Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Thoughts

Do you need more proof that what I have said is true?

First, obviously, I was dead on when it comes to Beckham. (See Walters Wednesday, May 28, 2008 Post Off The Top Of My Head). It’s the Pele fiasco all over again.

The coaches’ revolving door is still revolving, sometimes with the same club. And, the style of play still makes every game a crapshoot. Anyone could wind up champion.

Beside being unproductive, the accepted style of play which I detest is potentially dangerous. Consider the danger posed when two players running wildly toward the ball, like cars flying downhill without brakes, jump simultaneously trying to head the ball. Head injuries generated by this type of collision are common and, one day, could lead to a fatality. Do they really think this is the kind of action fans pay to see?

Moving on, because I could not find a GM with guts enough to hire somebody like me, somebody who will change their current system of play which requires tossing the ball high into the air, I have put my money where my mouth is by investing in a club in Uruguay that has fallen into economic hard times. Do you doubt my level of commitment?

Anyway, my team starts to play next weekend. I must see how the coach performs. We have talked and it seems like we are on the same page. But, if he does not understand my message, I will not hesitate, like any good GM, to step in and start coaching myself. Then, I will prove I’m more than an opinionated old timer.

Just to refresh your mind, I will stress to players “good” treatment of the ball - like it was their first girlfriend. My style requires that players move the ball up the field in steps, not with NFL-style kicks. They should not leave the proximity of their own boxes and wind up with four backs in a line having coffee with the goalie. There must be a buffer zone! It’s no wonder that when a player from the other team volleys the ball, the goalie can’t see it. THAT LINE OF FOUR FULL BACKS is the ANTI-FOOTBALL.

You can keep tabs on my team here.

I’ll be traveling to Uruguay in late October.

Be aware that it is possible for a small club to race to stardom. This club, Huracan, is in Second Div. B, has claim to First Div. B, and, later to First Div. A.

Of course, money is a pressing issue. This year expenses will be covered by me. Next year, who knows? We already have one sponsor, but we need many more. Hopefully, my efforts to raise more money will pay off before my pockets run dry. My life has become a true reality show.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Off the Top of My Head

(Editor's note: My friend, Ace Toscano, asked me to post my thoughts on the state of soccer, today. Following are my responses to his questions.)

Oh, my man! People may not like what I have to say, but, good, maybe it will generate some comments.

Who do you think will win the Olympic Gold Medal for soccer?
Who will win the Gold? Like I have said before, THE TEAM THAT IS LUCKIEST! As long as the coaches promote this ping-pong style of play, anybody can win.

And let's not forget the $$$$$. The teams with more money are stronger - their players will literally roll over their opponents like a speeding train.

Last week they played the final game to see who would be the European champions. In the game between Manchester United and Chelsea, after they played the regular 90 minutes, plus 30 in overtime, the score was still 1-1 on two lucky goals. They then had to go to penalty kicks. Embarrassingly, some of these kicks, which are so easy you can make them with your eyes closed, were missed.

Up here in the National League, competition is so even, there's little difference between the best teams and the lousiest. One coach, talking to reporters after his team lost 5-1, blamed the loss on personnel, formations and offensive shortcomings. Poor excuses! The real cause was lousy coaching. Eventually, he'll get fired but another team will pick him up and as a result of this revolving door policy, the game will continue to stagnate. What they need is a coach like me. As I've told you before, their whole approach to the game is wrong.

You asked what I think about Beckham. It's the Pele fiasco all over again. Sure, he can push the ball a long way into the other team's box, but you know what happens with long balls? right? If you see him taking another guy in a dribble, ALLELUIA!! But, to his credit, he's not beating people at night and getting drunk where the paparazzi can see him. He is a roll model. And, he has the looks (like us, remember Ace?) but he can't play the game. Oh, I almost forgot, he also married a pretty girl. Like us!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Campito - The Lessons of Maracanazo

Uruguay has a long and illustrious history. They were world champion 4 times – two Olympic Championships before the world cup and two after. For a country of only 3 million, they produce more world class players than any other country.

Many fans wonder why Uruguay has not won a world championship in 58 years. Here, I intend to give you my two cents on that subject.

First, there’s the issue of the Campito (playground, sandlot). This has always been a haven for youngsters to develop their skills, but, as cities expand and vacant lots become scarcer, there has been less opportunity, except in rural areas, for this kind of development. I believe there can be no real progress until the Campito returns to its former importance as a training ground.

Another factor standing in the way of winning is the coaching. Coaching has become a restricted community. Ex-players who know the game frontward and backwards aren’t able to become coaches because they haven’t completed the required 3-year training program. Whatever the reasons for this complicated process, one thing is for sure – it keeps many talented coaches out of work and places many without the proper know-how on the field. You cannot underestimate the importance of this point - the coaching situation is a cancer on football in Uruguay.

Let’s get back to the Campito. Not only is it a place where physical skills are developed, but also mental and leadership skills. On the playgrounds leaders naturally emerge. Later, when they join organized teams, those with leadership qualities assert themselves and become team leaders. The best example of a team leader was legendary great Obdulio “El Negro Jefe” Varela, the black chief.

Let’s go back to the championship game of 1950. The Brazilian machine came out and scored a quick goal intending to bury the underdogs from Uruguay. It was the street-smart Jefe who slowed down play by placing the ball under his arm and initiating a prolonged discussion with the referees. This not only calmed down the 200,000 wild Brazilian fans, it took the momentum from the great Brazilian players.

Then, after a Brazilian defender fouled Alcides Ghiggia hard, Schubert Gambetta (Mono “The Monkey” Gambetta) took the first opportunity to return the favor to the Brazilian defender and, while they were on the ground, he relayed the message that if he should foul Ghiggia again he would kill him, literally or figuratively. From then on the Brazilians were less willing to mix it up and, ultimately, this cost them the game. This stunning defeat of Brazil is referred to as the Maracanazo.

This is just one example of how attitudes and styles developed on the playground transfer to the big field. The chain of events immortalized at the Maracanazo, unfortunately, would not repeat themselves today. Rather than learn in the playground and on the streets, todays players come up through a succession of soccer camps where their first impulse is to run to the referee crying foul. They have no idea of how to work out problems on their own. Where are the Gambettas of today?

I was recently approached by a group in Uruguay who wanted me to explore several possibilities. For one, they would like to form an alliance with a professional team from anywhere in the world. This relationship would be like a farm team. I am eager to help them in this regard. They also asked me to give them the benefit of my coaching experience. Here, however, there seem to be several issues regarding coaching that I have to investigate when I travel to Uruguay this spring. I’ll let you know what I find out. Still, regardless of the situation in Uruguay, I would be willing to travel elsewhere and to organize, coach and co-sponsor a farm team anywhere else in the world.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Farming in Uruguay

In case you didn't know, my native Uruguay is fertile ground for developing the futbol stars of tomorrow. I believe U.S. soccer teams have overlooked this resource. Players could not only gain experience by competing against players from Brazil and Argentina, they could also compete for the Copa Libertadores (Liberator's Cup). I would be interested in organizing and coaching a farm team. I'm willing and I'm available. Get back to me, pronto.