Armenia head coach Joaquín Caparrós says never in his career had he experienced the feelings he lived in Armenia.
Caparrós said in an interview with Explica.co that when they sat down to talk with him to make him the offer of the Armenia coach, they gave him good feelings. That there was a lot of work to be done, but that it would have a good sports structure, with a group of players who would sweat their shirts … But no one could warn him that he would fully experience a war with dozens of deaths.
Fortunately, football in Armenia has seen better luck. The national team that Caparrós directs managed to get into League B of the Nations League and in the qualifying phase for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, they are group leaders, ahead of Germany. Three wins in three games are to blame. And all without its star, Mkhitaryan. An oasis of joy in a country that lives dark days.
The full text of the interview is provided below:
Question: It has been a few days since the media spotlight pointed directly to Armenia. How are you living it?
Answer: We are very happy, because it was unthinkable to be in the situation we are in now (leaders of their group in qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup). Despite the fact that we were on a good streak and had been promoted to League B of the Nations League, nobody expected this. Even so, there is still a lot to do. And more in a group where there are teams like Germany, Iceland or Romania. Much remains, but we are very happy with the work so far, of course.
Q: I suppose this would not have happened without a good structure behind it … What are the keys to success?
A: Well, this is everyone’s job, from the president who takes charge of the Federation and puts Ginés Meléndez in the position of sports director, to the coaching staff. We do a great job as a team, each one does their bit so that football in Armenia takes one more step. Then there is a great group of guys, who are all very committed. They are guys who feel their nation, their national team, who feel their jersey. And there we have a lot of cattle.
Q: Did you ever hesitate to accept the challenge?
A: Not at all. When Ginés told me about it and I met with the president in Madrid there were no doubts. They gave me very good feelings. I accepted it delighted knowing that it was going to be difficult. And it is being complicated. All the teams have a lot of players to choose from, less of us. We are getting young people with projection, but they are still guys who have just debuted with the national team. The results are positive and that makes people believe in them more.
Q: As the group has set, is the World Cup the goal?
A: You don’t have to be cautious, you have to be very cautious. We must have our feet on the ground. But it is true that now there is no one who takes people’s joy away, especially after what the country has been through. There is a lot of tournament left and we know the quality of the rivals. We are going to go game by game.
Q: Joy in the middle of a war with Azerbaijan, where even your captain went to the front … Does this give more value to everything you have achieved?
A: Sure, much more value. It not only has sporting value, but also emotional value for a whole country that was very sad for everything that had happened. Many people have died, young boys of 19-20 years. It has been a very punished country. The grief that Armenia is experiencing has served to motivate us. We wanted to give people a little happiness. This is the greatness of sport and football.
Q: From what you say, it was almost an obligation to compete as you are doing
A: Yes. We are the focus of many people. I have never experienced anything like this emotionally in my entire career. We are talking about a very punished country. The sport route has brought them joy and a smile after a few very tough months.
Q: A success without Mkhitaryan, your great star
A: In our selection, the group must always prevail. We are a team, no one can stand out. Everyone has to put their will and their conditions at the service of the team. And the truth is that it has been. If there is something to highlight in the team, it is that we are that, a team. We have been a great team in capital letters. If we want to take another step on our way, it has to be from the base of being collectively strong.
Q: Your first experience in national team football is not going bad …
A: Well, the folder of the selections had not been opened yet and this selection may be a little different because of everything that surrounds it. The war, the fact that up to four languages are spoken in the dressing room … We had to empathize with all that. The whole wardrobe is attached. In the end, non-verbal language speaks louder than verbal in our team.
Q: Do you still plan to stay in Armenia or do you think of an imminent return?