Rocket Robin Report: CanMNT’s New Coach

Details of the press conference held Friday March 17, 2017 at 10:00am in the Pier 4 Room of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in downtown Toronto.

Attendance was about thirty people all formally invited by the Canadian Soccer Association with two days notice.

Before it started everyone knew about the appointment. When I first received the e-mail, I didn’t know and wondered why anything about the ‘Canada’s men’s national team’ would be announced in Toronto as the team will be playing Curacao on June 13th in Montreal and that would be the place to pump up the enthusiasm. Ooh maybe it’s the announcement of the new Canadian league? That’s been overdue and keeps getting delayed.

Hmm. Then I started getting twitter messages and e-mails that it was to announce a new head coach it made some sence. Toronto the ‘media capital of Canada’—when the Canadian Women’s team played a friendly in Vancouver, the result didn’t make Toronto’s papers (time zones) and by the next day it was old news. Also I asked Richard Scott after the conference whether Zambrano could speak French. No! English and Spanish. Well English speaking Toronto solves that. I always thought Benito Floro could have used a translator just because he was so soft spoken.

A small head table on an elevated stage had the President of Canada Soccer Peter Montagliani, newly announced Men’s Head Coach Octavio Zambrano and Victor Montopoli, General Secretary of the CSA.

Montagliani and Zambrano gave opening remarks before taking questions from the media.

Montagliani immediately announced Zambrano as the new head coach of the Men’s team but also supervision of the entire men’s side of the program from U-15s right to the Senior team. The CSA wanted to change the structure of the entire program so there’s be “uniformity” and “one voice”. Secondly it is because Zambrano has so much experience in all the coaching he’s done.

He then outlined briefly the wealth of experience OZ brings to the position. PM thinks this will be the most challenging position OZ has faced. Even more challenging than CONCACAF is ourselves!

Meaning the Canadian culture and negative mindset that we have and we’ve only started to shed it in the last four or five years. OZ has some excellent instincts for the game, he’s a winner, not afraid to take on challenges. We’re confident he’s the right person for the job.

OZ starts by expressing his deepest gratitude to all the people of the CSA for making him feel welcome. We have a responsibily not only to the first team, the Olympic team but the grassroots level and all the national teams in between. With them we must create an identity of football. To ensure that Canada reaches not just the next level but the highest level. “I feel I’ve prepared all my life for this job!” “I am thankful and will not disappoint”.

Next the new Umbro Canada soccer jersey is unveiled. It’s all white with red trim, letters and numbers. I can’t see a difference between it and other jerseys over the years. Click click click! Go the cameras. The two of them turn it around and it reads 17 and Zambrano.

Now questions from the floor:

Kristian Jack — TSN: VM what made it stand out that OZ was the right guy?

VM: experience factor but also the ability to take on the role for the program.

James Sharman — Sportsnet: OZ well known for turning around teams quickly but at the club level, what’s your biggest challenge at the international level?

OZ: I’ve spoken to quite a few colleagues and international coaches while doing my research. The selection process of the player is the most important. Making sure they have the right quality. The BEST of the Canadian squad is a good group…young guys coming up and guys that have been scouted.

A different guy from TSN: VM Too many voices? What did OZ sell you on in terms of development? What is his philosophy?

OZ answers first: age 3 to 12 is the age of discovery. It is a critical time as we must achieve a total mastery of the ball. Ie wel should be able to teach any technical ability that the game requires. Then at age 12 or 13 game strategies but we have to have the skills first. As we work on the first team (priority) we should also be looking after the bottom half/the grass roots Teach and monitor that the skills are being taught.

VM: Not just OZ’s ability to do the job but it’s more a cultural thing. Canada one of the few places where we have a lack of respect for the system. Not the result of not getting the (game) results because other countries also don’t get results. We already have coaching books/strategies. It’s all there, follow it. The problem is people want to pull off the training sessions from Everton Football Club rather than using the resources we have here. We have an amateur environment and it’s killing us. That’s one of the reasons we have to grow on the professional side. We’re starting to do that but it’s the early days.

Anthony Totera — Red Card: When you were in the process of taking this position with the promise of a league that will be set up here in Canada so you can have a look at more Canadian talent?

