As one of the most engaging and passionate members of the Atlanta soccer community, Ricardo Montoya (right) holds a special place in the hearts of Cupcake Nation. Always outspoken, never one to bite his tongue, Montoya is known throughout town as one of the best coaches around and one of the biggest personalities around. What follows is a piece written by him for Contraataque, one of the local Spanish-language sports newspapers. Last night he asked me to translate this for him and to post it here.
Pardon Me, But I'm Going to Talk About Soccer by Ricardo Montoya
“A man with new ideas is a crazy man, until his ideas are successful”- Marcelo Bielsa.
In this last decade, at times I’ve stopped liking soccer. I can’t remember a team that makes me happy. Now, as we coaches say, everything is a question of professionalism and work: the improvisation and fantasy is over.
The teams of Rinus Michels’ Clockwork Orange, Telé Santana’s Brazil, Denmark’s ’86 team, Platini’s France, Sacchi’s Milan, Van Gal’s Ajax, the Madrid of the “Quinta del Buitre”, Cryuff’s Barcelona “Dream Team”, Maradona’s Argentina (before they cut off his legs), Pelado Díaz’s River and Pacho Maturana’s Colombia have all left us.
They killed Andrés “Calidad” Escobar, and they also killed off the soccer spectacle, because since the age of 94-96 up to today, I can’t remember a team that’s made me tingle. Of course, there are gleams of hope, such as the Manchester of Cantona or that of today’s Rooney. Or until recently Ronaldinho’s Barcelona and one of another individuality of that of one Messi.
It’s worth mentioning the last thing that caught my attention and stayed with me.
That of a certain French #10 who chips a penalty in the grand final of a World Cup with an audacity so fantastic while at the same time self-excludes himself after a headbutt to another. Still, he abandons the field with an admirable unconsciousness.
They are and will be the artists for whom the game is not a job but happiness, soul, life.
Soccer has lost its humor, its poetry, its pleasure.
Garrincha, Ardiles and “El Burrito” Ortega returned to dribble and dodge again.
Francescolli, Redondo and Laudrup (yes, a Dane, although they wouldn’t believe it) possessed an indescribable and unrepeatable elegance.
Others, such as Breitner, Simeone and Gattuso, will be remembered as poets, because all they had was heart.
Cruyff, he was alone, an entire team: He didn’t play soccer, he created it. He introduced the power of intelligence and almost reached what is unreachable: The perfection, and I say almost because he never won a World Cup. Soccer is ironic, the sport that Cruyff revolutionized.
Remember that a trainer (they no longer call us coaches), gives his players instructions before a game: You do this, you this, but before instructing Cruyff, he was told: “You do whatever you want.”
Few players have touched my emotions, but after Maradona, I struggle to find anyone like “El Mister.”
If Cruyff came back to play, many would come back to the stadium, because with Cruyff on the field we’d be done with these new bureaucratic players, subordinate, who write memorandums, who distribute notes, a species of negative perfection. A monotony of paperwork.
This year presents us with a new challenge called Atlanta FC. And as a new resolution we want to variate the same systematical tactics, not invent anything because in soccer everything’s been invented. We divert ourselves from the antithesis of the calculated and result-based game, one that predicates that winning is more important that the spectacle.
In search of the spectacle and in putting my head at your mercy, we will begin to ask you, our most important protagonists, what soccer ask for in your voices: the improvisation, the unbelievable, the genius.
The use of the cutback, the emotion, the surprise. Of course these players exist:
It’s just that us coaches, the managers, the agents, we’ve transformed them into predictable robots.
It’s time to make a change, for the unpredictable to return. We have nothing against the polished players, there are people who need them, but: Who likes the polished players? They don’t amaze, they don’t create miracles: They just execute. They’re serious professionals, but aren’t there too many of them?
We don’t regress, we give the ribbon to those on the field who invent, those who sell illusions, those who leave us with our mouths gaping.
Today more attention is placed on the “laboratory plays,” as if the fans come to the stadium to watch through a microscope. It’s not possible, the people like going to the stadium to rave, have fun and delight.
The resolution is made: To identify ourselves with the people, to avoid the philosophy of winning without caring how, to enjoy playing, and if we win: Will there be any complaints?
The idea is to see our fans as an audience. To give them the emotions to the point where they come to hug strangers in the stands, and that they return to their homes with memorable plays.
To the future protagonists (players) of Atlanta FC, I leave the ball at your feet and I trust in the hand of God that he takes our friendship out of the anonymity.
Don’t just save us a visit and the quota of the local hag, because if we don’t achieve our goal of giving you the “spectacle” and there aren’t results, it’s very probable that I’ve failed or whatever is worse than being a crazy man.