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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Translated excerpts from "Calcio totale" by Arrigo Sacchi

Image credit:
Libri Mondadori and Amazon.it.

"I knew my limits as a footballer."

"I didn't want to, and couldn't
always, sell shoes."

"A race car driver doesn't practice
at 100 km per hour and then race at
200 km per hour on Sunday."

"I went from being 'Mr. Nobody' to
the 'Prophet from Fusignano'."
Synopsis:

Former AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Parma and Italian national team manager, Arrigo Sacchi, pens his much-anticipated autobiography as told to journalist, Guido Conti. This article will focus on excerpts to complement my book review that was done in the past.

Discussion Items:

1. His Philosophy in a Nutshell.
2. Translated Excerpts
3. Related Articles

"I never have forgotten my origins in the factory. That experience molded me not only in character but also in professionalism thanks to the sense of obligation that I inherited from my father. Without, however, losing sight of the beauty to follow your own dreams.

Today, I look to transmit all of this to managers, making them the recipients of my lengthy instructional experience. Recounting how I psychologically managed the changing room with so many different personalities along with relationships with the public, media, ownership and other directors of a club."

--- Arrigo Sacchi, "Calcio totale: La mia vita raccontata a Guido Conti," (Total Football: My Life as Told to Guido Conti), Chapter 17, pages 272 to 273, published by Libri Mondadori with a list price of EUR 15,30.

Arrigo Sacchi. The mere name conjures up an image of a bald-headed mad football scientist who revolutionized Italian football with his obsessive attention to detail, introduction of zonal marking, defensive pressing, use of the offside's trap, other new ideas, a new lexicon ("restarts, preventive positioning, preventive marking" on page 271) and an overall anti-Catenaccio attitude.

Of all the most outlandish football predictions, who would have bet that an outsider such as Sacchi would produce one of the best clubs sides of all-time during his tenure at AC Milan? Mister Sacchi won eight trophies in a four-year period. Sacchi believes in the collective over the individual and intriguingly, places talent at the end of his desired list of key traits in a player.

Let's take a longer look at detailed excerpts from one of world football's leading managerial figures and thinkers about the game, Arrigo Sacchi.


During his time with the Azzurri.


1. His Philosophy in a Nutshell



His philosophy can be summed up as follows: Be the master (he used the Latin word dominus) of the play with a fine-tuned and synchronized collective over one-dimensional talented individual stars, velocity in execution, pressing, attack, intense preparation that mirrored match situations in training, concentration, no retreating, entertain, innovate and win deservedly. Sacchi also placed intelligence, ethics, morals and proper behavior as key factors in his system. He not only coached the player but also wanted to develop the man and was quick to exclude those who did not fit his vision.

2. Translated Excerpts by Steve Amoia of World Football Commentaries. 



There are 17 chapters, a table of contents, along with a summary of Sacchi's coaching C.V. Each chapter has an introductory quote from a famous person. My favorites were "There is no art without obsession" by Cesare Pavese (Chapter 5), and "Don't try to be better than others. Try to be better than yourself" by William Faulkner (Chapter 9), respectively.

I will provide a few key quotes:

Chapter 1: Fusignano (His hometown)

"I began as a boy playing as a defender for Baracca Lugo and Fusignano. I played a few games. I was right-footed but played left fullback. I was already 18 or 19-years-of age. I was at the first crossroads of my life. I knew my limits as a footballer. I wasn't that good but I was gifted. I played poorly in the last game. 'If I don't start, I'll quit I said to myself.' " Page 14

Chapter 3: The First Year at Rimini

"I went against a consolidated tradition of our defensive football, played with the famous 'catenaccio', and a counter-attacking offensive style... Football, born as an offensive and team sport, lost its original characteristics in a nation such as Italy who does not love novelty but is tied to tradition, the past and nostalgia." Page 36

Chapter 6: The March Towards the First Scudetto

"With the new ownership group, it was truly the end of a nightmare for the fans. (Silvio) Berlusconi gave guarantees of objectives, of economic security and above all, a new enthusiasm. In the first year, Berlusconi kept Nils Liedholm, but then he regretted it because he felt he had to make his own decision. He always had intuition in the discovery of men.

After the two consecutive losses at home in the Italian Cup versus my Parma, Berlusconi comprehended that perhaps I was the manager he was looking for. Because I fielded a type of football that he liked, one that was entertaining, aggressive, spectacular, and fearless. I didn't have an important history as a footballer, I brought in innovative ideas, and this was liked by the new ownership." Page 81

Chapter 7: My Football

"I've always interpreted the role of a manager thinking that my task was comparable to that of an actor and an orchestra conductor or a scriptwriter and director of a film." Page 119

Chapter 8: A Legendary Team

"Marco Van Basten was the cherry on the cake. He was the most talented but also the most discontinuous. His class was like crystal." Page 145

Please Note:

Sacchi gave a scouting report on most of his Milan players similar to the one above. That is the best way I can describe these rare, candid and enlightening analyses from the perspective of a former manager.

Chapter 11: In Flight Towards America

"Well, in the national team, there is less stress but also far less time to work with the players, to become acquainted with them from a humane point of view and to be able to talk with them. The long breaks between one call-up camp and another made it difficult to transmit my mentality of attacking football, ball possession and total play. My way of playing anticipated synchronicity and times in which the true system was the movement which always changed from the initial formation." Page 194

Chapter 12: The American World Cup

Photo credit: Chris Wilkins.













"When I subbed out Roberto, everyone was shocked. He didn't take it well. 'Me?' he said, then turning, looking around, incredulous, looking for affirmation in the eyes of his teammates. That screenshot was seen around the world. Baggio was like someone who was lost. With his finger, he touched his temple as if to say, 'He's crazy!' " Page 211

Chapter 13: The European Nations Cup

"The game versus Germany was one of the best games of my 53 at the helm of the Azzurri. We played a fluid football, aggressive, bringing ball after ball towards the rival's goal. But the Italian fan never forgives. For us, football is neither a sport nor a sporting spectacle." Page 232

Chapter 15: In Spain with Atletico Madrid

"Upon my arrival in Madrid, Miguel Angel Gil, the great sporting director, called together all of the players and communicated the new seasonal rules. 'Last year, we closed an eye. This year we'll be very rigid; therefore, make your own judgments. So that nobody comes in late, everyone should be in bed by 2 a.m.' For us in Italy, two in the morning was an unacceptable hour. I used to send my players to bed very early. Much before midnight. The times were all out of phase compared to our own. Even the approach to the game, I experienced it as if it were a bullfight." Page 242

Chapter 17: "A Day Ahead."

"I like to write. In all of these years, I've written hundreds of articles. I like to recount games from the technical perspective, with honesty, without exaggerating, with calm tones, hoping to give all of those who read my articles some interesting tips. The long work done with footballers, teaching for a lifetime a way to think and to play a different type of football, is poured out this way in newspaper articles. I talk about players, of their qualities and limitations, I evaluate tactics, and suggest, with discretion, what managers ought to do if I were their consultant." Page 272

Please Note

I was not financially compensated by the co-authors, publisher or any party who would benefit from a positive presentation and/or promotion of their work. All of the translated content, while done by me, is copyrighted (c) 2015 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano.





3. Related Articles


Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. 

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