Enough with the Hecho en Venezuela crap

La Vinotinto has gotten off to its worst World Cup qualifiers start in recent history. Don't blame it on Sanvicente, blame it on decades of overzealous patriotism.


Last week, the Venezuelan national fútbol team lost for the first time in ten years to Bolivia in an official match, which in turn was the third consecutive defeat for La Vinotinto during its World Cup qualifiers run.

Although it’s still too early to discount Venezuela’s chances for 2018, our embarrassing performance thus far has some wondering if La Vinotinto’s hopes for international glory are nothing but a misguided nationalist pipedream.

Charity begins at home, yes, but maybe we should also start thinking about a solution from abroad.

Look, I think that Noel “the Chita” Sanvicente is indeed the best trainer that the Bravo Pueblo has given birth to yet. His stats speak for themselves. But to deny that our “golden age” of football is over would be lunacy. Spot per spot, we’re a much weaker side now than we’ve been at any given time in the past decade: Baroja is an ok goalie, but he’s no safety net; Vizcarrondo is often erratic and Cíchero’s irreparable temper costs us dearly every now and then. Arango is gone, Ronald Vargas is very prone to injury –making him unreliable-, and Rincón cannot carry the whole team on his own. And so far, Salomón Rondón, Christian Santos and Josef Martínez have scored a total of only one goal in these qualifiers.

In chasing after a Russia 2018 spot, Venezuela has the daunting challenge of cutting it in the most competitive qualifying zone in the world: the South American Confederation (CONMEBOL). Every single one of these teams, except for Venezuela, have qualified at least once before (eight of them in the past four World Cups), and three of them have been World Champions. But Venezuela has no business vying for a seat among the big boys, if it can’t even boast a decent track record at the club level.

The fact is that Venezuela has the weakest football league of any South American nation. The last time that a Venezuelan club made it past the group stage of the Copa Libertadores – CONMEBOL’s Champions League – was in 2009. A Venezuelan qualification to the final round of the Copa Sudamericana, the other international tournament held for South American clubs, has yet to happen. In the 2015 Copa Libertadores, the three Venezuelan sides that took part, Mineros de Guayana, Deportivo Táchira and Zamora played a combined 18 games. They lost 13, drew four, won one. The goal tally you ask? 14 goals for, FOURTY FUCKING SIX against. That’s almost three goals against, for every single game.

In the current edition of the Copa Sudamericana, four Venezuelan clubs qualified to the preliminary round, and only one came out alive. Deportivo La Guaira, that sole survivor, got a proper thrashing at the hands of Sportivo Luqueño (1:1 in Caracas, 0:4 in Paraguay), currently ranked 11th in the Paraguayan First Division.

What’s worse: Venezuelan First Division ranks 9th out of the 10 South American domestic leagues in the International Federation of Football History & Statistics’ (IFFHS) World’s Strongest National League, 2014 edition. In the overall ranking, our Primera División ranks 49th of 170, one spot behind Slovakia and one ahead of the United Arab Emirates.

So it seems to me we should seriously reassess the way our national football league is run before whining about how the Russia 2018 deck is stacked against us.

Evidently, our league isn’t that good at producing decent players, or keeping them around. Yet we insist on the fact that our head coach must be a Venezuelan. Why? What is the benefit of keeping such a closed mind? I understand that sports is a stubborn world, and football more so; but even England, la cuna de la revolución, began experimenting with foreign trainers at some point.

Actually, a full half of all South American national sides currently have a hired foreign gun. Chile won the Copa América 2015 with an Argentinean head coach. Colombia is considered by several as one of the most exciting national teams around, and is trained by another Argentinean. Ecuador, currently in first place of the FIFA Qualifying Stage, also has a foreigner directing things. You might argue that both Argentina and Brazil have locally-sourced coaches. Yes, true. But unlike them, Venezuela isn’t a football superpower with enough talent to be self-reliant. We’re currently dead-last in the standings.

