Octavio Zambrano: ‘The FEF, due to an inferiority complex, does not want a national coach for Ecuador. Many journalists are in love with foreign coaches, they like their accent’ | Football | Sports

Octavio Zambrano: ‘The FEF, due to an inferiority complex, does not want a national coach for Ecuador. Many journalists are in love with foreign coaches, they like their accent’ | Football | Sports
Octavio Zambrano: ‘The FEF, due to an inferiority complex, does not want a national coach for Ecuador. Many journalists are in love with foreign coaches, they like their accent’ | Football | Sports

Several important facts support the wisdom of Octavio Zambrano (Guayaquil, 1958) as a coach. For example, he is the only Ecuadorian with a UEFA coaching license, which allows him to coach in Europe (between 2006 and 2009 he worked in Hungary, where he graduated, and Moldova). Another aspect that stands out among Zambrano’s solid knowledge base includes instinct, a ‘good eye’: he discovers cracks. Alphonso Davies is a find from Buenos Aires.

As the leader of the Concacaf team, on June 14, 2017, Zambrano gave Davies, who was just 16 years old, his debut in the senior national team. Today the left back is captain, the star of the Canadian squad (“we could produce a great player for Canada in the coming years,” the Guayaquil native anticipated to The New York Times) and is “one step away from Real Madrid”, the newspaper says ASfrom Spain.

Fabián Bustos would be the new coach of Ecuador for these reasons, according to the Peruvian press

Praise from Canada

Several of Zambrano’s former pupils (Cyle Larin, Jonathan Osorio, Samuel Piette) are on Tuesday aiming to reach the semi-finals of the Copa America, at the expense of Lionel Messi’s Argentina. “Who is Octavio Zambrano?” the American portal asked in an extensive analysis. The Philly Soccer Page. Dan Walsh, the author, wrote: “One of the most successful head coaches in MLS in terms of winning games (…) briefly worked for FIFA.”

Octavio Zambrano, Ecuadorian coach who has coached in Colombia, the United States, Hungary, Moldova, El Salvador and Canada. Photo: Archive

Ecuador needs a coach who does not lend himself to manipulation in call-ups, players who abandon their arrogance, and a FEF that acts with good judgment.

Maxime Crépeau, Canada’s goalkeeper, after qualifying for the quarter-finals at the United States 2024, praised the man who was his helmsman until 2018: “I take my hat off to Octavio Zambrano.” Nothing, neither international recognition nor recent notable campaigns in Colombia put Zambrano in the orbit of candidates to succeed Félix Sánchez Bas at the helm of the Tricolor.

It has not helped Zambrano – with regard to the FEF’s interests in its search for a coach – to have better academic credentials than several of the last people in charge of the National Team (class A coaching license from UEFA; another issued by the USSF, the acronym for the United States Soccer Federation; and another, granted by Conmebol). From Connecticut, where he lives, the Guayaquil native spoke with Diario EL UNIVERSO.

Argentina vs. Canada for the Copa América semifinal: lineups, TV channels and times to watch live

Why do you think the FEF is not considering Ecuadorian coaches as a replacement option for Sánchez Bas?

The biggest problem that we must overcome, as Ecuadorians, is the inferiority complex that exists regarding national coaches. I remember that Carlos Villacís, former vice president of the FEF, who later became president, reported that the first requirement that the next coach had to meet (after Gustavo Quinteros was fired) was not to be from Ecuador. What Villacís said was the last act of the tumultuous era of Luis Chiriboga, which was corrupt, narcissistic and banal. From that premise comes the inferiority complex that has caused the FEF not to hire an Ecuadorian to coach the National Team. That exclusion is an insult to the national coach.

Bad relationship between Félix Sánchez Bas and the Ecuadorian national team?: No one said goodbye to the Spanish coach

Many sports journalists are against the national team being coached by an Ecuadorian. They say that the national coach lacks personality. What do you think about that?

With very few exceptions, in Ecuador today sports journalists are in love with foreign coaches. They seem to be fans of a foreigner just because he is one. Many times there is no analysis or comparison of the pedigree that one professional may have in relation to another. The common denominator, or the factor that prevails in our journalism to lean towards the foreigner, is “I like the way he speaks,” “I like his accent,” or “he has not managed national teams, but he is young and we should give him a chance.” Criterion and reason are left aside simply because it is someone who came from outside. Young journalists – not all, I am not generalizing, because there are some very good ones – do not have the knowledge to know what is needed to manage a national team. I can guarantee that.

Canada appointed you as coach of its national team. Did the FEF ever consider you as an option?

