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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Interview - Frank Rijkaard - the real thing artversussport

A New Year Is Always A New Year - Interview Frank Rijkaard

I met Frank Rijkaard for a brief chat that perhaps did turn out to be as brief as planned. I have to admit that perhaps my first questions were almost like a psychoanalytical session, but I hope they give some insight into what there is behind someone who has tasted a lot of success, but still is able to keep things in perspective. Rijkaard is very impressive in real life; Strong and Tall and Big, with that gaze that projects intensity behind the calm wall of this exterior being.

Q. Where do you belong now? Catalonia, Italy, Spain, Holland or are you just a modern European?
A. To nobody, I just belong to myself. I have had the opportunity to live in many places, take in from all these cultures, but I think I just belong to myself. But I am just myself that is whom I belong to.

Q. What is your relationship with the former colonies of Holland? Do you feel close to them? In what way have they shaped you?
A. Obviously I am (pause) coloured, but my mother is Dutch, my father is from Surinam, you take something with you from all of them and I am very proud, both of my mother and my father, but I see myself as Dutch.
I don't like to talk about people in those terms, as I never think of people like that. People always have this need to put everything in a set box, but I am not like that I never think of this person or that person as this or that. I just think of humans.

Q. In what way does the ego reflect itself as a player and as a coach?
A. It is very different (emphasis on different), when you are a player, you have only yourself to think about, obviously you have to think of the team as well, but it is an individual challenge and responsibility. As a manager it is much harder, not physically of course, but mentally, your responsibility is totally different. You have a whole group to think of.

It seems like Rijkaard is able to keep his integrity intact, and sometimes he seems both aloof and distant from what can be the petty business of competitive football and all that glory surrounding it. Some other coaches want to be in the centre of attention. Demanding higher salary than any player, as it is generally thought that there is the outmost respect for the one who earns the most. He seems able to put his own ego aside, something rare today as those who have tasted all glory, tend to want to keep tasting that glory. Respect is not gained by banging your fist or by shouting, but through that gaze and that tiny raise of a tone. I believe the method of individual responsibility and the guilt that comes with taking advantage of that freedom can be much more effective, even if last years complacency contradicts that. Perhaps this year, with the competition within the squad and embarrassment from last year, self-criticism will take place (on behalf of everyone, players, coaching team, board and the Catalan press).

Q. Do you think that as a public figure you have to adapt positions that perhaps you don't identify with and how do feel about that?
A. I am a coach and these are the things I get involved with, I just stick to my job and don't get involved with issues that have nothing to do with my profession, which is a manager of a football team.

Q. How do you see yourself from other coaches and what do you think of a certain rivalry with some of them? Is it just boring or is it just part of the game? Sometimes it seems a bit like "machos" having something to prove between themselves, at least from a female perspective and in one way you always seemed to avoid that confrontation.
A. It is not really my problem (with an authoritative tone), as I just tend to stay away from it, the press sometimes wants this or that, but as I said it is not my problem really. So I never really have any difficulties with it, as it doesn't affect me.

Q. To be a successful coach, even if there is no strict formula, how much percentage would you apply to:
Institutional relations, relations with players, relations with press, tactical knowledge?
A. There is no such formula, sometimes it is due to the players, sometimes it is due to the coach or the fans, or the press, it just depends on each situation and it changes.

As it has been well documented Barcelona lost the title to Real Madrid, even if the title was only decided in the final game, it was thought that Barcelona lost the title well before that. I had an instinct, perhaps based on my Icelandic grandmother’s elves instinct that it would be a dry year (and the year before it was an instinct of glory), which perhaps made me look for signs, but the complacency was there, already before Christmas, the eyes of the players when they went on the pitch did not match the determination of previous years. It could have been down to a variety of reasons, but one is that Rijkaard had lost that control of the dressing room, he had lost the virtue that perhaps was his biggest virtue, the don of complex dressing room psychology.

Q. Now everyone seems to call for you to become a tough guy, is it not almost impossible to suddenly be someone with a machine gun? Is it old fashioned and archaic to impose that kind of authority. Is it possible to suddenly change the whole method of working?
A. It is not really about being a tough guy, to suddenly have to be different. It is just that you have to act as soon as you see something you don't like. We as managers have to take actions, when they are needed, rather than allow it to self-digest. Last year there were some internal problems, and we want to act quicker, be more on top of things. We (I think he is referring to the team) will just have to go back to the hard work and be a unit, to have solidarity between us.

