Football - Soccer-Cape Verde coach shadows Mourinho before Nations Cup debut

PRAIA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Cape Verde Islands have turned to the 'Special One' for inspiration as they prepare for their debut at next month's African Nations Cup finals in South Africa.

The island archipelago has sent national team coach Lucio Antunes to spend this week in Madrid shadowing Real's Jose Mourinho where he hopes to pick up some special insights from the world's most colourful coach.

Cape Verde, who caused one of the biggest ever upsets in Nations Cup qualifying by knocking out Cameroon, will face the hosts in the opening match of the Jan. 19-Feb.10 tournament.

The youthful-looking Antunes, 46, was seen on worldwide television on Tuesday sitting in the stands above the Madrid dugout in a blue Real windbreaker watching the Spanish giants comfortably beat Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League.

He will observe Mourinho at close quarters until Sunday, taking in Saturday's La Liga match at Real Valladolid.

Antunes' week-long stay was personally arranged by Cape Verde president Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who contacted Mourinho for his assistance, the country's A Nacao newspaper reported.

"It's a very emotional experience and a great reward for all the team's work," Antunes told local reporters.

The coach, who has taken time off from his job as an air traffic controller to coach Cape Verde, helped the 'Tubaroes Azul' (blue sharks) eliminate four-time Nations Cup winners Cameroon over two legs in a final round qualifier in October.

They will kick off the tournament against South Africa at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Jan. 19.

Cape Verde's government is paying for a pre-tournament training camp and last week announced the issue of a special commemorative stamp to celebrate the Nations Cup qualification.

Antunes' visit to spend time with Mourinho follows a similar exercise by Sabri Lamouchi, the former France international who took over as Ivory Coast coach in June.

Last month Lamouchi watched one of Mourinho's training sessions ahead of the Champions League match with Borussia Dortmund in Madrid and called it an "extraordinary experience.

"Mourinho pays great attention to detail and transmits such charisma and strength to his players," Lamouchi told reporters. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)