Known for being firm but fair and a dedicated professional with a very human touch, Colombia coach Fabian Taborda is trying to instil the same kind of balance into his team.
With his extensive experience in youth football, he knows what a coach needs to do to grow with their team, which is exactly what the Colombian FA expected of him when they put him in charge of the national women’s team.
Several members of the Colombia side that will shortly begin their Group F campaign at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ played under the former PE teacher at youth level, with coach and players building up a mutually beneficial relationship in the process.
“I guess I’m seen as a very professional coach and as a good person too,” he told FIFA.com. “In the past I took charge of groups of students and now here I am coaching a national team and trying to pass on all my knowledge. Having been a teacher certainly helps a lot with my current job.”
A good few of the Colombia side have been with Taborda since his days as the country’s U-17 coach, which included a trip to the women’s World Cup in the age group.
Much has changed since then, with Taborda no longer having to play the role of disciplinarian, as he explained: “My players don’t need a teacher to set them straight anymore. They’re used to the pace of training now and to the requirements of the game. More than anything I just have to be there to listen and be patient. As far as the rest goes, they know what they have to do, and I have faith in them.”
Thanks to his extensive experience, the Colombia supremo knows that World Cup campaigns require a subtle blend of individual and collective attributes.
“When it comes to a long and demanding competition like this, team spirit is just as important as the technical or tactical side of things,” said the one-time teacher, whose message has been has been taken on board by his current pupils.
Unbeaten in qualifying for Canada 2015, Colombia have served notice of their potential and have their sights set on a place in the last 16, at the very least.
We are family
If they are to get there, the Colombians will have to do it without one of Taborda’s long-time charges, Melissa Ortiz, who picked up a last-minute injury. Though a significant setback, it has, if anything, brought the team even closer together.
“As soon as they heard the news their thoughts turned to their team-mate and they let her know they were thinking of her and how sorry they were. They’re determined to go as far as they can for her,” said Taborda, no doubt delighted to see his players pull together in the face of adversity.
“It’s not the first time this has happened, and when a player has to pull out, the reaction of their team-mates shows the togetherness and compassion of the team as a whole.”
With Las Cafeteras united as one, Taborda is now hoping to see they have the confidence they need to get them through their Canada 2015 challenge, one that begins on Tuesday against Mexico*. *
Looking ahead to that opening game, he said: “It’s absolutely essential that the players go into the match believing they have all the resources they need to win. Getting that mindset across is my number-one objective.”
Colombia’s following two games will pit them against group favourites France and England, a daunting test, as he acknowledged: “We’re inferior to the European sides in a number of areas. Our game is much more suited to taking on Mexico.”
Anxious not to put too much pressure on his side, Taborda is nevertheless acutely aware of the importance of Tuesday’s encounter: “It’s a game that will give us a good indication of where we are and show us what we are really capable of.”
As the former teacher knows only too well, when it comes to World Cup examinations there are no re-sits.