Rest In Peace, Coach Sam

For the first time in my life I’m playing football and it’s not in the streets. I’m in an actual football field and I’m overwhelmed by what is going on around me. My team gets a penalty and someone from outside yells: “You, kid, take it!”

The other players hear him and back away from the ball. It’s all mine.

I immediately realize that this guy is apparently the boss here and I suddenly feel privileged yet nervous. I walk up to the ball frightened that I might miss. You know, being the new kid on the team, barely knowing anyone, and doing something stupid or wrong on your first training session is not exactly the most comforting thing. Luckily, I score.

The guy sitting outside the field was known as ‘coach Sam’. But for now, let’s call him Sam.

Sam was my coach for the next 10 years. Every weekend, our team would gather at the field. He would have a talk with us about what we did wrong in the previous training or match and give us a proper amount of advice. We simply listened.

He had a set of Ajax training videos which we watched together. He wanted us to complete their exact training drills and we simply did that. The kids in the videos were our age and they had their own ‘coach Sam’. They listened as well.

He despised selfishness. Any player found doing something selfish or irrational with the ball would receive the same small lecture. Sam would get two balls and shoot his into a certain location on the field.  Simultaneously, he would ask the player to dribble with the other ball all the way to that location. When the player returns, Sam would say: “You see, both of us just sent the ball there. However, I did it in less time and with much less effort. Who do you think has the easier life?”

We trained for years and worked our butts off. Soon enough, no other team in the country could even compete with us. We participated in several tournaments knowing that we’ll simply walk in, play, and walk out with the trophy.

Sam managed to keep us interested and anxious to win more. Yet, his authority never faded away. When our bodies started to grow he called us up for 8 am trainings at the beach. He wanted us to complete our training drills on the sand and we were asked to run in and out of the water after every drill. If you’ve never done it it’s simply putting your body through hell in a continuous fashion. You’d ask yourself: why would a teenager wake up at around 7 am on the weekends or in the summer to put his body through hell?

That is what people around us would ask. We all had the same answer: “We enjoyed it.”

Sam created a need to compete yet also maintained a bond between the players. He had our respect and we listened to him. He wanted us to suffer in training, use our bodies and intelligence to the full extent, and eventually come out as winners when it mattered.

Of course, everyone is asking: what does this have to do with Barcelona, Luis Enrique, and the players?

There are vast differences between the two situations. Most important of all, these men are mature professional players getting paid to do their job. While, on the other hand, we were just kids and teenagers wanting to take a medal home to show it to our families.

Luis Enrique, or be it any coach who coaches Barcelona, should have a certain amount of authority over the players. This hierarchy should exist and be very clear to players. It harms absolutely no one and only leads to the success of a team.

Sam would tell us: Your ego might get you to great places in life but not on the field. It is the opposite of what makes a team successful. Always remember that this is a team sport that will only function if all members of the team handle responsibilities together and fight together. You want personal success and satisfaction of your ego? Play Tennis.

However, in professional football egos do exist. But one thing does not change: it’s still a team sport and the team won’t function with so much instability. There should be a need to impress the coach. There should be an extreme dedication to what the coach is demanding. There should be visible unity among the players and more importantly a clear and honest relationship with the coach.

Regarding Barcelona, we can’t really tell who is causing the disturbance (obviously leaving the board issues aside).  It may be the reported incompetence of Luis Enrique that is causing all the mess. It may be the players’ fault. But at the end of the day, the moment you realize that we’re pointing fingers at each other is the moment the team starts to die.

In July of 2007, my teammates and I were talking about training and we suddenly notice a little girl running towards us yelling: “There is something wrong with your coach! He is lying on the field and he is not moving”. We rushed towards the field only to see that the girl was right. Apparently, he had been electrocuted by one of the machines while maintaining the field. They took him to the hospital and we were told later on that he had passed away.

Of course, after the required procedures, the team aimed to get back on track. We lost a major factor in what made the team great. We lost a leader and more importantly we lost someone we trust. The team never got back to what it was and eventually we all lost interest.