The Venezuelan football model is due for a major overhaul. We must bring in fresher ideas, brighter minds, experienced professionals to teach us how to do things the right way. There is no shortage of talented trainers elsewhere up for the challenge of facing off against some of the most attractive teams on the planet. Several examples worldwide have proven that importing coaches works, among them 2014 World Cup partakers like the United States, Cote d’Ivoire, Japan, and Costa Rica.

Training the Vinotinto should be an honor: it’s an exciting team with a lot to be improved from within, seeded with some of the best rivals out there. We might lack the quality, even by our “not-so-high-standards” of two back-to-back sixth places in FIFA Qualifiers. But the chance coach a side with so many people backing it no matter what, in such a competitive region of the world, would truly be a godsend for many out there hoping to fill Sanvicente’s shoes. The Federation did its part: they’ve tapped local talent dry. Now it’s time to look abroad in order to aim high.

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  1. CONMEBOL can qualify up to 50% of the membership, CONCACAF can qualify up to 11% of the membership UEFA can qualify upto 26% of its membership. Venezuela stands some pretty good odds of qualifying.

    • That’s just ridiculous, and I don’t know why I’m bothering with an answer.
      But you think that, soccer-wise, Aruba, the Virgin Islands (either) and Montserrat even slightly compare to what we face in our qualifiers? Seriously dude…
      Same with UEFA. OK, they have Spain, Italy, England, Germany, etc. But the vast majority of the confederation consists of countries like Armenia, Andorra, Moldova, Luxembourg and other countries that would get their asses kicked even by Bolivia (the 9th best team in CONMEBOL).

      • It matters not whether it is ridiculous. Those are the allotments granted by FIFA. Perhaps CONCACAF has too many slots available (which I would not argue). I would like to see a merger between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

        • Gordon, you do make a valid point with the allotments. But it’s not the same thing having to face 9 good rivals (twice) to maybe having to play against 10-12 rather average ones. I mean, even the systems are different: CONMEBOL is basically a league of 10, whereas CONCACAF has three different qualifying rounds that end with the “Hexagonal”; and even there the quality is lower compared to South America.

          And as well as you, I’d love a Panamerican Confederation; hopefully the shake-ups in FIFA will allow power and old vices from preventing what seems innevitable. Also, the upcoming Copa América Centenario (held outside South America for the first time) is a step in the right direction.

        • That’s something else completely.
          I’m just arguing that the odds of qualifying has little to do with the proportion of countries in the confederation that qualify, given that the countries aren’t chosen randomly.

      • I would argue that UEFA is still more difficult precisely because there are a) 10 teams as strong or stronger than CONMEBOL and b)needing to play more games in the same amount of time due to all the weaker teams present in UEFA, which makes every subsequent game harder on the players bodies. If anything, point a alone would make it just as difficult as CONMEBOL in terms of getting points

        • Not really. UEFA sorts them all out in 9 groups; 8 made up by 6 squads, one of 5. It is also ensured that not group is uneven, nor that any team is unfairly sorted. They have a method for ensuring an even distribution of quality per group (seeding process they call it).

          In the end, to qualify, they must play only 10 games; 12 if you have to play a knock-out round.

          CONMEBOL is 18 games, winner takes all, no filters, no mercy. If you’re good, you shan’t worry. If you aren’t, worry plenty.

  2. I don’t think the main argument of the article follows from what is here stated. Our league is indeed crap, and it has to do with all the corruption in the FVF and the lack of money flowing into football in recent years. Why? Because the government is broke and the other private stakeholders either do not want to invest considering how messy the economy is, or have been deliberately left out (Remember Polar’s sponsorship to our national team a few years ago? Now PDVSA). So I think no matter we get fucking Pep Guardiola, we are still gonna be crap because it is a systematic problem and it takes more than one coach to solve.

