What a (S)PAIN! Inside the Mind of Manager Fernando Hierro


What a (S)PAIN! Inside the Mind of Manager Fernando Hierro

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

What a week!

I was watching the Trump-Kim summit on TV and thought to myself, this is the stupidest thing in the world, and then hours later, Spain fired its manager a day before the World Cup.

“Which poor sod is going to end up with this job? It’s a suicide mission,” I thought to myself. I guessed the obvious choice would be Arsene. No matter what team you give him, he gets you a fourth-place finish and saves you the embarrassment. Or maybe Zidane, but then he gets a bit emotional at World Cups and we can’t afford to sack two managers during one tournament.

As all these thoughts were crossing my mind, I got a call. When I heard it was the Spanish Football Federation asking if I’d take the job, I hung up. I believed it was a prank call by a radio jockey. I have a year’s experience and there are MBAs in Spain better suited for this job. When my phone rang once again and Luis Rubiales assured me that he is not a radio jockey, I heard him out.  

By the time we finished the conversation, I was in a state of panic. It was the worst fucking job in the world, but it was national duty. How could I say no? It’s like when mom asks if you want to help her carry the bags. How do you say no to a rhetorical question? I convinced myself that if Jesus was kind and if the team doesn’t completely suck, “Spain Manager” would be a good thing to add to my CV.

How difficult could it be to get past the group stages? Our U-19 team could beat Japan, Panama, Denmark, and Saudi Arabia.

I said yes. And just like that, the Spanish Federation, pissed off with Julen Lopetegui for taking the Real Madrid job before the World Cup, replaced him with a former Real Madrid star. Yes, that’s me.  

I flew to Russia on the next flight and it was colder than Putin’s attitude toward journalists. If they’d fired Julen a week earlier, at least I could have gone around for a bit of sightseeing and shopping in Moscow. I would need the vodka if the campaign didn’t go well.

How difficult could it be to get past the group stages? Our U-19 team could beat Japan, Panama, Denmark, and Saudi Arabia. And then I went through the tournament schedule. Portugal, Iran, and Morocco. Jesus Christ! First game? Portugal. Oh for fuck’s sake. I have worse luck than everyone on America’s Funniest Videos combined.

The last couple of tournaments have been poor for Spain and the last thing we wanted was to kick off the World Cup with the Iberian derby. Cristiano Ronaldo has more abs than the days I have spent in Russia. The fucking Portuguese, they are so looking forward to our meltdown – they cheered for Catalan independence, they cheered when Julen got fired, and now they’ll want to humiliate us on the pitch. I can sense it.

I don’t plan to change the way the Spanish team plays football. Mostly because I don’t have time. It takes three days for a book to deliver from a shopping website, and you think I can deliver a fresh footballing philosophy in two days? Hell no. I’ll just tell them to keep doing what they have been doing and pray to God that we don’t make a fool of ourselves.

I have a game plan against Portugal, and his name is Sergio Ramos. I’m not going to go into much detail, but I’ll just whisper “Ronaldo” in his ears before kick-off and he’ll know what to do. Fine lad, Sergio. I’m counting on David de Gea to have one of his blinders and Sergio Busquets to put in another Oscar-winning performance. We should be good then.

I’ve told the team make it boring with the useless possession, and play a dull draw if you have to, surround the ref and put pressure on him, do a bit of kung fu if that is what it takes, but I will not fucking accept a defeat against the Portuguese. Because when Ronaldo scores a goal and takes his jersey off, I get really depressed about my body.

There’s only one expectation from this game boys: Don’t fucking lose.