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Ángel Cappa, the coach at the centre of football

23 Jul 2020   ·   

He started his career as a coach for the Argentine national team and César Luis Menotti’s FC Barcelona forty years ago. Since then, he has developed a football philosophy based on love. Love for football. By means of the sensitivity and knowledge of what this sport is, with a willingness to love and enjoy it. It is how a coach should face the management of a team. There is a reason why his sports ideas are still marked by what he lived as a child in the humble neighbourhood of Bahía Blanca, in Buenos Aires, where he was born. The local bully was feared, the good footballer respected.

Cappa’s fundamental premise is to approach football without fear. You cannot coach a team ruled by fear of its rivals. A team must have a game strategy and the coach must choose the most suitable players to deliver it, the strategy must always prevail. The guarantee is the coach, who for Cappa is the most important part of that entire chain.

The game strategy

When working on a model, it must be clear that you cannot control football. Data overload about an opponent can be completely useless or produce the opposite effect to the one desired. In order to explain this idea, Cappa gives an example: In a match at the Carlos Belmonte between Albacete and Real Madrid in the 94-95 season, he explained to his defence a strategy that the locals used to apply in corner kicks. Direct pass from Salazar to Óscar, Barça’s youth squad, to shoot a volley. They reviewed that play before the game, during the match they warned each other in each corner, but that was useless to prevent them from doing it and scoring in the minute 85. There are situations you simply cannot control.

Videos should be applied to correct players own mistakes and not focus on studying the other teams. Besides, from his experience, a footballer does not pay attention to the images for more than ten minutes. You have to find your own concept and work on it in training always based on game actions.

Specificity of physical preparation

In the physical section, Cappa recommends a specific football preparation. A game rehearsal. Teaching he remembers from Cruyff. When it was said in a broadcast that a team had covered 12 kilometres on average, the Dutch coach reacted by saying: “they must have been playing really bad.” Everything has to be based on speed, not on the player’s speed, but on the ball’s speed. You have to work in that direction.

The scheme

Cappa is not disturbed by the team’s layout on the grass. He believes in a natural disposition of the players. The only certainty he has is that it takes four to cover the width of the field. Everything else, he considers it has to be an equitable distribution of spaces.

Ball possession

In the eternal debate on ball possession, Cappa becomes impatient with those who argue that it is better to have a lower possession percentage and win because he considers it a sterile debate. A false dilemma because possession is a necessity of the game, not an aesthetic option. What you have to focus on is why you have the ball for. You must not pass just for the sake of passing, to maintain possession. You have to always do it with the aim of creating goal opportunities.

Football history is a sad voyage from pleasure to duty

Cappa also rejects the speeches that speak of suffering to win a game. It makes him sad to hear expressions saying the players have to work, suffer. To produce, in the end, as in an alienating job. The writer Eduardo Galeano already anticipated it with his aphorism: “Football history is a sad voyage from pleasure to duty”.

Football must be to enjoy, and you have to play well because in that way it is impossible to suffer. If you have the ball, you not only do not suffer but also play, you do not work. The footballer must have the illusion of playing.

In the face of the opinion that in today’s football there are no spaces to develop this type of game, Cappa agrees, but precisely for that reason, because you have to play to generate them, something that can only be achieved by means of deception, mobility and pause. Contrary to what is generally believed, when a footballer stops, he makes football faster. Footballers must raise their heads and think. A habit that he has always tried to instil in his teams by means of exercises such as stating as a rule in the practice games that it is not possible to score if there were two touches, thus forcing the players to attend to the situation of their teammates.

The coach at the centre

One of the key elements of his model is in the control of the times. It is there where the role of the coach lies, the most important. He has to help the player understand the game because footballers play with what nature gave them. The secret is always to understand the logic of the game because it is ruled by an order that must be disordered. It is there where the role of the coach lies.

Years ago, Cappa remembers, there was no coach. They gave very few orders. Now he defends that it has a didactic function, which is important that it be done without reproach. Especially in grassroots football because the most valuable quality a footballer will have in the future is confidence, and that is what a coach has to work on, to make it stronger. Not in any case we have to reproach. Anyway, if a young footballer makes many mistakes, he chose the wrong profession.

The excess of orders is not convenient either. During the half-time, just the right ones should be given. You cannot correct plays that have already happened. It is more important to motivating the player so that they go out more confident in the second half. One of the professionals he mosts respects, Arsenio Iglesias, once told him that he only gave his players talk in the morning in order not to disturb them for the rest of the day.

Definitely, what you should run away from are the coaches who understand physical training as a punishment. He does not understand how there are coaches who brag about performing exhausting sessions. Training must not be used to expend energy, but to accumulate it. The key is always in the footballer not running behind the ball but in favour of the game. That is what makes a team not to become fatigued. A conclusion anticipated by Maradona. When Fernando Signorini, his physical trainer, reproached him that he was making even worse marks than him when running in training, Diego replied: “then you play on Sunday.”

Álvaro González


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