I must tell things as they are: Luis Chiriboga considered me his number one enemy because I never accepted the corruption with which he managed all the processes of the National Team. I was close to the Federation and I realized that, to be considered as coach of the Tricolor, one had to give up 100% of ethical principles that I was not going to break. For that reason, I was never a candidate, even though during the time when he was president of the FEF (1998-2015) I was successfully coaching in Europe and the United States.

Are the ethical principles that you say had to be disrespected in order to be appointed coach of Ecuador related to the call-ups?

Of course. It has to do with the whole environment of the players called up and the association of players’ businessmen. In the Chiriboga era, you had to be a part of that corruption; otherwise, it was impossible to coach. My colleague Hernán Darío Gómez, whom I think highly of, and who I have also coached in his country (Colombia) with success, revealed after his first period in the National Team that he called up fifteen players and the rest were selected by the president of the federation. During the Chiriboga administration, Ecuador qualified for the World Cup, but not because of the great work of the FEF. It was because it coincided with the maturation of many footballers who were ready to contribute in a higher aspect. It was not because of Chiriboga, at all. It could have happened with another manager. With this I do not take away merit from the teachers. Roll Gómez, Luis Fernando Suárez and Reinaldo Rueda. Because of their knowledge of our idiosyncrasy – we are very similar to Colombians – they galvanized the different groups they had.

What do you recommend to the FEF when it comes to signing Sánchez Bas’s successor, in terms of profile and characteristics?

First, they should not exclude Ecuadorian coaches, as Villacís did. I would also suggest that they keep an open mind, that they analyze all options, even national ones. That they make a coherent decision that has as its sole purpose the best for the National Team.

Do the national team players influence the decision not to hire a national coach? Edison Mendez was against the signing of Sixto Vizuete in 2008. He said that he needed to see a coach on the bench who inspired respect, and he left the Tricolor for a while. Vizuete made the mistake of asking him to return.

Vizuete was appointed by hand, and I say this with respect because he is my friend, a colleague whom I appreciate. But his rise to such a big responsibility was fast. He had been successful in minor national teams (gold at the 2007 Pan American Games), but he still won a few games (in the qualifiers for South Africa 2010). As for Méndez, he had a personality that led him to try to be the protagonist, to consider himself ‘the player’. After what he said, Vizuete should not have had any kind of approach with him, but he did by order of the president of the Federation and his henchmen. They put Vizuete in a position of weakness and obviously took away his authority. He gave in, he could not maintain the respect of everyone, and that was the beginning of the end of Sixto Vizuete.

Why can’t the national team play like Colombia? Win, lose or draw, it has a different ambition than Ecuador.

We have one more obstacle to overcome, which I thought we had done when Ecuador defeated Argentina 2-0 in Buenos Aires on the way to the 2018 World Cup. When these kinds of sporting achievements happen, one believes that Ecuadorian footballers are ready to take another step. In that match, the National Team did not go to hide, they went to play football. They did not win by luck, but by fairness and because Quinteros imposed a winning mentality. For some time now, our football mentality has been speculative and that is why it tends to be a loser. I do not want to talk about my colleague Sánchez Bas and say that his management was totally bad. His numbers are not, but his football idea did not fill the retina of Ecuadorians.

The national team does not define a style either. Colombia has one.

We are tired of coaches who speculate. The coaches who reached the World Cup with Ecuador did so based on a speculative idea, of counterattacking. We have very fast footballers and playing on the counterattack favors us a lot. But when we appear in a World Cup and we have to bring up other arguments, that is where we have fallen short. We do not have confidence in ourselves. We do not believe we are capable of achieving something great. It is an inferiority complex not very different from that of the FEF leaders when it comes to not hiring national coaches.

How do you see the national team in terms of players? There is talk of a golden generation.

Defensively we have high-level players. However, in this Copa America, except for Piero Hincapié and perhaps Angelo Preciado, who did not start well and then recovered, it was not the best performance of the defense. A few mistakes were made that should not have happened, but in general we are doing well. In the midfield there is a diversity of players that allows us to complement players who can play both back and forth, and other pure and creative players who are markers. There is plenty to choose from to put the pieces in that sector. We need a center forward with more weight. If you look at Enner Valencia’s numbers, 41 goals in 89 games, that percentage is good anywhere in the world. But Enner cannot be the only one who supports the offensive weight of the National Team. The goal quota must come from multiple players. That is the great void in Ecuador: not having a variety of players in the attacking front who are scorers. I am not referring only to the number 9, but to forwards on the wing or midfielders who score goals. (D)

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