Again, this is not about Luis Enrique. Luis Enrique could completely fail. This is about any coach who’ll be appointed, how I would like him to act and how I would like the players to treat him. Unity and organization are beautiful weapons and without them any team in the world loses its status even if you have the best players in the world.

As I said before, there are vast differences between our little irrelevant team back home and the biggest club in the world. However, the sport is the same, the dedication to what makes a team great is the same, and the importance of having a leader and correct guidance is the same.


Rest in peace, coach Sam.


  1. Nice one Chief.

    A team is only as good as its leader. Look at how a kind of second string Atletico players played yesterday. They are ready to take their last breath for Simeone. While reading your Sam story, it was Simeone who first came to my mind, even before Pep.

    I am assuming, there is real unrest in our team as to how LE works and it is very much probable the players asked Leo to take it out, for if they have used Pique or Alves it would not have got this kind of results(recall news that even Puyol and LE didnt see eye to eye!). This could be also a completely different matter, as against LE issues, may be something to do with the board more, as the biggest thing that has come out of this drama has been the election news.

    Nothing more will happen, I hope and wish. We need to beat Atletico some how and win the rest of the fixtures too. People who ask for dumbing the coach at this stage are really not doing a favour.

  2. Nice to be able to say it’s a decent lineup tonight. Tight enough back four, interesting to see Rakitic given a chance to be playmaker and it doesn’t matter anyway as that front three will score goals regardless, particularly with Messi focussed. Hurt to see Iniesta left out of the squad. Doesn’t desrve that and you have to wonder if Xavi agreed … If Xavi can’t make it for the Atleti game he’d still be my choice for playmaker but maybe Xavi’s “injury” will improve.

    My worry is with Busi out if the squad tonight I’d read that as him playing at the weekend. Given Alan’s insistence on picking Masche does that mean he’ll be in the back four again against Atleti ? Must pick up an extra bottle of wine for the weekend just in case. . . .

    1. Ha! Granada hammer a free kick into the postage stamp at rocket speed straight through a defensive wall that has a hole in it the size of our national debt and the commentator says we have to blame the keeper !

  3. For me, No, it does not look good with LE at the helm of it. He cut such a lonely figure in there today. Almost as if a journalist sitting in the middle of a team. Secondly, did he really have to pick Ney out of the three forwards? He is the one who played the least among them so far this year and had a chance of scoring hattrick. Also, I dont know why but I felt today, sending Messi to the field wearing the captain’s band (excluding Xavi, Andres) for full 90 minutes was some kind of order from the high command. I was in fact disappointed with the team selection today as well right from the start. It almost looked like the team which should have been there against Sociedad and vice-versa. Anyways, maybe its just that my mind is caught in this public fest of LE slinging. By the by, loved every bit of abuse hurled at LE by commentators on Sky Sports. 🙂

    1. i find it interesting that in a game where we break down a bus and do what we need to do, winning 5-0 no less, your take away is enjoyment of the negativity surrounding our coach.

    2. I actually thought the same thing regarding Neymar’s substitution, but he did spend some time on the ground holding his ankle five minutes before he was subbed out, so with the AM match coming up and all…

      What pisses me off no end is that he chose a stronger line-up (Sergi Roberto nonewithstanding) for a midweek cup game against the bottom team of the league than for the game at Anoeta.

      Also, Rakitic. It’s been a while now since he had a “good” game for us.

    3. Nope, I had many take aways including a big smile thinking about the goals, while taking a leak post the match.
      But for me, I wanted to see how does LE respond? I am personally more worried about the situation in the locker room. If there is still tension between him and players, then things are going to remain uncomfortable for all parties, especially the players and LE. Not a recipe for team harmony.
      Does not matter how many – relegation zone, with player salaries unpaid since few months and without their only attacking threat for much of the game – teams we open up with manita.

