A conversation with Leonor Gallardo, PhD in Physical and Sports Sciences, professor at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha and director of the Master’s program of Sports Development for the Spanish Royal Football Federation. She is co-author, with Juan Carlos Cubiero (President, Eurotalent and professor at the Universidad de Deusto, San Pablo-CEU) of two books: La Roja: El triunfo de un equipo [The Reds: Triumph of a Team] (Alienta Editorial 2009) and, more recently, Liderazgo Guardiola: Como lograr que tu equipo sea admirado [Guardiola’s Leadership: How to Create an Admirable Team] (Alienta Editorial 2010).
Professor Gallardo was kind enough to reply to my fan-e-mail after I saw her interview on TVE’s ‘Deporte Noche’, a midnight must for any cable-connected Liga fan who suffers from a) insomnia; b) late-night talk-show wearies; and/or c) lingering jitters after a major mid-week match. She graciously agreed to participate in our BFB community, answered my questions and trusted my English. Enjoy!
Liderazgo Guardiola is available from many major Spanish booksellers (including on-line stores Casa del Libro, Planeta del Libro and the inevitable El Corte Inglés.)
SoMa: Guardiola’s Leadership, your book inspired by the Catalan coach’s extraordinary season last year, has just been published. What do you hope to contribute to the public’s knowledge about Pep as a leader as well as a coach?
Leonor: While this book can help readers get to know the coach, our focus was his leadership style and demonstrating the similarities between a good coach and a good businessman. In the world of sports, this sort of analysis hardly exists, since most studies focus on the way teams play. Nonetheless, Guardiola’s successful, elegant and innate leadership style is also relevant to businessmen.
SoMa: Aside from press conferences, Guardiola tends to decline interviews. How did you find your sources for your portrayal of the coach?
Leonor: It’s true that he doesn’t give interviews, but this is a smart strategy. Interviews would take up much of his time and, besides, in an interview you always run the risk of offending someone. We portrayed him based on information provided to us by the people who surround him, like his coaching assistants, players, and so on.
SoMa: It’s often said that Barcelona aspires to embody a ‘philosophy’ of soccer. In your opinion, how does Guardiola represent that philosophy, both on and off the field?
Leonor: It’s a philosophy centered on creativity in all areas and placed in the service of ‘defending one’s home’, in this case his reliance on the masía and elegance in everything.
SoMa: In your opinion, how does Guardiola differ from his predecessors who have also adopted the Barcelona philosophy, such as F. Rijkaard and, especially, J. Cruyff? If the team does not win any titles this season, do you believe that Guardiola’s leadership style will influence the team in the future, as Cruyff’s has, or will it dissipate, as with Rijkaard?
Leonor: What sets Guardiola apart is the fact that he was raised in Barcelona’s system from his days in the cantera, and so he is thoroughly familiar with the team’s system. The same goes for his players, who came up through the system, too. Cruyff has never faded into the background and Guardiola will remain just as influential, if not more so. It’s possible, too, that he will always be present either as a coach or team director.
SoMa: What do you think of the team’s slogan ‘More than a club’? Do you think that this stance, which unites the sport with a national and sociopolitical awareness, will ultimately hurt or help Barcelona as a soccer team?
Leonor: No, I don’t think that the slogan’s political meaning will have any negative impact on Barcelona’s objectives as a football club. For Barcelona, soccer remains more important than politics.
SoMa: If Barcelona is ‘more than a club’, can it also be said that Guardiola is ‘more than a coach’? How would you describe the emotional connection that exists between the coach and his players?
Leonor: Guardiola surrounds himself with the best players and always ensures that they know he feels this way about them. It’s the so-called ‘Pygmalion effect’. It’s a productive connection; his players also think that he is the best of coaches.
SoMa: A soccer match is often described as a battle between two personalities; an example would be this year’s Champions semifinals, portrayed as a confrontation between Guardiola and Mourinho. In your opinion, how does a coach’s personality influence a team as compared with that of his players?
Leonor: It has a great influence, since the coach’s personality manifests itself on the soccer field and, more so, in the team’s press conferences. For this reason, refraining from criticizing others or making inopportune comments to the press is another lesson we can learn from Guardiola.
SoMa: Soccer’s most entertaining personalities are not always found on the bench, now that television commentators have become an essential part of the soccer experience for many Spanish fans. One of the few female commentators is Maria Escario, presenter for ‘Telediario’ (the national Spanish daily newscast). In your opinion, what influence, if any, has Maria had in associating a ‘feminine face’ to sports journalism in Spain?
Leonor: Today there are many more women in the world of soccer. This is due to the fact that women like soccer, too. But in terms of their influence on sports journalism, I don’t believe it exists. They are separate issues.
SoMa: As a university professor and author who specializes in sports, how do you view women’s participation in the Spanish sports world in general?
Leonor: Sad. Lifeless. That is to say, nonexistent.
SoMa: During TV coverages of soccer matches, there is usually at least one ‘take’ of a young, pretty woman enjoying an afternoon in the stadium. In your opinion, are women considered part of the team’s general fan base?
Leonor: This is a topic that is attracting more and more interest; women like soccer and so they are also part of the fan base. I don’t find anything different between men and women in that sense.
SoMa: Thank you, Professor Gallardo.
SoMa is off to visit the suegros in sunny Valencia later this week (no jealousies ~ she will be in gate Z986 at lovely O’Hare airport at game time on Sunday; the Hunky Spanish Soccer Husband is seriously ticked). So she says Adiós until she can reconnect herself sometime next week.