    • That is indeed part of the problem, or one of the many problems. It does matter that the coach is foreign or domestic, because it is yet a threshold the FVF has not dared pass. It does matter that the league is crap, because as you state, no coach can turn shoe polish into gold. But it also matters that the fact that local media, so-called experts and pundits are focussing only on the fact that Sanvicente is to blame, shows that yet another bigger problem is around: good-old cortoplacismo. The entire discussion around Venezuelan sports media is that we’re not going to Russia 2018 (only three games into the qualifiers, albeit losing all three games). Nobody is talking about the main issues here.

      Also, the system is at fault, as you clearly state: it doesn’t produce talent, it doesn’t have the power to keep our better players in the domestic league, and it certaintly isn’t investing in tomorrow’s Vintotintos -and that’s not just for the Federation to do, let me tell you. We have two theoretically professional divisions. Where are their development programs?-. Worth writing about in detail further on, for sure.

      And in regards to the whole Polar sponsorship deal, well that’s an yet another entire post in and of itself.

      Thanks for the input!

  3. Maduro has a list of excuses ready for any and all failures in Venezuela. No need to write a long essay on Vinotinto’s poor performance. The game is just a distraction.

    For example–
    1. Imperialists paid the referees
    2. The ball was made in the Yankee Northern hemisphere and does not rotate correctly near the equator.
    3. The CIA sabotaged the game by filling the balls with cocaine.

    ets. etc.

  4. So we are worried about the pathetic quality of Venezuelan sports? Y “la vino tinto” that has never won anything? On the bright side, we have Maldonado and Formula 1. Let’s get proud.

    • Maldoblado has the same economical support as the Vinotinto, just think a moment and realize one person has the same foundings as a whole footby team, and not to mention his is sh&# compared to the rest of the Formula 1 drivers…

  5. Wow! The forces of good and evil are maneuvering for an epic battle in less than a month to decide the fate of world (Ok, our little corner of the world) and you are focusing on *^$#!$^ fútbol? I am not sure whether to question your sanity or envy your ability to compartmentalize.

  6. I think La Vinotinto summarize our culture, we want things fast and easy. Similar to any entrepreneurship idea in Venezuela, opening a restaurant and you will be rich in 3 years.
    Do you think Germany became world champions because they just hired an international coach, which they did not. Or because they got Audi or BMW to sponsor the German national team? If you want to understand how they did it, please read the below article
    All this started in June of 2000 when Germany finished dead last in its group at the European Championship. They scored one goal in three games, losing to Portugal 3-0 in their final match. They understood a lack of professional foundation, they needed to invest in the future in order to get to the top again. We are talking about over $600M to create a real academy funded by all professional teams, not by someone else or the government. Money came from the interested parties, this is known as investment.
    This is harvest season for Germany, this is not a coincidence or something that just happened.
    We are now trying to get better with players from other counties, we are tapping on others efforts and could work but the entire support system around the team is so fractured that makes it almost impossible to succeed. How can we blame Chita?

    • US Soccer → http://www.ussoccer.com/us-under17-mens-national-team/residency

      Since its inception, more than 300 players have been through the full-time Residency Program, and more than 100 of those players have moved on to Major League Soccer, or the professional leagues in Europe. Nineteen players have also registered at least one cap with the full MNT: Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Bobby Convey, Landon Donovan, Eddie Gaven, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, Justin Mapp, Chad Marshall, Dax McCarty, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce, Santino Quaranta, Robbie Rogers, Jonathan Spector and Danny Szetela.

    • Germany is exactly one of the models that should be taken into account in this issue. They provide a good case of a patched system that ended up going from champion, to bust, to champions once again. I’m glad you brought up this example, as it’s one I’ve literally obsessed over for the past decade or so.

      However, that case isn’t necessarily as easily translatable to Venezuela for several reasons, one of the most important ones being the total lack of a qualified workforce to run things in the FVF. Germany not only has amazing players and great coaches, but they also have a more than handsome number of sport psychologists, sport sociologists (in a country with 25.000+ homicides a year, sociology becomes a key aspect of football in Venezuela), sports lawyers, managers, doctors… you name it! They even have three separate univiersities devoted entirely to sports: one in Cologne, one in Berlin and one in Leipzig.

