December 8, 2013
There’s coaches and coaches
Some even need to be psychologists
Argentina’s Initial soccer championship still has five rounds to go, but so far only four clubs have changed coaches during the present campaign which is below the usual average. The four clubs (Colón, Quilmes, Racing and Tigre) are in the bottom six of the table and likely to stay there which brings back the old joke mentioned in this column — not a joke really, but strange — that clubs transfer or lose their best players and then sack the coach because he could not get a successful team together with the rest. But there are coaches and coaches.
Some coaches (example Ramón Díaz) obtain most of the new players they ask for, then the team still does not click and one gets the impression that they go after name players who may have done well at other clubs, without studying whether they would fit well into the team. Of course, River Plate also have the reputation of selling their best players because they need the cash due to bad administration. It should not be difficult to make a player fit into the team if he is a good player, but here the impression is that some coaches just do not go the right way about it to teach them.
Some clubs hire coaches just because they won titles with them before (Carlos Bianchi, Ramón Díaz). Not a very clever idea. It may be the same title-winning coach, but not the same title-winning team. Other coaches resign (before being dismissed) because they say they cannot do anything with the team. They may be right if the club management got the wrong players, a situation the coach has to work with. At least, he should keep his job for the next season to see if management can get the right players for him.
However, constant team changes, with transfers in and out among the 20 top division clubs after every 19 matches, which are often near the 200 mark, are a powerful reason for the poor standard. Club committees cause most of the problem. There has always been suspicion that club officials take a cut from transfers out, especially players going abroad. But they do try to comply with the wishes of a coach in getting him the players he asked for and after a few games they put another coach in charge.
There was a lot of commotion when Quilmes coach Nelson Vivas attacked a fan who had hurled abusive language at him during the game. Vivas was dismissed, but often coaches take a lot of abuse from fans and cannot stand it. The trouble is that local fans still feel that coaches, not players, are responsible for losing a match. A coach may have no more than 20 percent to do with it.
On the other hand, a coach must be much more than just a team selector and many are not. He must be a motivator and a bit of a psychologist and not just spend time shouting bad language at the players, or blaming the referee, although often he is right.
Former international and ex-Racing defender Roberto Perfumo once told that when José Pizzuti was hired as Racing coach they were bottom of the table, but he said nothing to the players on the first few days which left them puzzled. He was studying the players, then slowly made changes and took the team to the league championship in 1966, then the Libertadores Cup triumph and before them became the first Argentine club to win the Intercontinental Cup.
It continues to be strange how mostly the same coaches here move from club to club, being dismissed from one club for lack of success and then being signed by another hoping for more success. It seems one reason for stagnation. But there are good Argentine coaches such as José Pekerman, successful with Argentine national junior teams, not so much with the seniors, and now successful with Colombia’s national team qualified for World Cup; Marcelo Bielsa, currently not working, does not seem too keen to do so as several European clubs want him; Gerardo Martino who also took over Newell’s Old Boys when facing relegation to the league title.
This season, Martino took over Barcelona, where we said he was on a hiding to nothing, as the Spanish club were on the top of the world and the only thing he could have done to succeed was to keep them there. He says he does not take the credit for it. There are humble coaches.
Ricardo Zielinski took over Córdoba’s Belgrano at the end of 2010 and took them into the top division in 2011 where they have now become one of the leading clubs. He says the coach must adapt himself to the players he has available — not the other way round — and make the best use of their capabilities. Do many coaches do that? Zielinski never promised anything, like a lot of coaches do when they take over a new team. He knows the team’s limitations and just plans to win a good number of points. He knows that promoted teams find it difficult to stay up. His first objective was to do just that.
COPA ARGENTINA BACK
This season’s Copa Argentina began this week with lower division teams, only shortly after the previous tournament ended with the final won by Arsenal. There are more entries than last year — 261, of which 62 are newcomers. There are no changes from last season which means the tournament continues with its vices. In spite of useful cash prizes and a Libertadores Cup place for the winner, leading teams will again field reserves in most matches and many of these will be played in far away provinces even if the rivals are from Buenos Aires.
The recent final between Buenos Aires teams Arsenal and San Lorenzo was played in Catamarca. Although there was a 20,000 attendance, it would have been bigger in Buenos Aires and caused less inconvenience for players and long suffering fans.
In yesterday’s editorial where it said there were “only 15 months of overlap” between the lives of Sergio Massa and Juan Domingo Perón, it should have read “27 months.”