Gustavo Alfaro, the coach who revived Ecuador and wrote a book on how he led them to the World Cup

In 2006 Gustavo Alfaro followed the German World Cup as analyst for a Colombian broadcaster. Modestly successful manager at the time, freshly sacked since Saint Lawrenceonce landed on German soil, he decided to make a promise to himself: one day he would go to the Coaching World Cup, not as a commentator. It didn’t matter if his career as a coach, which had begun 14 years earlier, hadn’t taken off, remaining in line with his experience as a footballer, spent largely in Argentina’s second division. A promise is always a promise.

This may seem like the incipit of a sugary story from drama of Saturday night, in which a character without apparent qualities achieves success thanks to the unshakable faith in his dreams. Even the title would already be ready: Hunters of an Impossible Utopia. However, this work really exists, and it is a book that Gustavo Alfaro wrote in his own hand, without relying on a ghostwriter or asking a sports journalist for help, to tell the story his story and that ofEcuadorboth recovered from a condition of mediocrity latent thanks to the direct qualification to the World Cup in Qatar. A book that already needs an update, given the brilliant debut of tricolor against the landlords, who hinted that history – the Impossible Utopia – is not over yet.

At the beginning of 2020 Ecuador was an ai historic lows when he was entrusted to Gustavo Alfaro, fresh from the non-renewal of the contract with the Boca Juniors after two anonymous seasons (a Supecopa Argentina won in 2018 and nothing more). After the elimination in the first round at the 2014 World Cup, the national team had missed the appointment with Russia 2018 and, for three consecutive editions, it had been humiliated in Copa America. A 4-0 against Uruguay had cost a Hernán Darío Gómez, but at that moment no one in the Federation was thinking about Alfaro. The gaze was directed abroad, looking for a profile capable of rebuilding the national team by gradually inserting i young prospects emerged from the 2019 Under-20 World Cup, finished by Ecuador in third place after beating theItaly on penalties in the consolation final. The first candidate for the bench was Jürgen Klinsman, but talks with the Federation went badly. Then the Spaniard was identified Antonio Cordón and the Dutch son of art Jordi Cruijffbut the first returned home at the outbreak of the pandemic, while Cruijff jr. remained in office six monthsterminating the contract in the summer after zero matches. At that point the Federation contacted Alfaro.

In the book Alfaro recalls the first impact with the players. “They had surrendered, they didn’t have more desire to play for the national team. The biggest dream of any child who starts playing football, which is to represent their country, was over for them.” Alfaro’s intuition to help the group regain its motivation came by looking to the past. The coach called players And coaches of the Ecuadorian teams that had qualified for the 2002, 2006 and 2014 World Cups, and invited them to join the workouts. Former players such as Agustin DelgadoIvan Kaviedes Ivan Hurtado, Patricio Urrutia, August PorozoUlises de la Cruz (the bogeyman of Trap at the Japanese Korean World Cup) e Neicer Reascos they went to training camp with the team. “Only those who have given great value to this shirt,” said Alfaro, “can help to understand what does that mean wear it”. The result obtained was a team rebuilt in its soul, on which Alfaro then worked taking care of all the technical, tactical and organizational aspects that allowed it to rediscover that competitiveness which seemed irretrievably lost. “Alfaro had one great influence on the team,” said the Bayer Leverkusen defender Piero Hincapie“because it turned out to be at the same time a mastera motivator, a leader but also a friend”.

Alfaro accelerated the process of rejuvenating the squad by launching talents such as the aforementioned Hincapie, Moises Caicedo And Gonzalo Plata. “For me intelligence it’s more important than experience”, said the coach, “and I always tell the kids that you don’t need to have thirty years to be good”. However, the technician also recovered some historical elements of the Tricolor such as Enner Valencia slabthe author of the shotgun against the Qatar. A year ago the Ecuadorian press was clamoring for it the exclusionafter the striker of the Fenerbahçe it was left dry. Alfaro publicly defended him at a press conference. “I had to do it”, he wrote in his book about him, “also to send a message to all the players: if they attack you, I’ll handle that to defend you”. After a missed penalty in a friendly match against Japan and a string of games without a goal, the criticism returned. Alfaro’s response was to assign Valencia the holder last November 20th.

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