It is hard to imagine a situation, whether it be on or off the pitch, that Hugo Salcedo has not seen or experienced at a football competition over the years. Even so, since he touched down on British soil for the Olympic Football Tournaments at London 2012, the 66-year-old American has been no less enthused or honoured to be on what is his fifth trip to an Olympic Games.
“Some things you just don’t ever get used to, and that’s one of the best features of the Games,” Salcedo told FIFA.com, before referring to his first Olympics at Munich 1972 as a member of USA’s football squad. “It’s been 40 years since my first Olympic experience, but whenever I see the spirit that sport brings to a place, it never fails to stir my emotions.”
Now, so many years after taking part as an athlete, Salcedo’s role at London 2012 has been as FIFA General Coordinator – i.e. FIFA’s main authority figure at a particular host venue – for the Welsh city of Cardiff, whose Millennium Stadium held a total of 11 games, including the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament bronze medal match between Korea Republic and Japan.
However, taking responsibility for the wide-ranging managerial aspects of a huge international competition is far from new to the American. Indeed, it was not long after ending his playing career that Salcedo began forging a fresh path for himself off the field. In addition to taking on coaching roles at US universities, he also made a name as an administrator at FIFA, the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) and later with the MLS (Major League Soccer).
In 1984, Salcedo became a member of the organising committee for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament at Los Angeles 1984 and, two years later, he was chosen as a general coordinator at a FIFA tournament for the very first time. This opportunity came at no less an event than the 1986 FIFA World Cup™, held in the country of his birth Mexico.
“It’s when I stop and put all these experiences in perspective that I realise just how fortunate I am to be working in a field like football, which has given me the opportunity to experience so many special moments, meet so many people and see so many different places,” said Salcedo, while he goes about his business in Cardiff with a level of composure and professionalism that has impressed everyone working alongside him. “That’s one of the positives of having already been in so many different situations. It’s hard to be really taken by surprise, in a negative way that is.”
Indeed, this is Salcedo’s 22nd FIFA competition as a general coordinator – the second highest figure of any CONCACAF representative – and this number includes seven FIFA World Cups (Mexico 1986, Italy 1990, USA 1994, France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010) and three Olympic Games (Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and London 2012).
“I have, in fact, spent years and years experiencing every kind of situation at major events at close quarters,” said Salcedo as the conversation concluded. “But there’s one thing I always insist on: never losing the ability to be wowed by – or be grateful for – being at a competition like this. Again.”