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I HAD dinner with the Special One last Friday. Well, not exactly just me and Jose Mourinho but I and about 50 others with him as special guest. It was awe-inspiring enough to cap a hectic week.
Even though this Portuguese football celebrity was seated at another table easily about 15 metres away from me, the man's aura filled the entire restaurant called "Samplings On The Fourteenth" at Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur. He had after all been voted one of the world's 10 most influential men in 2010 and dubbed the Special One.
Despite the sharp wit and scathing cynicism he is known for, this former manager of Chelsea and now the man in charge of star-studded Real Madrid came across as quite simple and very friendly.
He looked very comfortable in jeans, polo shirt with a jacket on top, and sneakers. And he seemed to wear a permanent smile.
Mourinho was passing through Kuala Lumpur having been in Singapore the previous day as a guest of the republic's Olympic Foundation. With Euro 2012 in full swing, he seemed to be rushing with his tight schedule in this part of the world, squeezing a few hours in Jakarta and a few more in Kuala Lumpur.
His whirlwind stopover in the Malaysian capital was at the invitation of tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan, who also graciously hosted Friday's dinner.
It was a quick visit and an even snappier dinner during which Mourinho generously obliged requests to pose for pictures. When he came to our table, I could see he was very tired but managed to ask him how he had been enjoying his brief stay.
"Very good," he said. "Saw the sights of Kuala Lumpur. But just a little bit."
He had called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Putrajaya earlier that day. It is understood that one of the places he spent time at was the KL Central Market and the people who took him there said he was quite fascinated with the local handicraft.
If only he had more time, his hosts could have arranged for him to visit the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca where he could possibly bump into long lost distant cousins from the de Costas, Theseiras, Singhos, Oliveiros families, etc. Or he could even hop over to the Eurasian Club just a stone's throw from Berjaya Times Square with the likelihood of more relatives awaiting.
Mourinho may not be the indisputable greatest football manager the world or even the English league has ever known. But every fan knows the charm from this man -- not only the way he inspires but also the way he carries himself and the things he says. And we can't deny that the press have made him into what he is today.
Here's a sample of the wit and the charm that is Jose Mourinho:
"AS we say in Portugal, they brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal. I would have been frustrated if I had been a supporter who paid STG50 (RM200) to watch this game because Spurs came to defend." -- accusing Tottenham Hotspur of being overly defensive in a crucial 2004 Premier League tie.
"IF he helped me out in training we would be bottom of the league and if I had to work in his world of big business, we would be bankrupt!" -- what he said about Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in March 2005
"I SAW their players and manager go for a lap of honour after losing to us in their last home game. In Portugal if you do this, they throw bottles at you." -- on Manchester United in May 2005.
"WE are on top at the moment but not because of the club's financial power. We are in contention for a lot of trophies because of my hard work." -- on leading the title race in February 2005.
"PLEASE don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a Special One." -- when he took on the Chelsea job in 2004 after leading Porto FC to become European champions.
"YOUR question sounds gay to me." -- when he was twice asked recently to give a clue about the type of defender he was looking for.
"IF they made a film of my life, I think they should get George Clooney to play me. He's a fantastic actor and my wife thinks he would be ideal." -- after a good run at Chelsea.
Many of those at Friday's dinner were neither Real Madrid nor Chelsea fans but they were mesmerised by Mourinho just the same.
There was one who even asked him to make a comeback to the English Premier League and replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. That, I guess, illustrates the appeal and charisma of this Special One.