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.