      The fact that big business is behind the German national team is a plus, not necessarily a cornerstone. Sure, the big projects that financed the revival came in a greater amount out of Mercedes-Benz’s pockets, or even Adidas. But to understand football, the real impact always comes from within the league system, and that is where the Bundesliga is by far the best example of sustainability and investment in youth development programs. They stand on their own, with little to no help from the Federation or the German State. The best are rewareded, naturally with extra income, but by law, all professional football squads must have their own develpment program (DFL statutes).

      I’d be glad to delve deeper into this subject whenever you seem fit. However, the bottom line is that in the case of Venezuela, the sheer lack of prepared people to run things is the biggest possible obstacle. No matter how much money you throw at the problem, if it’ll be mishandled, the problem won’t go away.

      Thanks for you input!

      • I only named the Germans as an example but in any other country with a respectable team, the federation is managed as a private entity. Investors put money on it and 20 years later they get a a big pay back, if things are mismanaged a legal claim will be submitted and people will get fired. Accountability
        Spain did it, they understood that investing in minor leagues is a very profitable business. Just check the Barcelona business model, they have a money making machine harvesting players and it is making a lot of profit. When I say investing includes not only players but also doctors, trainers, psychologist, nutrition, and legal.
        The FVF claimed to invest in the future by building an immense complex in Margarita, since this was funded and treated as a government project, that means “sin dolientes”, it was never finished and it will not be.

        • Please, Barcelona is no example to follow.

          “Just check the Barcelona business model, they have a money making machine harvesting players…”

          Harvesting players indeed! A team that used to have UNICEF on their shirts got prosecuted for child smuggling and now they are serving a transfer embargo.

          And that’s before I mention all of the tax fraud charges against their players. I don’t care how good a footballer you are, stealing from the public purse is stealing.

          It’s not so much Venezuela needs to copy Barcelona, more like Barcelona copied Venezuela!!!

  7. Dunga estaba dentro de los preseleccionados por la FVF para dirigir La Vinotinto; de hecho, el mismo lo dijo en una entrevista que le hicieron cuando fue nombrado coach de Brasil. Eso hizo que el siguiente en la lista venezolana, Sanvicente, fuera el elegido, asi que es una verdad a medias que aqui no se están buscando técnicos extranjeros.

    En mi limitado conocimiento del tema (aunque como criado en Merida siempre he estado mas interesado en el futbol que en el beisbol), solo Paez y Faria han sido técnicos nacionales, con lo cual se refuerza el hecho de que casi siempre hemos contado con timoneles foráneos (que, a juzgar por los resultados, tampoco fue que hicieron mucho).

    Y por cierto, no soy defensor de Sanvicente (ni lo conozco, a diferencia de a Paez y sus hermanos), pero aqui está como se desempeñaron despues de tres partidos de eliminatoria

    RP CF NSv
    G: 0 0 0
    E: 1 1 0
    P: 2 2 3
    GF: 2 3 3
    GC: 12 5 8

    el record del Chita no es MUY diferente al de los dos técnicos precedentes

    • Hay muchas cosas a considerar:

      1- Paez asumio la Venezuela que venia en camino a dejar de ser la Cenicienta.
      2- Farias asumio una Venezuela que se podia proponer objetivos mas ambiciones (semifinalista de la Copa America 2011, por ejemplo)
      3- Chita recibe una seleccion cuyos valuartes estan retirados o cerca de edad de retiro; y sin un relevo claro.

      Otro punto ajeno a los contextos: Farias fue elegido seleccionador sin haber ganado jamas un torneo de ningun tipo. A efectos de merito, Chita lo dobla, al igual que Paez.

      Por ultimo, es verdad lo que dices. Y es un reflejo de otra cosa adicional: la calidad en si de la seleccion, no es que es muy buena. Como comento en el articulo, nuestros logros son haber quedado un pelo mejor que antes, pero jamas dentro del cuadro clasificatorio; que en una confederacion que clasifica a la mitad de sus seleccionados, no es que es muy alentador.

