It takes more than a new experience to knock Carlos Salcido off his stride. Having played for five seasons in Europe with PSV Eindhoven and Fulham, won over 100 international caps and appeared at two FIFA World Cups™, there is little the 32-year-old Mexican left-back has not seen during his career.
Even so, the battle-hardened Salcido has had to take on a couple of new roles in representing his country at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. Quite apart from the fact the Olympics has an atmosphere all of its own, with football sharing the limelight with a host of other sports, the veteran has been fulfilling entirely different tasks to the ones he is accustomed to, both on and off the pitch.
Speaking to FIFA.com after his side had beaten Switzerland 1-0 to top Group B and tee up a quarter-final with Senegal at Wembley on Saturday, the seasoned Salcido said: “I’m having to adjust to a lot of things. First of all I’m playing in midfield, and then there’s the fact that I’m an old hand in a team that’s almost entirely made up of youngsters.”
On the pitch El Tri coach Luis Fernando Tena has him occupying a holding role in front of the two central defenders, charging him with the job of instigating his side’s attacks and distributing the ball. Having spent his entire career at left-back, it is a case of an old dog learning new tricks.
“They’ve got me playing there now that I’ve just gone back to Mexico,” said Salcido, referring to his move to Tigres less than a year ago. “After so many years at full-back, it’s not been easy for me to adjust, though I’m trying hard to help the team.”
He has also been helping the team in another way, one that seems to have taken him aback a little. As the most experienced member of a young side, the old stager has been making his voice heard and passing his wisdom on, not a straightforward task as a relatively new face in a squad which has been together for some time now.
“This is virtually the same squad that won the Pan-American Games (in Guadalajara last year) and the Toulon Tournament this year,” he explained. “The players know each other very well and it’s not been easy to come into the side just like that. It’s tough, but the young guys have given me a great welcome.”
His value to the side became clear during Mexico’s decisive final group against Switzerland. Helping to rally the team after a poor first-half showing, Salcido engaged in a lengthy dressing-room conversation with coach Tena and his fresh-faced colleagues, one that proved crucial to their eventual qualification for the last eight.
“We had a long chat, mainly about the psychological side of things and the fact that we needed to be relaxed if we were going pick our game up, which is what we then went out and did,” he explained. “Things have only got better and better since we started working together. I hope I can keep on making a contribution, even if I’m doing so in a new and different way.”