OZ: It is the utmost importance that we have our own league! I commend VM, PM and everyone for making sure this is done. There are a lot of player that are a lot peripheral players at the highest levels of North America and Europe. They are there but they are not playing/getting quality minutes! The league will give them that opportunity. It will also give me a chance to monitor them and interact with the coaches. We will not rely on the MLS environment. We will make decisions for the benefit of the Canadian players.

[I was ‘marking out’ for this answer as I watched Toronto FC play Philadelphia Union on the weekend with TFC having no Canadian starters. Also even TFC II have been making announcements for new goalie from St Louis USA, new Finnish guy signed etc].

Kristian Jack — TSN: (for VM) Other countries head coaches are strictly evaluated for results on the field. This feels different. An enormous job! Should there be patience shown if the results don’t come very quickly for the senior squad?

VM: Yeah there has to be patience but we have to accelerate the attitude that winning is important. There’s a guy sitting behind you—our U-17 coach—trust me, he likes to win [that is Paul Stalteri]. He (PS) also knows he has a job on the development perspective but he’s not going to just go there, he wants to qualify. You can’t undermine development for an attitude of winning (winning is part of development). The problem with that in the professional environment we must balance winning and development. Because we are mostly in an amateur environment we don’t balance that we get into an ugly parent syndrome. Winning is ‘1A’ if development is ‘1’.

Richard Scott –CSA: For our first home match in Montreal, OZ talk about your passion.

OZ: We can’t step onto the pitch without having the passion to win at all costs but fairly. We’ve been happy to participate but we’ve not been keen enough to think that we can win. If you don’t have the fire to make that extra move to go all in then you won’t be part of this program.

Anthony Totera: Have you decided on your coaching staff? Also are you going to try to convince some of the players that have not committed to Canada to play for us?

OZ: Yes (for second question) me and the CSA must try to convince the players that this is a big issue for us and we truly want him to have the honour to wear the Canadian jersey. We must say the right thing to make them commit. Very important to engage with them.

First question he introduces his staff (who were not there).

Fitness Trainer Norberto Salamanca all his exercises involve the ball. Assistant coach Javier Livia will bring his knowledge of Europe. Assistant coach Michael Findlay will stay on. He has a knowledge of Canadian soccer. Zak Abdel as goalkeeper coach has worked with OZ since LA Salsa days. Experienced and great at finding young players.

Wrap up and instructions for break out sessions given. Thank yous.

After the former part of the press conference, the reporters broke up for individual interviews with Montagliani and Zambrano which meant the camera crews shoved their way in to pick up the sound bites. Some of this would be picked up on the lunchtime news and it was being tweeted about while the conference was in progress. I certainly couldn’t compete with this.

I heard the very end of Montagliani answering questions about the new Canadian league. He said there’ld be a MINIMUM of six teams to start. Some teams may join by the second year. He said he only has six weeks left of his three year term as president of the CSA. (he has been elected as head of CONCACAF). He said it was “a tough decision but the right decision”. I asked Anthony Totera about if he’d heard when there may be an announcement but all he would say was “soon”.

Paul Stalteri was there and he remains the men’s Under 17 head coach.

I pointed out to the Toronto Star reporter Laura Armstrong that for the last five days the print edition of their paper has published the MLS Standings with ‘New York’ (as opposed to New York City) holding both first place in the East and second place in the West (instead of Houston). Do you think if it was an error in the hockey or baseball standings that this would carry on for an entire week?

There’s my niche! The Periscope broadcast of this press conference has disappeared and video will be squeezed to 20 second clips for the sports news. I have the entire 22 minutes of the formal press conference which I can post! I expected reporters would place their recorders, phones, etc on the table like the last Toronto press conference but no one did so I didn’t either. I am behind the times. Good thing I was in the front row and my two little Sandisks (one for back up) picked up good enough!

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Robin Glover

Robin Glover

Robin has been writing about soccer in the Toronto area for message boards and his own website since the early 1990s in the days of 2400 baud modems to USENET sites. In the 2014 season he attended 76 games in various leagues that played in the GTA area.

Follow Robin on Twitter and on his website

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