The club in some ways or another suffers from the so called Cruyff Ghost, it shapes philosophies, the current board is mildly pro-Cruyff. The media is keen for the club to adapt the philosophy of attacking football, forgetting that in modern football that is almost utopian. In the Champions League there is no way you can get away with a light weight midfield and one of the tactical base of the team that Rijkaard had shaped: defensively solid, aggressive in retrieving the ball and cohesive. The year the Champions League was won, the club did not concede a single goal from open play, it had a fierce defence (that started with Eto’o). That was all forgotten with success. Suddenly players were not willing to put in that extra gear. The press started to promote the idea of an all attack. This year they have already invented the ridiculous name The Fantastic Four, it remains to be seen if Rijkaard will stick to his own idea of a mixture of Italian football and an attacking football or if he will go for the cryout of The Fantastic Four. The pressure is on.
My belief is that Henry was signed to keep the other strikers (especially Ronaldinho) under pressure, in previous years most of his substitutions (Ezquerro, Gudjhonsen, Saviola) seemed two or three scales below him, even in his worst form. So far the four signings that have been made (Yayá Touré, Milito, Abidal and Henry) are all players that most likely will make the first eleven, which will make other players (such as Márquez, Deco, Xavi) try that bit harder.

Q. In a way both Ronaldinho and Henry are used to total freedom on the pitch, is it not impossible in modern football to play both of them?
A. We will try things out, especially now in pre-season, but if it doesn't work then only one of them will have to play

Q. Sometimes it seems like Barça have no Plan B, at least last year (something that was very successful in previous year) and why is that? Sometimes it feels like the team has a certain difficulty in progressing, defending from corners, change of tactics, scoring from corners?
A. People say last year was so bad, but we conceived the same goals, so I am not sure that is true, obviously it was not a successful year, but we are here to work hard on achieving our goals. I don't really want to talk of last year, as that is last year. We have to think of what is in front of us. The past doesn't matter. We just have to wait and see.

Q. What plans do you have in mind for Eidur Gudjhonsen?
A. It is a bit difficult to say, as he is injured at the moment. He has a knee problem. I could say that he is a great player, good person, but it is not possible at the moment to evaluate the situation fully. Last year was a difficult year, for the team and for him, and this year the competition will be even higher, we will just have to see.

Q. Was there an external pressure on applying 3-4-3 or is that system plainly utopic?
A. We tried it out once, and it worked in an excellent way. We wanted to surprise and we did as manner, as we went through that qualification. Then we wanted to try it in other games, but it just did not work, so I guess that was that really, as it wasn't a surprise anymore.

Q. I think what made the team so successful was the combination of beauty and team spirit.
A. I don't agree there, work and hard work has always to come first, you have to work hard as a unit and then maybe, but maybe beauty can come on top of that, but beauty can never ever come first, it just doesn't work like that.

Q. What can we learn from last year (somehow insisting) ?
Can you describe your emotions over the last two years from Paris to Tarragona?
A. Well you always learn something, and also from last year. It is obvious that perhaps it was not a great success, but I don't really want to talk about the past, it is the past and we just have to take that experience into this year and work hard, something we are doing.

There were rumours earlier this summer, that the coaching team was contemplating a change of captaincy, not for the first one, but on the second and third (an idea that seems abandoned now). It was thought that Xavi the third captain was too bland and Ronaldinho too bad of an example. Rijkaard said at the end of last season “That Puyol had felt isolated at times”, referring to his captaincy and authority within the dressing room.

Q. What do you want from a captain? What is the difference between the first, second and third?
A. A captain is an authority within the group, chosen by the dressing room, and it has to be someone who has the respect of the other players and is there to deal with any issues that come up, and he is a very important figure within the group. The other captains are his assistants; they are there to help the first captain and Carles Puyol is our real Captain.

Barcelona have strong tradition of bringing up players from the youth teams. In most cases they are allowed to grow in to the first team, slowly, allowing a certain progression. There is a risk that with the explosion of Messi (where they intended on a slower progress, which was made impossible with his sheer talent) that each player coming up will be expected to be The New Maradona. This year expectations on both Bojan Krkić (16) and Giovanni Dos Santos (17) are high and it is thought that rather than being squad members, gaining experience they will the 5th and 6th striker of the first team.

Q. How and what approach do you take in the educational aspect of the players, not only regarding sport performance, but also personal development?
A. If they need help I help them. It depends on each individual. Some players are very open-minded and are willing for that help, while others for whatever circumstances are more closed, making it more difficult to enter, but I always try to be there in case they need something,

Q. What is the best way of integrating youth team players?
A. You don't, they basically integrate themselves. The players see when somebody has talent and it just goes from there. Nothing can stop talent.

