Throughout FIFA.com’s interview with Ukraine’s assistant coach Ramiro Figueiras Amarelle, barely a minute went by without someone congratulating him on 2 September’s valiant display against Group D rivals Brazil. And though never less than polite, the look on Amarelle’s face told another story.
Indeed, despite a heroic performance, the Ukrainians were denied the winning start they desperately wanted here at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011, with the four-time world champions and current holders denying them on spot-kicks after a 3-3 draw. What is more, Amarelle would have dearly loved to have been in Italy in a playing capacity, wearing the Spain shirt he graced when winning the adidas Golden Ball as the best player at Marseille 2008.
However, successive injuries have forced La Roja’s captain and No10 to miss large swathes of the past two beach soccer seasons, including virtually every tournament Spain entered in 2010. This included the European qualifying tournament for Ravenna/Italy 2011, with the absence of the 33-year-old Galician no doubt contributing to the Iberians’ failure to qualify.
That being the case, Ukraine have stepped in to give the supremely gifted Spaniard the opportunity to get involved in a consultancy role, where he has spent the past few weeks seizing the chance to pass on his vast experience, and putting the Ukrainians in the best possible position for going far on Italian sand.
“Of course you’re not going to get too much across in such a short space of time, but this period has enabled us to drill the players in a number of tactical concepts. I think it’s been very useful,” said Amarelle, though still clearly dejected by the shoot-out defeat against A Seleção.
Ukraine have got a very good team, but we’ve still got to keep our feet on the ground.
“We’re still short of experience against top-class teams and sides with different playing styles. For example, we made one or two changes specifically because we were playing Brazil, and they worked well. And people shouldn’t always assume that Brazil had an off day. Ukraine have got a very good team, but we’ve still got to keep our feet on the ground.”
Time to adjust
“Of course it’s strange being here at a World Cup, saying ‘we this’ and ‘we that’, without referring to Spain,” continued Amarelle with a grin. “But once you get involved with a side, it always becomes ‘we’. I also coach youngsters in the 11-a-side game and I’ve worked with Poland's and Belarus’ beach soccer national teams in the past too. At the end of the day, I enjoy studying the game and learning more about it, whatever team I’m with.”
This deep-rooted interest in the technical and tactical side of the game continually bobs to the surface with Amarelle, a man who spends much of each match typing away on his laptop – making a report on every team he sees.
“I’ve always been like this, and I think the fact I started playing some 15 years ago, in the early days of beach soccer, has really helped,” he said as the interview concluded. “We (the squad) only ever used to get together at tournaments, so it meant we had to train separately. That’s when I started getting into coaching, even if I was only coaching myself!”