Rafael Dudamel: “This is the best generation in the history of Venezuela”

The coach resigned from the senior team in January after consolidating the project in the youth teams and being the U-20 world runner-up. Interview, about the duel against Colombia, this Friday, for qualifiers.

Since Rafael Dudamel assumed the position of technical director in the Venezuelan senior team, months before the 2016 Copa América, the speech, so down-to-earth, has always been the same: “The goal is Qatar 2022 ”. He had come from playing a great role with the U-17 team and was preparing to play, also, the South American U-20 with the aim of obtaining a ticket to the World Cup in South Korea, a tournament in which, against all odds, he was proclaimed world runner-up. With what look? In youth footballers, who would be in charge of taking Venezuela to a World Cup for the first time.

And the road Qatar 2022 will begin this Friday with the duel against Colombia on the first date of qualifying, paradoxically, without Rafael Dudamel, who will not be on the bench, but, from afar, commenting on the match for Gol Caracol. A bad relationship with the leadership made him decide to resign from his post last January. Of course, with the illusion, and at the same time the uncertainty, that it is built on what has been built. From his home in Cali, these were the opinions of Rafael Dudamel in an interview with The viewer.

What reading does he make of the project that the Portuguese José Peseiro starts, a DT who is on his honeymoon with the leadership, but who still does not really know it. Is there uncertainty because what has been built is lost?

He is a coach with enough experience to know the potential of his team over time. With the coexistence, the triumphs and the defeats, he will meet the leaders, who are in a transition stage. Despite the extra sport, which I prefer not to talk about, what I want most as a Venezuelan, having lived in the corridors of the national team since I was 13 years old, is for the national team to win and fulfill the objective. Hopefully not only continue, but improve: the work is finished. The castle was handed over with the keys, now it remains to know how to live inside the castle and not let it collapse.

At what point is the decision made in Venezuela to jump-start and do things differently, thinking that the future is in the youth with actions such as the youth player rule in local tournaments?

I cannot go out and say that with the arrival of Dudamel things began to be done differently, they had already been doing since 2009 when Venezuela qualified for the first time for the 2009 Under-20 World Cup in Egypt under the command of César Farías and Marcos Mathias, we we complement your ideas. We had already been using the youth player rule, which promoted the growth of these players, who, having no bases in the training categories, could enter professionalism and grow tactically, physically and mentally. We also coincide with an extraordinary selection, which in the brain has installed the thought that there are only three places left in the World Cup, because one is already from Venezuela.

Why do you think there is so much resistance in countries to meet that youth player standard?

I do not understand. The leaders believe they are doing the national team a favor and they are not. In the end, the great beneficiary is the club, which is empowering the footballer and there is no better showcase than the national team. Pride, arrogance, arrogance and ignorance lead one to believe that by giving players a favor is done to Dudamel, but when they are sold, because foreign teams look for national team players, those who receive the transfer money are the clubs. In the end we were able to have that understanding after many meetings, filing differences, understanding that it was not Dudamel’s selection but Venezuela.

What was that differential factor of that Venezuela that was sub-20 world runner-up in 2017 with several players who today lead the majors and why do they have a different mentality?

Being runners-up in the world seemed like a utopia. That was a generation that competed, that wanted to improve and wanted to win even in training. They were too, too competitive, an irreplaceable value in any winning athlete. And this group accepted and made the commitment to be in Qatar for one reason: because they play World Cups from youth. In training, everything flowed spontaneously and the beauty is that they admire each other, there are the results.

Yeferson Soteldo and Wuilker Faríñez are the players called to lead the generational change in Venezuela, what other great players do you see in this process?

From the sporting point of view, there are players who infect and invite you to go for more: Yeferson Soteldo (Santos from Brazil), Juanpi Añor (Málaga), Jefferson Savarino (Atlético Mineiro), Rómulo Otero (Corinthians), Yangel Hererra (Granada) and Júnior Moreno (DC United), but then there are born leaders, captains who do better than their teammates like Salomón Rondón (Dalian Pro), Wuilker Faríñez (Lens), Tomas Rincón (Torino) and Roberto Rosales (Leganés).

Do you think, then, that this is the best generation of soccer players in Venezuela?

Yes, I am sure this is the best generation ever. You can hope to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. Why? By capacity, individual quality and preparation.

Coaches in South America are still very empirical in their work, how has the role of coach changed from when you were a player to today?

When I played, I paid attention to what they said and obeyed, without saying more. Today it is not like that: the footballer has criteria and knowledge. They ask you why and what things are done for, we must be able to answer those questions and be able to convince them. You have to be in constant evolution and preparation, the social aspect is the great difference between Europe and here. More attention needs to be paid to the development of footballers and the training of trainers.

Defensive solidity has always been religious in its game model, characterized by direct play. What are your principles and philosophy of the game?

He doesn’t win anyway. The defensive balance for me is fundamental, non-negotiable. Strength to defend is key. And the defense is also through the attackers and it must not only give an elaborate exit, with construction from the goalkeeper, they are also the defenders who give the emotional balance of the team. All this is time and work to tactically lead the team day by day with many sessions.

From América goalkeeper to América goalkeeper: How do you analyze the conditions of Joel Graterol, who had been in the shadow of Faríñez since the youth teams?

He has had an optimal preparation process, he has known how to wait. He is a great professional and a better human being. At last his opportunity has arrived and he is going to take advantage of it, to say that he is the starter, I don’t know, the priority is Faríñez, even without continuity in France. It was a very nice competition, raised like brothers, good competitors, loyal. When it’s Graterol’s turn, he’s going to be ready, seeing him succeed in America fills me with pride.

What do you think of Carlos Queiroz? After a long time, tactically speaking, it is known what Colombia is playing.

What happened to Pékerman was extraordinary, it allowed them to reach the world elite. I like what Queiroz does, I fully identify myself. It is a modern football with a coach and modern players. I think he is going to make them climb to the next step that Colombia must reach, he has a lot of experience.

Do you see yourself directing in Colombian soccer?

I would like, without speeding up the times, without forcing it. At the right time and place, I know I’m going to enjoy it.


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