Q. What was your impression of the club, when you first came and how do you look at it now?
A. When I first arrived, everything was new, after some time, you know how it works, you know it is a complicated club, you know that is more than a sentiment, that it represents something else, but you just have to work and concentrate on that, I never really get involved with those external questions as I just want to be professional and concentrate on my job, and do it as well as I can and it is an honour to coach this club.

It looked like the season would be affronted with maximum excitement and optimism, that the club had bought well and wisely. It was believed that the past had served as a learning curve, but unfortunately it does not look that way. It is not that the team has played badly in the three games this season, but it is a mirror image of the past year. It is more like a collection of individuals rather than a team unit and rather than the new players will put pressure on the old ones, it is feared that they the old players have passed their complacency on them. The board is rumoured to be looking at other options at the bench and that Rijkaard has until 7 October to enhance the play and put some order in the dressing room.

Can Rijkaard possibly reconduct the situation, is he really the right man for the job? Or is the old cliché that what you fell for in your lover is what you end up annoying the most.


Uefa Champions - Not much to say really, one of those press conferences. I actually wanted to do another one, but lost the image, where I really liked the squares/patterns the adverts behind make. Next time.

Storming - watercolour - alright, messed up Rijkaard's nose and the face of the anonymous Barça player. I think this was against Chelsea, when he was very very angry.

Storming - dry pastels - alright.

Fish shop - Another of those made on the oooo aaa iii watercolour paper. I like it, finally it works. I think.

Container - The scan is awful, it is one of the first ones I am satisfied with and actually manages to look better on paper than scanned. The paper I used is a "SERIOUS WATERCOLOUR" paper (think said about Coltrane - Serious Jazz), it was left by a friend and oooo aaaa iiii - so nice to use.

By the way, that interview was made in the summer, late summer for my countries papers. It was almost a surreal experience. My first ever interview and eye to an eye with the man himself. I will tell you more later. There are some amusing anecdotes.

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Blogger Jordi Vendetta said...

very nice interview..thanks! I really felt most after Getafe for Frank, because he is simply too good of a guy and doesn't deserve this. I mean, after Valladolid he told in the press conference that the team needs to play more direct and aggressive and they come out against Getafe doing exactly the opposite. And then he has to hear people say that he can't read the game(he, one of the finest defensive midfields of all time), that Bernardo is a genius and whatever's incredible.
He really doesn't deserve this as he is one of few good men in world football. Real pity.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

Thanks Jordi.
I just couldn't believe it although I have to admit I was more involved with my watercolours, making the so called commo romo - not new romo and those awful musical movements, but the one where romanticism of old communistic buildings take place.
It is more just for fun (the movement commo romo - but I liked the name).
Yes but he also has to be able to make his players perform. I don't like Ronaldinho hiding when things don't go well and chesting/cocking around when he scores two goals from a free kick.
That is what I like about Valdés for example.
He assumes criticism.
Anyway. I agree we have a very fine and good defence, not against Getafe, but generally. Although I do think that the team needs to adopt a Plan B for those away games. How important was not Eto'o as in so many of those games he scored the goal, the first goal and many times the only goal. Look at the first two leagues, we often played awfully, but Eto'o and Valdés saved us.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Diego Klimowicz said...

Lots of thanks from my side as well; for posting (and translating, I guess?) this interview.

It was great to read an interview where Rijkaard seems to take the questions seriously, instead of only repeating his phrases about working hard und focusing on the present. That's rare.

In fact I have to admit that for like the first third (until the point where one could fathom that the the conversation took place some months ago) I tended to assume that this entire interview was more or less completely fictional. (Which once more shows that I'm dealing too much with metafiction these days and not enough with the good old basketball.)

I totally agree with Jordi. Those lackluster performances are a shame and he would really deserve better from a bunch of players he is protecting and shielding from criticism for like ages.

Concerning the criticism directed at him... From what I heard he really doesn't care at all. What probably is the best premise in dealing with Catalan/Spanish sports media anyway.

How long is it since MD felt Eto'o wasn't really needed anymore and Sport wanted Deco out? In this context you can hardly blame him for saying "nothing" at press conferences and in interviews.

It's rather hilarious, when those who are at the origin of the perpetual non-communication then question Rijkaard's knowledge of the game, his way of handling the group, etc. - justifying it by his saying "nothing" to them.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

Welcome Diego - even if you left a comment at an earlier post.
I actually wrote the interview in English and then translated it.
I would say that he probably could find thousand better things to do than being interviewed, but he was very thoughtful in his answers, at least trying to answer them.

