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World Cup Managers
April 12, 2010 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Why are managers of national soccer teams also not required to be citizens of the country whose team they manage?

For example, why is Fabio Capello able to manage the English team even though he is Italian? Seems like a strange exception.
posted by josher71 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
To turn it around, why should they be required to be citizens of the countries they are managing? Are there any sports with nationality requirements for non-player personnel?
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 1:36 PM on April 12, 2010


Sven Goran Eriksson managed them before, and he's Swedish - I imagine the logic is that the manager doesn't actually compete, so only the direct competitors (ie the players) have to comply with national requirements. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? Trainers? Medics? Bus drivers?

If everyone on the field is of the right nationality, that'd make sense to me.
posted by Brockles at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2010


I would think that even though the manager is not on the field he does have a direct effect on play and in a different way then support staff.
posted by josher71 at 1:40 PM on April 12, 2010


Foreign managers probably pre-date all of this, but there's an interesting legal standpoint, in the EU at least (which certainly pertains to when Capello was appointed, and to some prior foreign managers).

One of the Four Freedoms of the EU is the free movement of workers:

...perhaps the most important right under Community law for individuals, and an essential element of European citizenship.

Sport (mainly football) has actually been a bit of a problem for this, for a variety of reasons (quotas, transfer fees etc.). See here for some background and more info.

However, for your purposes, I think footnote 283 (at the bottom of the linked page) provides some useful context in that the ECJ had to carve out a right of national teams to field only players who are nationals of that country. In other words, free movement of workers is so hugely important to the EU that they had to specifically address the point of having only national players, let alone managers.

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However, that doesn't really address your question, so in broad strokes:

Having a non-national manager was, and to a lesser extent still is, a huge deal (at least in England, with our parochial collective mindset). But in the end, there are only so many world class managers about, with proven success records - you don't chuck a first-time manager into a high-pressure situation and expect them to succeed (see: Alan Shearer). When a nation wants to succeed, it will call on the best that it can afford and actually get - if you think about it, this is a key area where a national association can actually help, given that their pool of players is by definition limited. This is doubly so when a nation is football-obsessed - look at all the hand-wringing over Sven-Göran Eriksson. But the fact that he did comparatively better than other recent, English, managers (obligatory) meant that the issue of his nationality soon faded into the background, only revealing itself for horrific puns and national stereotypes (lots of "Ice cool Swede" etc.).

For nations with little historical football success (and even more so if this is due to a general lack of football in the nation itself, and related lack of status) the foreign manager thing has been less of an issue - often it's about getting expertise from a manager who has experience with a higher level of play, and is recognised as a superior coach. The coach also gets good experience, which he can use on his CV/resumé when applying (or which can act as a catalyst for a nation to seek him out - again, see Sven, Capello etc.).

Of course, an interesting counterpoint to all of this is Guus Hiddink, who in line with the above should be employed by a rich, ambitious, football-mad nation (because he's expensive, very good, and delivers). Since managing Holland, he's not really managed a team that was at his arrival acclaimed as good.

Of course, proving this argument is Guus Hiddink, who has been hired at great expense by ambitious minnows, delivering results for teams previously thought of as rubbish.

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So, if nations want the best results, they'll want to hire the best - they certainly won't make rules against hiring foreign managers.

And what incentive do global organisations (FIFA) have in doing so? None - you'd have managers who could never build international experience in order to be able to manage their own country effectively, and the smaller nations would rarely have anyone good enough to lead them to major tournaments (and there's enough whining about crap countries only making it to tournaments because of geographical accident already). The world of football would be comparatively boring and stale.
posted by djgh at 1:50 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Capello's case it's because he's a damn site better than any English alternative. An English coach of the same quality would be preferable, but only because it makes for a better story.

Commercially and otherwise, the brief when selecting a coach is to find one who will best bring about success for the team. Unless England can supply that person, then it makes eminent sense to look elsewhere for talent.

Also, England's last coach was Steve McClaren. He wasn't very good.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:51 PM on April 12, 2010


I'm going to speculate that no-one thought about it before it actually happened for the first time, and FIFA felt that the on-the-field participants rule was enough.

