Monday, July 21, 2008

ALWAYS ON THE MOVE: THE NOMADIC LIFESTYLES OF FOOTBALL COACHES

A football coach’s job could at times innocuously pass for a real life version of the ‘musical chairs’ – that all time favorite game during our school going days. One moment you are sitting pretty and fully in charge, the next minute you’ve been unceremoniously displaced (or rather replaced) and everybody quickly move on as if nothing really happened.

But if the thankless job of a coach could vaguely mirror the merriment of going round and round in circles trying to beat the other competitors to the closest seat, the technicalities and intrigues that go along with the job is anything but child’s play. And given the guaranteed job insecurity of the profession, coaching is quickly becoming a globetrotting vocation that only the bighearted dare to undertake.

Inevitably, the aftermath of the Euro 2008 has been the flurry of movement by both club and national coaches across the continent. For some its a classic case of a push finally coming to a shove, yet for a few lucky ones, its either a case of making a big break and landing the highly coveted plum job or simply moving on to other alluring challenges.

For some strange reason, neither success nor failure has come out as the standard yardstick to prompt a change of guard at the helm, during this close season. Newly crowned European champions Spain together with Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands form the motley of countries that have opted to hire new coaches in the wake of their respective performances at Euro 2008. At the club level an almost similar trend has recurred at Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan and of course Ajax Amsterdam.

Fenerbahce bound Luis Aragones must be a happy old man having accomplished a feat that for so long eluded so many coaches before him from his native Spain . In as much as it’s common practice for victorious coaches to step down in honour and glory after achieving a conquest of this magnitude, I wonder what more would motivate a man approaching his septuagenarian years in the daily rigors of a job in which he literally has to supervise a bunch of playful charges as young as his own grandchildren. No offence here, but I would have thought the old man should be whiling away his time in the serenity of a seniour citizen’s home somewhere in Madrid.

Without a doubt, the big winner has got to be Carlos Queiroz, Sir Alex Fergusson’s longstanding understudy at Manchester United. However, with limited experience at the national level only having had a brief spell with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, I reckon what awaits Queiroz’s in Portugal is far from a sinecure. Vincente Del Bosque is the other man who has finally contrived a deserved and long overdue step-up into the big league of national team coaches. But with his appointment coming in the wake of Spain’s momentous achievement and the 2010 World Cup looming large, the former Real Madrid boss has his job well cut out right from the onset.

As for the losers, the name Marco Van Basten surely stands out. The shocking and acrimonious ouster of his Dutch team at the hands of Russia reduced the legendary AC Milan icon into a forlorn and disconsolate figure. But he too will have a much needed timeout as he cools his heels at his beloved Ajax Amsterdam.

Typically, as you would expect of Jose Mourinho, the ‘Special One’ has not hesitated to announce his return in a big way. Going by his quick overtures to his old boys at Stamford Bridge, Ricardo Carvalho and Frank Lampard, it seems he already knows which directions to look as he seeks to reinforce the Serie A reigning champions.

But the one thing that I still can’t explain though, is how AC Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti managed to evade the hangman’s noose after his team’s mediocre performance last season. All said and done, he’ll surely need his new signing Ronaldinho to quickly rediscover his magical touch of yesteryears for him to keep his job much longer.

(In memory of former Harambee Stars coach Reinhardt Fabisch who passed on last Tuesday in Germany. May the Almighty rest his soul in peace.)

1 comment:

Ted said...

The name Vincente Del Bosque conjures very fond memories for me. Many may not remember the former Real Madrid coach who took the reigns from Irish man John Toshack mid season during the year 2000 campaign. At the time of his appointment, Los Merengues were languishing at the 17th position of la liga. Del Bosque who prior to his appointment was in charge of the Madrid junior team managed to turn around the team's fortunes, finishing 5th and clinching that season's champions league.
Winning the champions league was particularly sweet considering that in the semi finals Real turned the tables on Beryern Munich who had given them a convincing back to back thrashing at the group stages of the tournament. Prior to the semis, Real had taught Man-U,the then reigning champions,a soccer lesson beating then 3-2 at old traford. Real proceeded to make light work of Valencia in an all Spanish final, outclassing them 3-0

Del Bosque won a total of 2 la liga titles and 2 champions league titles before being replaced by Carlos Querez in 2003 as part of the ridiculous philosophy that also ushered in the era of the Galaticos at Real.
It is difficult to predict whether Del Bosque will deliver as national team coach, however am convinced that he has what it takes to carry on the high standards set by Luis Aragones. During his days at Madrid, he was known for his calm disposition and professionalism that earned him the respect of the players and admiration of the home fans.
Go for it Vincete!
long live Real!
long live Spanish Soccer!d