The national closing championship kicked off last weekend but the obsession with hiring and firing coaches threatens to turn the competition into a farce.
By Eric Weil in Buenos Aires
Argentinian Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona, said recently: “A coach is dismissed when his team loses two or three matches in a row. When a centre-forward misses a goal, they look at the coach as if he had missed it. We are all crazy.” He was expressing an opinion which has become more and more common in Argentina (only in Brazil does it happen with more frequency).
The domestic championship, whose “clausera” or closing championship kicked off last weekend, has become more of a tournament between coaches than clubs and their players. Fans have encouraged by the media and directors to think coaches are the chess players who are supposed to move the players around like chess pieces during a match.
Exactly half of the 20 national championship’s top division clubs started the closing tournament with a different coach from the one with which they began the season.
Former national team coach Daniel Passarella said: “In general, coaches have about 20 per cent – no more – of the responsibility during the week in getting results and even less during the match itself. Yet they are usually given almost 100 per cent of the responsibility by fans, media and club directors who, after all, are the ones who buy and sell the players and make most of the bad decisions, yet are judged less responsible.”
Many players complain that they cannot understand the instructions given by the coach. Recently, it happened at River Plate under Diego Simeone, at Independiente under Claudio Borghi and then in the national team under Alfio Basile. But of course the players only registered their complaints after the respective coaches left.
“We didn’t know what we were playing at,” said Lionel Messi the other day, referring to Basile’s stewardship of the national team. Yet one would expect these high-earning stars wearing the national shirt to know what they were playing at.
To build a good team – especially with players the coach did not pick in the first place because club officials handle transfers – takes time, but coaches are never given time unless they get good results quickly, which is often a question of luck. What I always found laughable is how the same coaches flit from one club to another, being successful at one and failing at another, demonstrating how much is down to luck and the quality of the players rather than than the abilities of the coach.
In fact, team-building ceased to exist in domestic football a long time ago because of the wholesale changes of coaches and players – mainly transfers abroad of the best – made from one 19-match tournament to the next. Sales which depend more on the club’s directors than the coach.
Famous retired players may get more patience as coaches and be given more time, as was the case of Diego Simeone at River Plate (who finished bottom in the last tournament) and now Diego Maradona, the new national team coach, even though local opinion polls showed 70 per cent opposition to this choice.