      Thanks for your comment!

  8. Daniel,

    You state “And so far, Salomón Rondón, Christian Santos and Josef Martínez have scored a total of only one goal in these qualifiers.”.

    What happened with Fernando Aristeguieta? I remember him making some statements about the sadness of the situation in Venezuela in 2014 during the protests and since then I don’t see him playing for the Vinotinto any more. How much interference/pressure is there from the government on the manager to pick players/not pick players based on their political leanings?

    I ask because I’ve never read anything since, from any other player, where they have been critical of the country. And these players travel and work abroad so they are not blinkered in their outlook.

    • As DSSA says, it’s more a matter of injuries and being out of touch with their game than a political thing. This is fortunately one of the few things that has not been politicized.

  9. and they just recently decided to expand the league to 20 teams, which is pretty insane considering funding is scarse, logic dictates that it would be better to have a 10 teams decent league than having a league in wich most cant bring 1000 people to stadiums, that seems to be the fvf approach, quantity over quality. The number of teams should be reduced in size so that the little private and public funding that is avaible for these can be better funneled.

  10. 100% agree. The local tournament needs to be better to have a better national team. The problem is the structure of the FVF and the league. Those should be two different things like in the rest of the world (Serie A, Premier League, La Liga, Dimayor in Colombia, etc). In Venezuela FVF and the league are the same thing. Big mistake. Also conflict of interest among onerships (the Kabchis own stock in half of the teams of the league), El Aissami is well within Aragua FC,a and so on. We need more transparent and committed ownership.

    But the problem with Chita is that there is no international coach suitable for Venezuela´s football right now that we can afford. I mean, in order to have a coach that could make a difference, he needs to earn approx. $500k in the lower side. This, we are talking of someone with world class experience, but not the best coach in the world (a Lavolpe, Washington Tavares, Parreira). A Hiddink, Biela, Capello, Ericsson or Klinsmann could cost around $1 million per month. Those are the game changers, the ones that bring new stuff to teams they coach, making a huge difference. Our FVF is far to reach those numbers, football is just not that big in Venezuela, when compared to Colombia or Chile. The only company that has that kind of money in Venezuela is PDVSA which already sponsors the FVF, but 70% of their sponsorship budget is taken by Maldonado and his useless entourage. If we could just use half of what we give to Maldonado, then we can probably hire a world class coach, which was the thing we needed to do after Farias.

    More or less, Maldonado´s sponsorship of $33 million has costed each Venezuelan $1 a year (implying we are around 33 million) for the LAST SIX YEARS. Mofo has just made a fool of himself, I am 99,9999% the time he won that race in Spain, it was rigged by gamblers, beacuse he has never been even close to that again (not even a top 5 finish)

    If I see Maldonado in the street I will slap him in the face and ask him for my 6$. What a lousy idiot to sponsor, costing us a new head coach. Football is the sport that was growing at a fastest pace, more than other sports in Venezuela. It is played by 4 million Venezuelans. I wonder, how many Venezuelans practice motor racing? This is nuts, I´m gonna sleep

    • For as much as I despise what PDVSA does with Maldonado, I’ve never been in favor of defunding a sports program to bolster another one. It isn’t the way sports should be run, but then again neither is investing 30 million USD per year on a rather mediocre racing driver.

      Sponsorship is perhaps one of the biggest “pata cojas” Venezuelan sports has, and it responds mostly to the lack of professionals in the sporting world. You’d be surprised by how many officials barely made it through high school…

  11. Because, I mean if we pay less than $100 k per month, well, we are maybe going to get an unknown Argentinean, that the players are not going to respect or even know, and then we are double screwed. Problem also is that there is no other Venezuelan coach that could handle this team. And for FVF is easy, to keep Chita as earns less than $500 per month. He signed his contract in Bolivares. Its complicated.


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