that sits around myself and other people. Because if we are happy and if someone is caring about someone, we can give more.”
FC Porto and Portugal as a whole is renowned for their youth development. Very few countries produce professional players at the rate that Portugal does, and Tavares has overseen the development of hundreds of youth players, many of which have been sold to some of the biggest clubs in the world.
Not only has Tavares done a stellar job of preparing his young players for first team football, but his teams have also won along the way. He’s a winner of more than 11 titles during the time in FC Porto's first team, reserve team, and academy, including the Liga Portugal 2 title and the UEFA Youth Champions League – first time accomplishments for the club.
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Everything has gone right for Tavares in Porto so why Charlotte FC? Tavares is leaving FC Porto with remarkable achievements that have drawn international attention. First team coaching jobs were on the table for Tavares, including one in the Premier League.
Believe it or not, Tavares started out as a fan of CLTFC. He’s watched every single match the Club has played and kept a close eye on the Academy process. It wasn’t just one factor that drew him to the Crown, but several. Even the city’s nickname played a part in his decision.
“When a friend of mine told me about Charlotte that was applying to be a new franchise, and I said, oh, I understood the Charlotte history, the culture, everything that was related with the team. And when I found out that Charlotte is the Queen City. I really got interested in that because my favorite band is still Queen. Okay, I love Queen. And this is strange now, but I found a lot of coincidences.”
Add to that the appeal of building a team from the ground up in a region brimming with young talent and things begin to click. The priority of the MLS NEXT Pro team is to serve as a bridge between the Academy and the first team which is exactly what Tavares oversaw so successfully at Porto.
He’s the perfect fit for the role but it’s much more than that. For José Tavares, Charlotte FC isn’t just the next step in his career, it’s his destiny.
“I’ve been for the crown inside of myself for a long period of time. It's not something for myself, it's not a job or a project, it’s something bigger than that. I can’t explain it, but I really think and feel that I need to be there.”