- Chile coach discusses his side’s World Cup debut
- Letelier guided Colo Colo's women's side to Copa Libertadores glory
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By Cecilia Lagos, with Chile
When Jose Letelier took charge of Chile in 2015, the country did not even feature in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking due to inactivity. However, drawing on his experience with Colo-Colo’s women’s team, with whom he had won the Copa Libertadores in 2012, the new coach soon had La Roja Femenina back up and running.
Interestingly, 2012 was not the first time Letelier enjoyed Libertadores success with Colo-Colo. In 1991, he kept goal for the men’s team during their continental triumph, though he can scarcely have imagined back then he would lead a team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ one day. “This World Cup was a very distant dream as I never saw myself as a future coach of women’s football. That said, when I started working with female players, I got a new appreciation of how capable they were at playing this sport. It was only when that process started that I began to dream.”
Given the state Chilean women’s football was in, Letelier believes that La Roja’s participation in the 2018 Copa America, where they finished runners-up, had a very positive effect on the players. “In Chile, women’s football is not professional. There were no more than four Chilean players who could dedicate themselves full-time to the game – and all of those were overseas. As a result of the Copa America, a lot of players made the step up in short space of time and went to play in professional leagues. In terms of their level of competition, that brought about a marked progression.”
That dream has now become a reality with Chile about to make their France 2019 debut against one of the heavyweights of the women’s game. “Sweden are very strong physically and have an advantage over us in terms of player physique. So, it’s going to be a very tough game, and they’ll try to stop us from creating plays.”
For all that, the coach has a lot of faith in his team and has focused considerable effort on a critical area for any team making their debut, that of controlling the nerves. “For a good while now, we’ve been working really hard with the players on the psychological aspect. The idea is to help them release any emotions and anxiety, as that’s all part of being human and part of a team, especially one making their debut at this tournament.”
The coach is also adamant that this World Cup adventure, however long it lasts, will give further impetus to the change generated by the Copa America. “Hopefully this is not just something fleeting, but rather something upon which the foundations of women’s football in Chile can be built,” he concluded.