  4. What a game from Messi! And serious signs that our front three are getting used to each other. Only doubt still in my mind is about the defence. I’m assuming Xavi plays if fit, Iniesta if not. However, I haven’t a clue what to read into Pique coming off after sitting out the last game for no good reason. That’s provocation in my book. No, in the spirit of team bonding I’m going to assume it was to rest him for the weekend despite the fact that the bench was probably marginally more taxing than playing at the back tonight.

  5. a good match today, what else can you do vs Elche’s bus but win 5-0? another win and….the blog goes silent. 🙂

    wanted to say “enhorabuena” to victor valdes who has signed with manchester united. good for him, bad for us if this means De Gea is headed to Real M*drid (rumor). He always made it difficult for us when he played for Atletico.

    1. I was just going to say the same thing… So many doom filled comments when we lose, and when we win… nothing.

    2. we used $200m worth of players to beat the worst team in La Liga, who are sure to go down next season. Messi’s weekly paycheck could buy Elche’s entire squad.

      forgive us for not lighting the fireworks.

    3. Do we get it, you think everything is fine and you love having a go at people that decide to say something critical about the team. If you want to throw a parade for being a team we should, go right ahead. There still zero play in the middle of the park, we are still totally relying on magic from our forwards, we can’t do that against top teams in the world and expect to win silverware. Unless Enrica check his ego, he’s on borrowed time because messy and having anymore of that. He’s done soon enough anyway once the new president and board take over.

    4. Yep, taking out a bazooka to kill an ant,as opposed to actually starting them when we needed them this past weekend.

  6. Ok we will have election in summer laporta will be back with the rest of the company.Can we now support the team?And if we win la liga or cl this season i will name here the twitter fans who dont deserve to celebrate.

  7. And about eusebio and barca b.No he is not a great coach.But last season when we finished in 3d place it was the players quality and not his work.Now it s his work not players quality..Great logic.

  8. Great game from the team. A little worrying tho is Rakitic’s loss of form. I think he needs a little more starts to regain his form from earlier this season. Our three forwards were superb and the defense was top notch as well. The midfield however…

  9. Some one made me laugh here, we beat The mighty Elche 5-0 and someone expects us to be lighting fire works. You think that’s a bus? wait till you meet Simeone’s bus. Even though we won 5-0 against the mighty Elche, I for one was about abandoning the match at the 30min mark cos it was painful and a bore to watch. The midfield was non-existent, team lacked cohesion, we couldn’t string together 7 consecutive passes especially in the opponent’s half, we were in fact an Elche upgrade cos of the quality of our forwards. I want those of you having a go at people for being silent when the team breaks down Mighty Elche’s bus to look me in the eye and say we could have beaten Athletico with that kind of display

  10. And oh I was just going through the motions throughout the match, only concentrating when the commentator exclaimed about some thing and I eventually abandoned the match at 71mins

  11. You should never abandon warching the mach when your favorite team is playing.
    You only wach them when they play fancy flowing football???
    Regardless the result or the opponent we face or how good or bad we are, dont change the channel.

  12. Its not sorry not to enjoy beating lowly eche with our strongest line-up.
    The score line is deceptive and doesnt provide any solid branch for enrique to hang on to.
    So far he has failed all his tests and beating the low and drowning is not one of them.

    The people that choose to criticize Enrique are not negative, we are a little bit more aware of all our insecurities stats do not show you.
    We are upbeat and hope that this hindsight is temporary, but when he keeps nurturing our fears, we have no option but to strike him like a toddler that knows he cannot outpace the horror ahead, so he doughs out a slap just before the monster gets him.

    I will respect him a little more if he doesnt lose or draw responsibly versus ATM

  13. Thank you for the good read Barca Chief. Like the personal touch.

    Happy with the result not so much with the teamplay. Players taking balls from each other, a lot of headless-chicken running especially from Alves/Rakitic/Suarez… not exactly signs of the right chemistry.

