The Coach with a Cigar

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picture source: www.goal.com

 

Marcello Romeo Lippi looks calm, smoking a cigar while keeping his eyes on a match. He remains inhaling the cigar amidst dozens of cameras shed some light on him as the match is over. He’s not the kind of coach, like Antonio Conte, who shouts on the edge of the field to give instructions or motivate his players throughout the game.

He won’t push his coach rival, as the one happens to Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, should he get angry with referees’ decisions deemed unfair for his side. And he’s not the type of trainer, like Mourinho, who sometimes loves to ignite war of words prior to important matches probably for the sake of media sensation or for downgrading opponents’ mentality. Surely, sometimes he may get involved in arguments with referees but he rarely makes impolite or harsh comments let alone leaves his players in response to the unjust decisions.

His relaxed countenance, observant traits are attached for the coach whose playing career is way below his glittering coaching one. A well-respected man, a cold-headed coach, a bit controversial guy, a creative and very smart person, there is so much to say and learn from Lippi.

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picture source: www.chinadaily.com.cn

I have a kind of mixed feeling the first time I know about Juventus and him back in 1997. I am amazed with his 4-3-1-2 formula that is able to bring the Old Lady as the queen in Italy. In the 1990s, he, too, brings the club to be best in Europe.

Back then, Juventus has very solid and strong team. You can recall the names of best defenders at that time; Ciro Ferrara, Paolo Montero, Alessandro Birindelli, and Gianluca Pessoto, to name a few. In the middle part, current Italy’s coach Antonio Conte becomes the team’s captain along with Alessio Tacchinardi, Angelo Di Livio, Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids and the playmaker Zinedine Zidane. In the front line, you should never forget the sharp duet Alessandro Del Piero-Filippo Inzaghi.

You may call my love to Juve and Lippi is always meant to be probably before Alloh Swt sends me to this beautiful world. When I first watch this club, this is the squad that completely steals my heart away, it blows my mind away, and nothing can beat them. They remain in my heart until now. I can always recall they way the play. With the four walls in the back; creative and persistent midfielders and super quick, compact duo in the forefront.

That is the best of Juventus. That remains Juve’s most memorable that leaves such deep impressions in my heart. And that comes to life thanks to the magical touch of a wonderful, smart and creative coach namely Marcello Lippi.

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picture source: http://www.zimbio.com

Watching, learning and absorbing his playing method enrich me already despite the fact I am such a newbie football fan at that time. The first and foremost lesson I put in my brain ever since my first experiences watching the team is that how Lippi really shows me that football is all about team unity. Set aside price tags, star status that commonly attach to certain players. When footballers play for the black-and-white jersey under the helm of Marcello Lippi, they have to fuse into the one Old Lady.

As such, Juventus dominates Italy despite the fact that the players are average, in terms of the price. Under the hands of Lippi, however, they emerge from no body to somebody. Zidane, who later turns out to be one of the world’s most expensive players, and Ale, the popular name of Alessandro, are the two names football fans mostly fond of. The latter remains a huge magnet for football fans regardless their favorite teams. For this, I quickly associate Lippi with the word ‘brilliant.’

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picture source: defendingwiththeball.wordpress.com

I used to misunderstand him. Initially, I hate him for opting Ale instead of Filippo or Pippo as his first choice in the front line. I have clear argument on why I choose Pippo as he scores more goals than Ale. But as the 1997/1998 Serie A progresses, I gradually learn Lippi’s reason: Ale is much more creative and tenacious player. He can go down to aid his fellow defenders, he is helpful in the middle field and definitely, he is hungry to score goals. That’s from my point of view. From Lippi’s perspective, he depends on Ale may be because Ale is ‘always ready on call’.

I hardly say Juve’s Lippi as a boring team strongly links with Italy’s defensive system. It has balanced squad from the back to the front row. Juve is just the team as attractive as those from other European countries. When I say he is cold-headed I mean it though I, again, get information somewhere in the media. But enough to say, to establish a united team with a very strong vision, Lippi has to be very bold. I can’t explicitly look at his ‘cruelty’ in the camera but I firmly believe he is open to his players, if not in the field then may be in the changing room or during training sessions. And that is inevitable for shaping a winning team. In another word, that is a must.

Giving his coaching skill at Juve, I surprisingly don’t hate him at all when he takes a controversial decision to leave Juve for Inter Milan, the Old Lady’s eternal rival both on and off the pitch. I put high respect on him despite the decision because Lippi is the first coach who shows me how to choose an idol based on his achievements. He teaches me on how to put my feet on other people shoes. So, when he briefly leads Inter in 1999-2000, I regard that he yearns for new challenges. And I think that is so normal. Looking at this event, I don’t hate Conte for leaving Juve to coach the Azzuri national team as I try to put my point of views from Conte’s; that he looks for adventures. Later on, I learn that Lippi actually leads me to be a completely objective Juventini and try not to be such a narrow-minded one.

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picture source: www.orgullobianconero.vavel.com

The peak of my admiration for Lippi comes to its climax when he leads the Azzuri team to win the 2006 World Cup. It’s so remarkable. I am speechless to utter how his and the team achievement feels like, as Ale puts in his book ‘Playing On’, “reaching the top of the mountain.” Specifically, at times of calciopoli hits the Serie A teams, Lippi’s capability is tested to the most. With so many serious problems plaguing the national team, Lippi is able to turn it out into something so great. This victory shows Lippi’s just another superb skill; psychology. What he has done to the team despite the hard times it faces along with the not-so-many expensive players is way too marvelous. The way he makes use the negativity to a strong motivation that eventually creates a world champion is outstanding. That, again, shows Lippi’s psychological skills which I have not initially thought of given his quiet appearance. Even after his downside following his total failure in the 2010 World Cup campaign I don’t despite him at all. He simply remains a human being who lives with achievements and failures. And his defaults in the 2010 World Cup campaign do not taint his accomplishments four years back then. He stays the best and will always be.

The last point is how he garners respect from fellow coaches, the most famous one is Sir Alex Ferguson. I dislike Fergie, to be totally honest. But Fergie admits he takes so many lessons from Lippi on how he builds Manchester United’s best team in 1990s. How flattering yet so startling! But still, I dislike Fergie and Manchester United.

For me, Lippi is like a book without any closing chapters. He has so much inside his brain. He’s got the nerve, the winning mentality, the smartness, the creativity and the guts to be a phenomenal coach. So when he decides retiring from the football world I feel so devastated. The fact that I don’t watch him being in the edge of the field during his last three years with the Guangzhou Evergrande adds another sadness into my already bitterness.

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picture source: www.unisport.dk

Apart from these below greatness, I will surely miss his coaching philosophy and serene behaviors. I’m so fortunate to have witnessed his skills that will serve as priceless heritage not only for the Italy but to the football industry in a large extant. For myself, I hope one day I will meet him in China or in Italy, just like I have met Ale in Sydney, Australia.

Grazie millie Mister Lippi! For everything! I’m glad you are still within the football industry as Guangzhou Evergrande as a technical director. Not only that will leave me with abundant stories to be written later on but also that shows you are always on with new challenges despite your old age. And you know what? That makes you are completely, thouroughly and wholly AWESOME!

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picture source: gool.net

Honors

Club

Juventus

Guangzhou Evergrande

International

Italy national football team

Individual

Records

Source for Lippi’s achievements: Wikipedia

 

 

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