A thoughtful and laid-back coach, Oscar Washington Tabarez is nevertheless a man of firm convictions and clear ideas. Aptly known in the game as El Maestro, the Montevideo native is regarded in his homeland as the man responsible for the renaissance of Uruguayan football.
Nor is his lofty standing without foundation. In this his second stint at the helm of La Celeste, Uruguay not only finished fourth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, their best finish in 40 years, but also won their first continental title since 1995 with victory at the 2011 Copa America.
Born on 3 March 1947, Tabarez was a solid right-back in his playing days, which began at Institucion Atletica Sud America in 1967 and ended 11 years later with Club Atletico Bella Vista. In between came spells with fellow Uruguayan sides Sportivo Italiano, Montevideo Wanderers and Fenix, as well as a stint in Mexico with Puebla.
He took first steps as coach in 1980, training the youth teams at Montevideo club Bella Vista. Three years later he graduated to the national U-20 team, steering them to the gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games in Venezuela, his first success as from the sidelines. He won his maiden club title, the 1987 Copa Libertadores, with Penarol, the one and only time El Carbonero have claimed the coveted trophy.
In 1988 Tabarez took charge of the national team for the first time, taking La Celeste to the final of the 1989 Copa America, where they finished runners-up, and to the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy. A 2-0 defeat to the host nation in the Round of 16 marked the end of his stewardship and a year later he crossed the River Plate to take up the reins at Boca Juniors, helping them to the Argentinian championship for the first time in 11 years.
That success proved the springboard for a move to Europe, where, as well coaching Cagliari in two separate spells in the nineties, he also took charge of AC Milan and Spanish side Oviedo. After a second stint at the helm of Boca Juniors in 2002, El Maestro then took a break from the game for nearly four years before being reappointed as national team coach.
The recipient of the South American Coach of the Year award in 2010 and 2011, as well the FIFA Order of Merit in 2012, Tabarez has put Uruguayan football, both senior and youth, firmly back on the world map, winning a place in the hearts of Charrúa fans in the process.