Beautiful is not a word often associated with a challenge, but at his first press conference in charge of China PR on Sunday in Beijing, newly appointed Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho reiterated this adjective to describe his new job.
"China is a great country," Camacho stated to a sea of media after the signing ceremony was done, making him China's eighth imported manager in history. "Obviously it is a challenge for me, but it is a beautiful challenge which I am willing to confront. I am proud of being the coach of China."
Coaching China represents only the 56-year-old's second national team role, having had a four-year spell with Spain between 1998-2002, during which time he guided his country to the quarter-finals at the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002™. The former Real Madrid stalwart defender has had two previous spells abroad, both with Portuguese giants Benfica. He can also fall back on lengthy La Liga experience, most recently with Osasuna.
Camacho was at pains to illustrate the responsibility he is taking on by coaching the world’s most populace nation. "I know what this job accounts for,” he said. “It is not a provincial side, a local club, but it is a national team. It is a unit that represents the whole country and people so I wish my players can bear this in their minds and play for the people," Camacho stated proudly, his emotional remarks triggering applause from the packed media contingent.
"We will strive to qualify for Brazil 2014 and at the same time, we will work hard to make the game more popular in China,” he said. “We will not only inspire and encourage the youngsters to play football but also to promote the most talented to the national senior team."
As Camacho stated, his brief is a two-fold task. Ending China’s 12-year drought from the world stage will be the first. Development of youth talent, meanwhile, is the second part of his Chinese mission. Although Wei Di, Vice-President of the Chinese Football Association confirmed his three-year deal won’t purely be measured by the outcome of qualifiers, the Spaniard is all too aware how desperately his newly adopted nation needs the natural boost that comes with qualification, in order to raise their footballing image.
There will be little scope for preparation in the short term with the opening home fixture of Asia’s third qualifying round against Singapore just a matter of weeks away. The national team players will convene in camp later this week meaning Camacho has a little under two weeks to prepare before the 2 September test.
“I have been working against time to learn about the team since negotiations with the CFA began. We have up to now watched 56 games the team has played, including their recent 1-0 friendly victory over Jamaica,” said a passionate Camacho, who was known as a tough tackler during his 15-year playing career as defender with both Real Madrid and Spain.
“I have noticed that the Chinese players are well-disciplined and are able to play tactically well. Although it may take a longer time for us to know about the team better, I have no doubt that we can do our job well as long as we work to our best.”
Nevertheless, Camacho faces a challenging task if he is to successfully guide China through Asia’s lengthy qualifying campaign, taking into account that the team have twice failed even to reach the final round on the road to Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
However, Camacho sounded upbeat as he chose to downplay the pressures in spite of the difficulties facing him. “Football is a job full of pressure,” he said. “I have been married to the game since I started playing with Real Madrid as a 19-year-old. I am clear what task is facing us, but I am determined to work to my utmost until the closing minute to live up to the expectation.