Bear in mind also that while you might expect an English manager for England, nations without a long-term tradition in football could be helped to a greater competitive standard by appointing an experienced foreign coach. Especially at international level, the experience of the coach with other football cultures is going to be valuable. What's more, to take a cynical line, you could argue that FIFA probably only care about expanding the numbers of people around the world who take an interest in football, and if bringing in an experienced foreign manager to help a small footballing nation compete against the European and South American giants is what it takes, they have no reason to dislike it.
posted by galaksit at 1:52 PM on April 12, 2010


This is also not unique to football. But some countries haven't yet had a foreign manager: I can't imagine Spain, France, Italy or Germany appointing a foreigner as a coach.

England appointed Sven and Capello because there were no English managers at the time good enough (or perhaps stupid enough considering the public expectations/lack of playing talent) to take on the job.

International Rugby Union and Cricket managers/coaches are often 'foreigners'. Andy Robinson (English) is now coaching the Scottish team, but previously he played for and then later coached England before being booted out.

In Cricket and also Rugby there is also many players that weren't born/raised in the country they represent. Notably the England cricket team has about the same amount of South African born players as English currently.
posted by selton at 1:54 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Cricket and also Rugby there is also many players that weren't born/raised in the country they represent.

It's notable, though, that in Rugby Union you must fulfill a residency requirement in order to play for a country. (In Wales this is three years, and I think it's something union-specific, so it may change for each country.) So you'll get someone like Sonny Parker who was born in New Zealand, but has lived and played rugby in Wales long enough to qualify for the national team.

The Welsh head coach is a New Zealander also, incidentally, but did not have to fulfill residency requirements.
posted by kalimac at 3:05 PM on April 12, 2010


Is there any national sport where the rule is that coaches need to be from the country where the athletes are competing? I think it's irrelevant across the board.
posted by Omon Ra at 3:10 PM on April 12, 2010


I'm not very familiar with the role of football managers, but wouldn't a citizenship rule be easy to work around? You have a nominal manager who is a citizen, and rubber-stamps the decisions made by the real manager (who gets the title "Special Consultant" or whatever - and may not even be officially part of the national team's staff). Obviously, you can't get away with such deception with players on the field.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 3:11 PM on April 12, 2010


Clandestine Outlawry...You have a nominal manager who is a citizen, and rubber-stamps the decisions made by the real manager (who gets the title "Special Consultant"...

Yes, you're correct, that could and has been done, at least in English club football.

Although for a different reason, Iain Dowie (temporary manager of Hull City) is called something like 'football management consultant' - presumably because since they sacked Phil Brown so recently they aren't free to call anyone else 'manager' while his severance is worked out. There's been other football 'managers' with strange job titles for similar reasons - but my memory defeats me at the moment as to names.
posted by selton at 3:30 PM on April 12, 2010


The Olympics may be different: "When [Béla] Károlyi's status as the 1988 Olympic coach [of the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team] was jeopardized by the fact that he had not yet fulfilled the five-year residency requirement to become a U.S. citizen, two U.S. senators sponsored a special bill to waive the waiting period and grant him early citizenship."

The NYT article cited says "the rules" require citizenship for an Olympic coach, but I'm not sure whose rules it is referring to. Rule 42 of the Olympic Charter only refers to competitors. (Here's an interesting discussion of Rule 42.)
posted by Xalf at 3:33 PM on April 12, 2010


It's notable, though, that in Rugby Union you must fulfill a residency requirement in order to play for a country. (In Wales this is three years, and I think it's something union-specific, so it may change for each country.) So you'll get someone like Sonny Parker who was born in New Zealand, but has lived and played rugby in Wales long enough to qualify for the national team.

Football is not dissimilar - if a player hasn't represented another country, then when they fulfil the necessary residency/citizenship criteria of a country in which they reside, they are eligible to be play for for that nation.

Current Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is now eligible for British citizenship, for example, having moved to the club from his native Spain in 2004.

Whenever he manages to string together a few decent performances the whole subject of him playing for England gets trotted out by the tabloids as he's never managed to break into the (rather well-goalkeepered) Spanish national side.

It's something he's gone on record as saying he'd consider if he did take British nationality (something he's admitted he may do at some point as he considers England as much his home as Spain these days), but that he'd never take nationality solely for that purpose as he feels it'd be a ridiculously mercenary thing to do.
posted by garius at 3:56 PM on April 12, 2010


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