Spain’s national women’s team has a new boss. After 27 years in the post, Ignacio Quereda has stepped aside, with Jorge Vilda relinquishing his duties at the helm of the country’s U-19 women’s team to replace him.
Having followed his father Angel, with whom he began working eight years ago in the national team’s youth ranks, into the coaching of women's football, Vilda has played a key role in *Las Rojitas’ *sudden emergence on the international scene.
During his tenure of the U-17s, he twice won the UEFA European Women’s U-17 Championship, in 2010 and 2011, and on the global stage steered his squad to third place at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 and the runners-up slot at Costa Rica 2014.
Those achievements led to him being handed the U-19 job, one that Vilda left on a high note after guiding his teenage charges to the final of the 2015 UEFA European Women’s U-19 Championship a few weeks ago.
Among the ten nominees for FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year in 2010 and again in 2014, the 34-year-old Vilda now has the challenge of replicating the success he has enjoyed at youth level with Spain’s senior national team.* FIFA.com *spoke exclusively to the Madrid-born coach about the tasks he faces in his new job.
FIFA.com: So, the time has come for a change. What will you bring to the national team?
Jorge Vilda: Enthusiasm, excitement and hard work more than anything else, all with the aim of qualifying for the Women’s EURO 2017 finals in the Netherlands. We’ll take the methods we used with the youth teams and apply them to the senior side and we’ll pursue the same style, though I’ll be bringing in my own ideas.
What is your approach to the game?
We’ve always had the same footballing philosophy at the Spanish FA at all levels, which makes the step up from one age group to another easier. Every coach has their own style, though. We’ll be making some changes with the senior team, though we’re still at the stage where we’re planning and mapping things out. It’s too early to be any more specific than that.
What’s your work schedule in the lead-up to your debut match?
We’ve got FIFA matchdays in September and I’m planning to get the players together then for an intensive training camp, where we’ll be doing the ground work for the match in Finland in October.
He’s always been my teacher and I owe everything I am as a person and as a coach to him.
What did your predecessor say to you?
He wished me luck and said he’d be there if I needed anything.
La Roja's FIFA Women’s World Cup™ debut at Canada 2015 ended in a disappointing exit in the group phase, which caused a lot of tension between the players and the coach, with the team asking for a change in direction. Do you think that whole situation has put more pressure on you and created more expectations?
I put more pressure on myself than anyone on the outside can. It’s the worst kind of pressure too. I know that, but that’s the way my head works and there’s nothing I can do about it. At the same time, I think it sort of protects me and stops external pressure from affecting me.
*Are you worried that the situation the players have been through has had a negative effect on them? Do you think you’ll also need to work on motivation and the mental side of things? *
Not at all. They’re very professional and I know that when we start training enough time will have gone by for all those emotions to have dissipated. I’m sure that they’ll turn up in the best possible shape so they can make a fresh start, leave the past behind and put all their energies into making the future a bright one.
Have you spoken to the players yet?
Yes. They’ve given me a lot of support and encouragement. They’ve shown that they’re ready and willing to focus on training hard so that we can compete to the best of our ability.
What’s the most special message you’ve received these last few days?
Well, when the announcement was made, and before I started looking at all the messages I was getting, I made a call to my father. Who else? He’s always been my teacher and I owe everything I am as a person and as a coach to him. He was the first person I called and he was very happy.
Did he give you any advice?
He’s not one for doing that. If I have any doubts, he’s always there for a chat. He doesn’t give any advice though. He's great at being able to look ahead and see the big picture and his support is a huge help for me.
*Why do you think that the success enjoyed by Spain’s women’s youth teams has not been replicated at senior level? *
At national team level there’s a still big gap with the leading countries. Having a more competitive league would be a big step forward, though things are happening in that respect. We’ve benefitted a lot from players leaving to go and play in Europe’s top leagues. That’s something we’re going to notice in time. We still have to be patient, though, and wait a while so that the players who’ve reached finals competitions and World Cups at youth level can continue their development, grow in maturity and form a more competitive side with more international experience at senior level.
You watched the World Cup from back home in Spain. Did it attract a lot of attention?
Yes, people really followed it, which even I was surprised by. I knew people would be watching but I didn’t expect them to follow it so closely. A lot of people who aren’t involved in women’s football started to watch the games, despite the big time difference. The sport got into people’s homes and into the media. I hope it’s not a short-lived thing and that we can build on it and give the sport the place it deserves in the media and in society.