Red Racing CarAndre Villas-Boas, the former football manager, has transcended the sport he knows so well, and stepped into the world of rally driving. On 29 November 2017, Villas-Boas announced his departure as manager of Shanghai SIPG FC to participate in the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally, driving with Team Overdrive.

The Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally is an annual off-road endurance motor-race, consisting of 14 stages. The race used to start in Paris and the drivers would cross the finish line in Dakar, Senegal. However, due to security concerns, the event has been held in South America since 2009. This year, the race started in Peru on 6 January and is due to finish in Argentina on 20 January via Bolivia, requiring drivers to endure arduous terrains and driving conditions: using off-road vehicles to cross sand dunes, mud and rocks.

How did Villas-Boas become a Dakar Rally driver?

Andre Villas-Boas has won the UEFA Europa League with Porto, and achieved an unbeaten season with the same club; he has won the Russian Premier League with Zenit St. Petersburg and had a stint managing in the Premier League.

After spending a year in Shanghai, Villas-Boas quit his managing role and joined Team Overwatch as a Rally Driver – following the footsteps of his uncle who participated in the same event in 1982. The former title-winning manager was in 43rd position in the fourth stage of the race before crashing into a sand dune, which left him in hospital. Fortunately, Villas-Boas did not suffer any broken bones – only citing some pain in his spine and back – but he has exited the competition.

This news may be surprising and slightly unexpected but it is not the first time an athlete has competed in a sport outside of their usual trade.

In 1994, Michael Jordan replaced a basketball with a baseball bat, joining the Chicago White Sox one year after retiring from the NBA. Jordan played for the White Sox’s minor-league affiliate the Birmingham Barons, scoring three home runs and stealing 30 bases. After one season, Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls to continue his basketball career, having dabbled in baseball, his ‘first love’, for a season.

Brock Lesnar – the former World Heavyweight Champion on WWE – eventually moved across to the UFC to compete as a mixed martial artist in the Octagon as a heavyweight fighter. This was a high-profile career change, which saw Lesnar win five fights, lose three and become the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion.

A similarly successful change of sport came when Adam Gemili decided to turn his sights from playing for Dagenham & Redbridge in the English Football League to athletics. In 2012, Gemili won the 100m gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona with a time of 10.05 seconds. He also won two silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and two gold medals at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

More recently, Borussia Dortmund, a German football club competing in the Bundesliga, offered trials to Usain Bolt who has declared his ultimate ambition is to play for Manchester United. Since London 2012, speculation has endured as to whether the fastest man on Earth would be utilised on a football pitch. We shall wait and see.