When I get sorta nostalgic about the Uruguay National Team, I remember this is no longer the Uruguay National Team just El Maestro Tabarez’ expensive toy train-set, his to do as he wishes, his to wreck, to derail, his to put back on track when he wishes or sadly IF he wishes!
Recently I wrote about Uruguay’s chances of getting into the 2018 World Cup, largely depending on EPIC FAILS from Chile and Ecuador, nothing is written and anything is possible in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. In fact, I still remember Colombia blasting 5 goals on the last day of Qualification in the 2002 WC Qualifiers against Paraguay at Asuncion! The moral of the story is, anything goes in South America, see FIFA’s ridiculous reversal of Messi’s ban. Lets face facts, Uruguay plays in one of the most Corrupt Football World Bodies, with perhaps only CONCACAF being slightly more corrupted. That said however, there’s no doubt in my mind that despite CONMEBOL’s preferential treatment with regards to Argentina, Uruguay’s shit state of football – see recent 5 game losing streak – speaks more about the fading masterwork under Tabárez than CONMEBOL’s corruption.
This piece – written by Juan Delacolombes for Correo De los Viernes, shortly before Uruguay were to face Jordan for the Intercontinental Playoffs in 2013 – goes a long way into explaining our mounting frustration with El Maestro Tabárez. I translated a few choice morsels but I recommend reading the full article in its original castellano:
“There is something curious about El Maestro Tabárez: he enjoys popular support, he has the backing of the Frente Amplio government – with whom he sympathizes -, he has the support of the soccer authorities, he has “good press” and, fundamentally, oversees all the national team teams, something which is absolutely extraordinary in Uruguayan soccer. In addition to that, he earns one million dollars per month. We do not know exactly how much, but surely much more than the previous managers of the national teams. No other national team manager had those advantages and yet, his results are more or less mediocre like those of his predecessors.”
“It represents the Uruguay of this time: a country which conforms itself with little, which is less and less demanding and yields mediocre results. We resign ourselves to the repechaje, but because El Maestro likes to speak and say supposedly learned things and, until now, has a certain power of conviction, the press sees as triumphs what has been a series of very poor performances.”
“He came to impose “a process”, an expression that those who fought against the dictatorship probably cringe at when hearing. But, short of memory, Tabarez imposed “his process,” according to which, he is responsible for all national teams, he manages the group at his whim, he takes care of all the details, he … calls up the players. Everything passes through his supposedly expert eye, which already led us to failure in the World Cup in Italy in 1990.”
… “We suppose that this “process” on which Tabarez has spoken about ad nauseam – self-advocating his own work – was destined to avoid what we now show pitifully: few goals, little creation, weak defense. Process???”
This is probably one of the few critical pieces about El Maestro you’ll see from Uruguay’s media, by large Uruguay’s media continues to spot Tabárez a heavy dose of brown-nose points. But there was another piece, to me the Rosetta Stone in explaining El Maestro’s modus operandi. This other piece written by Paul Gardner who must be close to 90 by now appeared on SoccerAmerica around 2010, Gardner originally interviewed Tabárez back in 1990, he began his article with a question:
“Twenty years ago, a few months before the 1990 World Cup, I asked the same question of two national team coaches (Tabárez and Bobby Robson): Did they feel under any obligation to play attractive soccer?” … “England’s Bobby Robson said Yes – “We’re in the entertainment business … we owe the fans something.” Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez delivered a curt No, saying his team owed the fans only one thing: “To win.” – shortly before the piece degenerated into an article about MLS, Gardner offered this, “Of the answers given above, I much prefer Robson’s — but it is that of Tabarez, the bleak insistence that winning is the only form of entertainment that matters, that has gripped the sport.”
And therein lies the problem, as these two juxtaposed articles written in different periods skirt around the same issue, Tabárez plays for the result and nothing more, don’t expect improved performances, better passing, call-ups to fix glaring problems… Tabárez got us into the semifinals in 2010 which is why la AUF is fairly indifferent to replacing him, but outside of that, this “jugar a nada” … this style of play preferred by Tabárez post 2011 to present, this is really the ONLY way Uruguay has known for 50 plus years, the small expedition out of the wilderness in 2010 was only that, an aberration. If the manager for the 2018 Qualifiers were someone else he would’ve gotten replaced a long time ago, but like Uruguay’s media who fails to see anything wrong with what we’re witnessing, Uruguay’s football body – today not worried about an unexplained 5 game losing streak but in restoring points taken away from Bolivia to have a one point edge over Chile – also sees nothing wrong with what Tabárez has done as of late. What doesn’t help matters is when players like Godín and Suárez defend Tabarez to death which they should be doing I guess but when the media doesn’t check those sentiments, the status quo remains the same. What problems do we have when Uruguay’s so-called Worlds’ Best players see nothing wrong?
Back in 2002 thru 2006 it was the players who always botched things up, it was always their fault, they didn’t play with enough Garrá or Hustle. The Media back then did take subtle jabs at Passarella, Púa, and although they went to town on Carrasco, re-upped the Alcahuete treatment for his replacement Fossati. But back then we were allowed to blame the players for everything, today the players are exalted to near rock star levels, their war with Tenfield is not viewed as an unnecessary distraction but a public good therefore they’re not to blame for anything, therefore maybe its all CONMEBOL’s fault? – I dunno, living in New York, not being exposed to the ins and outs of Uruguayan misery maybe taints my perspective a bit – I do know when this nonsense started (Player Rights fight) however good the intentions might have been pulled Uruguay into the the abyss as far as qualification goes. Casal can’t touch Godin or Suárez, so I don’t think it has anything to do with some nefarious conspiratorial plot by Uruguay’s reigning Sith Lord, Paco Casal, yet these players reemerged from that the Tenfield battle torn and tattered. Their focus seems lost. The players get paid to play football, not to sit around and write long legal ramblings about fighting an unjust system. Who can forget the embarrassing goal Alexis Sanchez scored on us last year, I thought they would’ve at least hunkered down on defense but they turned around and gave us a stinker of a performance against Brazil.
In fact nothing much has changed since Uruguay lost to Venezuela in the Copa Centenario, there was a small glimmer of hope when we defeated Ecuador at home in Qualification but that was it. The slide to mediocrity after being on top of the leader-board early in qualification is astonishing. But we’re 4th, we’re still not out of it some might say. With all the CONMEBOL orchestrations we’re seeing, reversing Messi’s ban, making sure Argentina gets in, Argentina’s AFA paying a ridiculous sum of money to rescind Sampaoli’s contract with Sevilla, am I the only one getting nervous? I mean who knows, its possible Tabárez and his think tank can reverse the tidal wave but it sure don’t feel like it. Put simply, we’re more worried about being one point better than Chile but aren’t the least bit worried that Argentina is coming to town. Tabárez got the win over Sampaoli’s Chile in a friendly match played two years ago, but that was 2 years ago, when we were on top of the Qualifiers, today Uruguay are nowhere near that form.
Another recent article, shortly after Uruguay lost to Ireland, saw this little pearl of wisdom offered up by Uruguay’s Mandamas, “It’s very difficult for players to jump from a youth team to a senior side, they’re a minority” ––– meaning don’t expect Bentancur, Valverde or Amaral, stupid! I hark back to the Delacolombes article, is this what he means by “proceso”? All I know is that come August 31st, we’ll be closer to oblivion – Pray for a draw!
Enjoy your whatever’