There is no doubting that coaches’ lives are subject to sporting results. It is also true that club Presidents sometimes place us as a shield between them and the fans. On the other hand, our profession also has plenty of happy moments filled with beautiful and emotional memories.
Last week we lived one of those moments when my current team, Guizhou, faced my former club, Shanghai Shenhua. I have innumerable fond memories from the past season, the great work we did and the goals we achieved, especially when we managed to qualify for the AFC Champions League after seven years of absence.
Arriving at Hongkou stadium to train on the day before the match was an emotional moment. First, because the fans were waiting to take pictures with me and sign some autographs, second because the journalists greeted me with respect before we entered the press room and last but not least because all of my former club’s players and employees came to say hello and embrace me affectionately. All of these small experiences make my life within this sport truly marvellous. The following day brought rivalry during 90 minutes, but, as I always say, human relationships are essential in the world of football, which is sometimes excessively professionalised and can even become selfish and impersonal.
Paradoxically, both teams reached this match tied at 24 points. This would have been an unthinkable situation at the start of the season. Shanghai Shenhua had signed excellent reinforcements, including the record transfer in the history of the Chinese Super League, Carlos Tévez, with the clear intention of wresting the title from mighty Evergrande. On the other hand, my current team, which I had only joined on matchday 8 sitting at the bottom of the table, has a far more humble objective, which is to avoid relegation after having been promoted to the Super League last season.
We prepared the game with a strong mentality and a very clear idea; we should not fear our rivals, no matter how strong they were. Our goals were very clear, we had analysed our tactics and knew how to neutralise their most dangerous players. When we reached the stadium, the atmosphere brought back some unforgettable memories from the previous year. By half-time, both teams had managed to hit the woodwork but not to score. During the break, I told the players that we had to shift up our attacking efforts, try to move the ball faster during the transition from defence to offence, and told them it was essential to reach the final minutes in good physical shape. After that, Du Wei scored the first goal from a corner kick and we controlled the game. We had plenty of clear opportunities to score and, towards the end of the match, Rubén Castro managed a brace that made it 0-3; a fair result.
It was a great victory against a great team in a great stadium. An excellent result that helps move us well away from the dangerous positions and contemplate a much clearer horizon as we face the last ten matches of the championship.
All the best,
Gregorio Manzano Ballesteros
Head coach of Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, F.C.
(Text traslated by Literalias Traslations – firstname.lastname@example.org)