Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Lessons from Uruguay: The Human Element in a Championship Team
by Ricardo Guerra, August 4th, 2011 12AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ
TAGS:  copa america

MOST COMMENTED

[STATE OF THE GAME] One of the biggest challenges confronting head coaches in professional soccer today is managing different players' personalities. In a society that worships individuals and deifies celebrities, there is perhaps no bigger task than convincing a superstar athlete with an oversized ego to favor the interests of the team above his own.

The most successful coaches are the ones who are able to get the best out of these complicated individuals or who are able to recognize when such “divas” are irretrievably toxic to the team and drop them. They also choose players who believe that playing for your country is an honor, which is why, no matter how talented, a player whose first priority is his own celebrity should not be selected for the national team.

The most effective coaches also understand that qualities such as respect, empathy, pride, and selflessness must permeate the team and each of its players. A player will only come into full maturity once those core elements are acquired. You cannot have the player without the human being.

What a shame, then, that some individual players on the international stage have recently shown themselves to be oblivious to this human element, displaying self-centered, diva-like behavior. It is not uncommon these days to see professional teams in many sports, not just soccer, with players in their midst whose primary concern is self-promotion at the expense of the group. Such characters, in wanting to be the center of attention in a team sport, create havoc and, like cancerous cells, eventually contaminate the whole organism. The culture of sport, in its fascination with celebrity, has lost its appreciation for the human element.

The Uruguayan team that won the 2011 Copa America and finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup stands in admirable contrast to such trends. They were tactically disciplined, well organized, and lethal in the counterattack with the play of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez up front. On the back they were led by the solid play of their captain, the caudillo and a veritable Wall of China, Diego Lugano.

How can a little country with fewer than 4 million people have so much glory, pride and honor in the way they play soccer? Players on the Uruguayan national team understand and honor the sacrifices of previous generations by sacrificing everything for the country, knowing their responsibility, and putting the interests of the team above their own at all times.

Their play is a display of guts, resilience, and the promise to each other in the field never to surrender. They fight and fight until the very end. They have a truly warrior-like, team-first mentality that is a pleasure to watch.

The head coach of the squad, “El Maestro,” Oscar Tabarez, has always made mention of the need to form human beings and the man before the player. The camaraderie and cohesion of the Uruguayan team was clear in the way the players talked about each other in interviews, by the reactions of the substitute players on the bench when a goal was scored, and by the exhilarating way the players came together in the field.

They also paid tribute and graciously addressed every opponent following matches. Tabarez made the reading of the biography of the iconic captain of the 1950 World Cup team Obdulio Varela mandatory for all players. Varela was a fierce, relentless defender who had the respect of all his teammates, compatriots and opponents. He epitomizes how a player should carry himself both on and off the field.

Following the historic win against Brazil in the 1950 World Cup final that traumatized the Brazilian nation, Varela declined to celebrate with Uruguayan officials, whom he did not hold in the highest regard.

After his victory, he chose instead to go out on the streets of Rio by himself to console the inconsolable -- those who had just lost the Cup on their own soil.

It is evident that Tabárez was able to infuse the spirit of Varela, the spirit of both the human being and the player, into the heart of his team. Perhaps it is just that which leads to a remarkable championship team.

(Ricardo Guerra is an Exercise Physiologist. He has a Masters of Science in Sports Physiology from the Liverpool John Moores University. He has worked with several clubs and teams in the Middle East and Europe, including the Egyptian and Qatari national teams. The writer can be contacted at rvcgf@yahoo.com.)



0 comments
  1. Bruce Moorhead
    commented on: August 4, 2011 at 5:22 p.m.
    Fascinating read, Ricardo. As a coach I know how important team comraderie is. Hats off to the exciting and hard-working Uruguay players! It seems Argentina and Brazil can learn from them.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
U.S. Abroad: Gonzalez debuts for Monterrey    
Jonathan Gonzalez, 18, made his Liga MX debut, starting for Monterrey on the opening day of ...
U.S. Abroad: Schoenfeld's Maccabi advances in Europa League    
Aaron Schoenfeld was the only American who advanced in UEFA play this week as Israel's Maccabi ...
Making a List: Top 20 PDL prospects    
Each summer, many of the top college players scatter across the country to play for PDL ...
Business: AT&T remains with MLS with new presence    
AT&T, the title sponsor of the MLS All-Star Game for seven years (2010-16), remains as a ...
What They're Saying: Olivia Jimenez    
"In my humble opinion, I believe that it's absurd to be able to represent my country, ...
USA-Costa Rica: Tico threat, simple things and big picture    
After Wednesday's win at the Gold Cup, U.S. coach Bruce Arena admitted he didn't know much ...
U.S. women: Uncapped trio picked for summer series    
Three uncapped players -- Abby Smith and Midge Purce of the Boston Breakers and Taylor Smith ...
Mexico-Jamaica: Rematch of 2015 final on tap    
Mexico and Jamaica will meet in a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup final Sunday in ...
MLS confirms implementation of VAR after All-Star Game    
Video review, using a fifth match official in a booth equipped with monitors that are used ...
Video Pick: Meet MLS leading scorer Nemanja Nikolic    
Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic is on pace to break the MLS single-season scoring record. In this MLS ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives