Futsal is much more than only numbers. However, in some cases, figures speak for themselves. As Head Coach of Argentina’s national team, he won the Four Nations Tournament, the South American Games, the Copa América and, in particular, the 2016 World Cup in Colombia (the first ever won by a country that is not Brazil or Spain). Now, the 39-year-old from Buenos Aires returns to Spain, where he already lived as a player between 2004 and 2009 in Santiago Lobelle (one season) and Caja Segovia (four). Diego Giustozzi takes a key step in his career by signing as head coach of ElPozo Murcia. We at Futsal Corner had the privilege to have an exclusive chat with him just a few hours after his appointment.
Question: Did you think you would win so many titles when you accepted the job as coach for Argentina?
Answer: Actually, when I took the job I never thought about titles. It was such a challenge and such an accomplished dream that I did not even have the time for that. I focused on convincing the players and not making mistakes in organization and job planning. The titles were a consequence of that. Not even in my best dreams I imagined five years like that, I am privileged to have trained the players I had.
Fear? A minimum amount. All that is left is for losers
Q: Is it arrogant to say that you completely changed futsal in your country?
A: When you work for your country, the ‘first person’ is completely left aside. You work for all the people who practice the sport, and with such an effort and passion that you can see only in our country, despite of the few resources they have.
The national team belongs to a country, a sport. It doesn’t belong to a person who has been temporarily chosen to be the coach. There are many people behind Argentina’s success. I only am one of them. This is not about being humble, it’s the truth. As I don’t care about the person and I want the game to live its best moment, I don’t waste time thinking about whether it was me.
Q: The World Cup victory and the creation of the LNFA (a brand-new league involving teams from all Argentina). What are you more proud of?
A: They are two unique but different sensations. The World Cup is short term, something happening day by day within three months. The league was an idea conceived and developed in years. We encountered many obstacles, and on top of that, it wasn’t my world. They are two dreamed goals that will be in my heart for the rest of my life.
Q: The president of the Argentinian FA claimed that the LNFA is going to be “the best futsal league in South America”. Don’t you think it is a little bit daring?
P: I don’t think setting the bar high is a bad thing. It didn’t go bad… I think that, considering that there is a lot of room for improvement, we may become [the best league], but I am not foolish. I know that Argentina is very far from the top leagues in the world, and even from Brazil, that is a few hundreds of kilometers away from us. I think that the president’s statement is good to bring the best out of our managers in order to make it real. President Tapia helped us a lot.
Being a coach is not only about using a computer and moving pieces on a board
Q: It is surely true that the Argentinians proved to be top-level players. So why do most teams in the world sign players from Brazil?
A: I don’t know, you should ask the teams. The Argentinians have great adaptive skills. They will always find a way to be useful in any team, because the Argentinian player always thinks for the team.
Q: In addition to your institutional efforts, you have won everything in sport. Are you leaving because there are no challenges left?
A: All the goals were met, there were actually few left, if any at all. Surely this was something that came through my head when I made the decision to end the cycle. I had many thing to evaluate, it was a pondered decision.
A player does this for a living for twenty years of his life, four hours a day. If he doesn’t give it a hundred percent during this time, he can do something else
Q: Coaches from Argentina are famous for being excellent not only in tactics, but also on an emotional point of view.
A: Everything the Argentinians achieve, they do it with an effort that is out of the ordinary, having to adapt to abnormal situations, but we don’t have to think about why people talk much about us now. We must keep learning and improving because we are living a situation in Argentina we are not used to live. Being a coach is not only about using a computer and moving pieces on a board.
Q: How do you motivate a player that gave it all in a tournament to prepare him for the next competition?
A: With naturalness. It’s very simple. I believe that mental competitiveness is to be worked and trained. This is simple, a player does this for a living for twenty years of his life at most, and he does what he likes. If he doesn’t give it a hundred percent during this time, having all of those privileges, then he can do something else because he’s wrong about life. That’s why motivating is very easy.
I don’t waste a second of my life thinking about Inter or Barça’s budget
Q: Let’s take a look at your immediate future. You are going to face a major challenge: ElPozo doesn’t have Inter or Barcelona’s financial muscles, you take a ship that was led by Duda in the past 17 seasons… How did you make the decision?
R: I feel sorry to leave a place where I have been very happy and where they have treated me incredibly well and with such a great respect for my role. However, managing a club like ElPozo Murcia, which is always among the best three in the world – in my opinion, the best in many aspects – is another dream come true. Only a challenge like this could take me away from Argentina.
I don’t waste a second of my life thinking about Inter or Barça’s budget. I only focus on pushing everybody to the limit in Murcia, this is my only obsession at the moment. Honestly, if we have that sense of belonging that I want, the financial muscle – or however you want to call it – of other clubs doesn’t matter.
Q: How did they persuade you to come?
A: I assure you it’s not difficult to say yes to ElPozo. A great man coached the club. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Duda, so I waited for them to talk about their things and, since then, I started focusing on the challenge of taking back ElPozo on top of everyone else. This is something that filled me with motivation minute after minute. It wasn’t hard to persuade me.
Q: Can you aim at everything with a roster without any new signings?
A: If I didn’t believe it I would have stayed at home, with my national team, my country and my friends. I believe in the club, I believe in the fans and I believe in the players that are in the team. Starting from this, we will work to bring the best out of ourselves. I assure you that a win against us will be mainly thanks to the rival’s effort, and not because of our fault. Don’t bet against us because of the transfers or the young players because you are going to be wrong…
All the goals were met with Argentina. Surely this was something that came through my head when I made the decision
Q: Are you going to use the same methods that led you to victory in Argentina, or is a club managed in a different way?
A: Of course I’m going to have more time to work and this is a great advantage. Do you know what is my method? Commitment, with no resentment, envy nor jealousy. I believe in my players’ heart and human values. If there is that, everything is possible and any method is good.
Q: ElPozo’s arena, Palacio de los Deportes in Murcia, has emptied in recent times. Do you believe fans will come back only with victories? Or do they also need to enjoy themselves?
P: You need to ‘infect’ people. You have to make them feel proud of the team and the city, make them identify with the club. You don’t achieve this the hour before the match, but beginning from Monday when you start training. I know what it means to take a bus to go to play at the Palacio. I want the rivals to feel what I used to feel when I came to play there. There is nothing better than knowing that this depends on ourselves.
They World Cup with Argentina and the creation of the LNFA will be in my heart for the rest of my life
Q: That said, which result is better: 1-0 or 6-5?
A: The only result I want is winning, then there are ways and manners to which I give much, much importance. I am sure that the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ take you closer to the result.
Q: What message do you leave to Murcian fans who look ahead to the future with concern?
A: Fear? Look, there is a right, minimum amount of fear that you need not to relax, to respect the rival and to focus on not making mistakes, at least for me. All that is left of fear, which is a lot, is for losers and for those who are not ambitious. The fans don’t have to be afraid, we are going to give it all to overcome the rival in any game situation. Our supporters must help us in doing it. Fear must be eradicated from the Palacio.
Cover image: LNFS.