The sports directors of Spanish football repeated with amazement that Cádiz had been promoted to First, last summer, without having a technically qualified squad. They attributed the feat to the magical atmosphere created by their hidden coach, Álvaro Cervera (Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; 55 years old). A year later, Cádiz receives Madrid (10:00 p.m., Movistar) with almost guaranteed permanence after having passed through LaLiga, leaving a deep countercultural mark.
Question. What do you think of the Super League?
Answer. I don’t have much information on the subject.
P. What led you to become a professional footballer?
R. I always wanted to be a soccer player because I always liked soccer. But when you are young you don’t know what it is to be a footballer. For you, being a footballer is playing soccer, being on TV. But you don’t know what this profession entails. I liked to play and compete since I was little. Whenever he came down from home he did it with a ball at his feet. Soccer maybe I liked a lot more than now.
P. Few coaches have been pure wingers like you. Didn’t you understand the game until you were a coach?
R. No. I think I have always understood the game. What I did not understand was what and why it is played. Before I did it for pure pleasure, and to earn money, because I liked the life of the footballer, with a lot of free time. As a player you may not have been aware of how important the score was. I thought that if he lost there would always be one more chance in the next game. As a coach, no.
P. Extremes need to live in risk to be effective. Doesn’t it seem like a contradiction to you that after having made a career based on risk, now as a coach you worry about minimizing risk?
R. One day I went to a talk about sports and drugs. Psychologists and doctors spoke, but the one who interested me to speak was the one who had been a drug addict, because that one was going to give me the truth. This is a bit the same. I have known attacking football, happy football. I have played with Hiddink at Valencia. But I have also learned that we really didn’t gain anything from that. I don’t have any trophies in my house. I want to make the footballers see that this is the football that will make them speak well of you one day but it is not the one that will make you win money and titles. This is what happens to Simeone at Atlético. Another can make him play more beautiful but I am convinced that he would not have it where he has it.
P. Do you think this pattern so academic and rooted in Spain, of going out playing with the goalkeeper, spreading the wings, that the centrals touch it and that the playmaker offers himself that it can lead to confusion?
R. Our coaching staff is good at one thing: from the moment the players arrive at the club, we meet with them to insist on everything they have left over. Because the players have many things left over. All Primera players have good things. If we can score out of ten, surely they have four good things, but they try to do seven, and between four and seven there are three bad. We want them to do three of four, or four good ones, but not eight or nine. Because we would all be making mistakes. Players end up understanding that it is not necessary to do so much. It is much simpler. Either they take away the things that they do wrong or the one who takes them away is me because they would be harmed first, and then the team.
P. What excites you most about your job?
R. What really hooks me is the possibility of seeing 25 kids between the ages of 20 and 30, trying to speak to them in the same language they speak, and trying to make them understand the one I speak. If I had to train people my age, I might not be so passionate about it.
P. He says that they were about to throw him out of Cádiz until one day he stopped seeking the approval of the people and decided to be true to himself, coinciding with the trip to Jaén to dispute the playoff promotion to Second in 2016. How do you renounce popular recognition in the era of social networks?
R. I didn’t train for a year and Cádiz called me. It is not the same as when another team calls you. Cádiz was Magic, the Mejías brothers, the Silver Cup, the nice team that wins 5-2 and loses 3-4… And I really am not that. I am a very orderly person. Clutter upsets me. What I do not control does not let me work. But the possibility of Cádiz arises to me and I came thinking that I would have to let the river flow, and in the end things would go well because there are good players. And I realize that that is not enough. That you have to take a turn. And there comes that game in Jaén where I was more outside than inside, and I remember that I stood in front of the players and instead of the talk of the game I told them a story. I said: “Gentlemen, from this point on, it has to change towards where I think it has to change. We have to stop trying to do things well and we have to start to stop doing things wrong ”. In those seven games there was growth for something that I believe in life. Doing things well is very nice, I love watching Manchester City games, but I’m not capable of making teams play like that. I am capable of doing something else. The players saw that it was an extreme situation and said: “Let’s try to listen to this crazy man, let’s see.” And we were lucky enough to win five games in a row and receive only one goal in the playoff. And from there I think I got the recognition, especially from the players.
P. Was the key in the story?
R. The key is not the football tactics that I give them but the way of life that we lead. In terms of football we are recognizable for how simple it is. But where we are complicated is inside the door: we get along too well with each other, we help each other too much. That story gave us the key to discover that we did not have to talk perhaps so much about football but rather about camaraderie, solidarity, friendship, for this to work.