    Those LE/Messi chants felt rather odd to me as they seemed to play against each other. Stating the obvious 😉

    1. I thought Suarez had a great game. He’s trying out different types of runs from Liverpool but when he gets onto the same wavelength as the rest of the team, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta will all have that vital movement to make use of.

  14. Wish, this squad was used in Anoeta, which means, MNS could have rested today and be all set for Sunday.
    I hope it wont be XBI midfield for Sunday.

    1. My worry exactly fotobirajesh. Although, I won’t mind XM(asche)I with Bartra and Pique at CBs.

  15. I’m not LE’s biggest fan and there were obviously things still to sort from last night. The bonkers team selection at the weekend force him into playing our best players last night, the midfield was non existent and we would get gubbed if that wasn’t better against AM ( did anyone else think SR had a better game than Rakitic?) and that was worrying hearing the opposing chants for LE and Messi.

    However, give us a break. There is no game more dangerous than when you are expected to run up above score against lowly opposition who are parking it big style. Not only do send that but as Kxevin has mentioned before there were a variety of types of goal. This from three are only just getting going and it’s going to be thrilling. We will bring back someone toher control of the midfield and as long as we have height at the back I’ll say it now. I reckon we’ll beat AM. But if you can’t get any enjoyment, none at all it seems, from a big victory and this team responding after a hellish week ( yes, largely of LE’s making) then I for one despair.

    1. As indeed I begin to despair of my ability to produce any form of coherent English from my phone keyboard- while hurtling down a ridiculously fast slide with my granddaughter !

  16. Thanks, fotobirajesh . I’m afraid I’d have to agree with the first five or so. You know, after the week we’ve had it’d have been great to see LE meet Neymar at the side of the pitch and pat him on the head or at least acknowledge his contribution. Some human contact. Would it be too much to go up to Messi with a smile on his face at the end and give him a hug? Would have gone a long way to mending things.

    However, if he insists on the stony countenance I fear for his future. To me, Xavi is the one with least to lose who could have a chat with LE as presumably he has done with Messi. He should be someone both are prepared to listen to.

    1. Anyone who has played football will agree with the importance of a team wanting to try a new tactic or players, at least once in training, before they try it out on pitch, the lack of this is quite evident, and this is what I thought was the big issue in team.

      However, that point about players arriving with bags to know they are not in squad and to go back, that is absolutely terrible. That is clearly someone with a big machist attitude, treating others like, I dont know what. That is a horrible thing to do to your players.

    2. Sorry, I meant Id agree that the first five or so are awful – if true. Completely agree the worst is the macho humiliation of those not in the squad. If that is happening- and I genuinely struggle to believe it – Barto should have fired him yesterday. If not true, somebody, Xavi? If it’s below LE to do so, needs to talk to the press and say this isn’t happening because it’s poisonous.

    3. I dont know why you apologise, Jim. I understood that you agree with the first five. May be my comment made it look like , I didnt. Sorry about my English, I didnt mean to be aggressive.

    4. No problem. I was just worried mine wasn’t clear. I’m still struggling to believe some of them.

    5. Good point about coming out and denying it. Especially since those reasons were not just listed on the website fotobirajesh linked to but also in Mundo Deportivo.

      Then again, if they deny every horsecrap tale out there, the first story they don’t bother to deny will be held up as true.

    6. Yeah, you’re right that you set a precedent. However it has been a while now since we’ve heard from the players. The silence is becoming deafening. Hopefully they’ll put Xavi up for the pre match presser although he’ll need a degree in diplomacy to handle that.

  17. I’m not sure either Neymar or Messi would like LE to do so right now, but then this is based on I-don’t-knows and hear-says.

    The good news is that both players seem in sync both on and off the field.

    Also, Jim, thank God for Xavi. His potential role in calming these waters is already worth his salary, never mind the footballing contributions.

  18. That was a nice story about what sounds like a dedicated and good coach. I especially like how he taught you guys not to be ball hogs with that little demonstration.

    As the for the match, it was nice seeing how even more dangerous Messi is when there’s someone who can finish his amazing passes.

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