Did Foreign Coach Fail Team Russia?
Published: July 4, 2014 (Issue # 1818)
In their search for a scapegoat for Team Russia's dismal performance at the World Cup, Russian football fans have focused on two lines in coach Fabio Capello's resume: nationality and salary requirements.
Capello, 68, is an experienced Italian club team coach, but has had a patchy track record with national teams. He is also the highest paid of all trainers at the World Cup.
The coaches of 15 of the 32 teams playing in the World Cup are not citizens of the nations they are representing. The trainers of six of the remaining eight squads vying for the World Cup title — including Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands — were born in the countries they are coaching.
While a variety of factors can influence a squad's performance at the World Cup, in the current tournament, having a native coach appears to contribute to a team's success. This factor, according to Russian football analysts, is even more crucial for Team Russia.
"Russia has its particularities," Yevgeny Lovchev, a Soviet footballer who played in the 1970 World Cup and the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, told The St. Petersburg Times. "Russians have a different mentality. They are not like Europeans. We understand which buttons to press and how people will respond. Foreigners cannot grasp this."
After the Russian men's national hockey team was humiliated on home ice at the Sochi Olympic Games in February, coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was sacked. While other national hockey federations — including those of Latvia and Belarus — resorted to foreign coaching expertise long ago, the president of the Russian Hockey Federation insisted that the team's next coach would definitely be homegrown.
But while the issue of foreign hockey coaches is problematic in Russia, there have been internationals among the football squad's training staff for nearly a decade. Dutch nationals Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat headed Team Russia before Capello.
Unlike hockey, football is not considered innate to Russia, despite the sport's long history in the country, insiders said. The rainfall of petrodollars over the past decade has led to a shift of mentality, boosting the belief that it is more effective to buy advanced technologies from abroad than develop them at home. The world's best football trainers — much like kitchen appliances or leather shoes — come from Europe, and the hiring of Capello is just another example of Russia buying a shiny object from abroad, they said.
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