If there is one name among those involved in the inaugural Boy’s Youth Olympic Football Tournament that stands out above all others it is undoubtedly Bolivia icon Marco Etcheverry, now on the coaching staff of his nation's young side participating at Singapore 2010. Arguably the best footballer produced in Bolivia, he was a long-serving international representative, most notably featuring for his country in their last FIFA World Cup™ appearance at USA 1994. At club level he was equally successful spending seven years in USA during which time he made his name as one of MLS’ best foreign players.
The 39-year-old lent his weight to the Bolivia U-15 team, being part of the coaching staff headed by Douglas Cuenca as the team prepared for Singapore 2010. The former Bolivia No10 shed light on the young team's success and the future for Bolivian football in a recent interview with FIFA.com prior to their re-match against Haiti.
FIFA.com: As a former star player and current coach of Bolivian club Oriente Petrolero, why do you join the managerial staff of the U-15 side?
Marco Etcheverry: My team (Oriente Petrolero) is one of biggest clubs in Bolivia but when the Football Federation asked me to work for the U-15 side, I decided that I had to put country before club so I came here.
Bolivia are in the final and they are the only team to have maintained a perfect record. How do you rate their success so far?
In this U-15 team we have a lot of gifted players and the same can also be said of our U-17 side, which is also a very good team. Our people are hoping we can have a high-level national team and our football federation have a strong vision of building the next generation of talent. I am always ready to help my country and now I want to help the youth side to grow.
As one of the country’s footballing greats, how do you inspire the youngsters to develop?
When I came to the team, I asked the head coach, “may I play together with the young players?” So I trained together with them and I have done my best to help with everything that I can. By doing this I can pass my experiences and knowledge to the youngsters and I also hope they can learn to give everything to the country, just like me.
The players we interviewed acknowledged that you have given them a great deal of help...
The first day I was together with them, I told them I am going to be their friend and enjoy football together with them. I asked them to remember that being a member of the national team they represent the country so everyone should think what to do to make the nation proud. The philosophy I can pass onto them is to work hard at 100 per cent everyday and this is the only way to find success.
Which players of this team impress you most so far?
This is a question so hard to answer as in this team every player has his own strengths. But the player who impresses most is striker Jorge Alpire. He runs a lot and can be anywhere on the pitch when needed. For me, this player possesses the winning mentality. As a player you must first want to be a winner. Even if you have unique gifts, it means nothing if you don’t want to be a winner.
It is 16 years since Bolivia’s last appearance at the FIFA World Cup where you featured for the team. How long before we will again see Bolivia on the world’s greatest stage?
It may take as many as eight years. In qualifying for the last World Cup at South Africa 2010 we finished second from bottom among the ten South American nations. To reach the World Cup we face tough opposition including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay so we have to prepare ourselves well. We need to start from the base which is the youth as they represent the country’s footballing future.
Rodrigo Mejido and Luis Banegas have both told FIFA.com they wish to move to a European club... Do you think experience playing abroad will help Bolivian players improve quickly and well?
Overseas experiences are good for a player to improve. In this team we have one player, Josue Gutrhie, who has played with Italian club Brescia for two years. I hope we will have more such overseas-based players who can improve there. I want to tell them no matter where you are, you should remember to make improvements everyday and be professional.
Bolivia fired nine unanswered goals past Haiti so you should have few problems emulating the victory against them in the final?
Football is such a beautiful game that the result can never be predicted. We have the determination to win the gold but nothing can be taken for granted. Many say we are favourites and we must work hard to prove them right. So there is no celebration until we win the final match.