I hope you liked my questions :)

I just did not want to publish on the blog at that time.

I think he is just too lonely in his job, no one knows of Neeskens job at this moment. WHAT is his role.
I had an idea, which is to sign Mourinho's assistants, they are all un employed :)
He needs someone on his side. It is a job that requires a tandem and at the moment that tandem/marriage is not working.
With the right assistance, I think he would be an ideal coach, but I am not sure he is that interested. All those "noise" at Barcelona must become plain tedious.
I think he cares about how the team is going, I just hate the idea that you have to shout to be heard.

I agree, the questions are so often lame in press conferences and even in private interviews. He dances really well around them.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Dr. J said...

...always thought he was the best coach we could ever have. Not the main current of opinion these days, I'm afraid.

Let me get this straight: YOU interviewed Frank Rijkaard??? How so? Are you a journalist or something?

4:58 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

Dr J.
Yes I did interview him.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Dr. J said...

Could you explain a little bit more? I'm terribly curious... That is, if you can.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

This is all about art versussport, I love when those two meet. Extremely hard to make it successfully, so many examples of failure and in no means this is success.
I could have been lying as my Chess Battles between (Fischer and Spassky) are kind of based on myth.
But no. This is no lie...

6:01 PM  
Blogger Csai D. said...

Yrsa, I am impressed. Congratulations. Now, I am also curious to know how did you meet him, how did you get to interview Frankie. It is an in-depth interview and I am sure many bloggers will be dying to know hot you got to be with the coach.

Ah, have you heard to new Gatillos? I followed your advice and tried to improve sound quality.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

It must have been the elves.
I spoke to my grandmother and she spoke to the elves, they owed her a favour from many years ago.
Elves are powerful, it is not always easy to have that power.
I love the elves. Each time I speak to my grandmother I ask her to bring them greetings. They are never far away (you can read about it earlier).

I think the first questions were slightly hardcore, it was almost like I was putting him under a psychological test, or a session.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Mr Towers said...

jez, I'm impressed. Congratulations. Frank, Greenaway... what are you taking out from the hat next?

5:26 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

mr towers
I don't know, guess intuition will bring something out. One of my grandmother's elves experiences?
Seriously speaking - I hope this interview has given you a broader view of the man, although I guess an interview like documentaries is always a projected view.
There are many more questins I would have liked to ask, it is a tough thing to do, do you follow your questions or go by the flow of things. I guess a mix.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Emili said...

ai Rijkaard, mare de Déu senyor!!!


If I was face to face with Mister Frank Rijkaart I´d like to ask him why never change our tactical game for exemple.

1:22 PM  
Blogger HRubesch said...

Really great, Yrsa, my big congrtulations to you.

Very much better than the 95% of interviews you can read in the newspapers all over the year.

And, tell, how are your feelings about this season? Can we make it again? Say yes, please!

2:20 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

emili - I think I did in one of the questions, but the time flies away and it is difficult to actually have a spontaneous reaction to certain things, when time is limited.

hrubesch - I have to say my feelings this year are not negative, they intuition (I sound like a looney but ...) says that it won't be fantastic, but it won't be bad.
My intuition in the year they won the CL was really strong, I am not religious, (I belive in my grandmother's friends, the elves ha ha ha) but it was a belief a big belief. Last year I have to say as soon as Laporta mentioned the seven titles I thought this is it. But I should not be talking too much as that brings bad luck.
Or at least when you talk of things going to happen, not so much bad luck when you talk of things in perspective.
Let's meet here in May on this site and remember :) or :(
but no i believe.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

I am doing lots of drawings these days, some that make me sad (as they are bad) and others that make me happy (remember the famous Mourinho quote - today I am happy, today I am sad - the only quote I like of him almost). Faithful to my generosity of allowing you see the progress I will put them all up.
A whole weekend of creativity. No football, no films on. The book is almost finished.
At the moment I am working on:
An italian mafia village
Lots of folded clothes -
Body parts of footballers
Hallgrimskirkja - one of the most beautiful chruces
the police station in reykjavik
ronaldinho in the grass
kites in the sky
the whale station in Iceland.

Exciting eh!!!

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Edwin said...

Yrsa, did you make the gesture of a Machine Gun with both hands when you asked him about being a tough guy, as I'm hoping?

6:21 PM  
Blogger Yrsa Roca Fannberg said...

Ha ha ha. I can't hundred percent remember, but I think perhaps one handed, as I was holding my pen and paper in the other hand, although I was quite nervous. But if I don't remember it wrongly it was subtly done with one hand and in a silent mode.

11:08 PM  

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