Rodolfo Cardoso, the Argentine soccer player adopted by Germany: "The Bundesliga has shown the world that you can return to normal"

Rodolfo Cardoso played more than 200 games in the Bundesliga and was even acting coach of Hamburg, a club in which he retired and now works in youth (@ rodolfo.cardoso_official)
Rodolfo Cardoso played more than 200 games in the Bundesliga and was even acting coach of Hamburg, a club in which he retired and now works in youth (@ rodolfo.cardoso_official)

Are 43 the Argentine footballers that are part of the history of the Bundesliga, the first major league to return to activity in the midst of a pandemic of coronavirus. Some may not have made a mark, but there are others who do have a prominent place in the annals of German football. The top scorer was Diego Klimowicz (70 goals), the most winner Martin Demichelis (12 national titles with Bayern Munich), the most beloved is Javier Pinola –He has a rostrum with his name in the stadium of 1. FC Nürnberg– and the one that played the most games is Rodolfo Cardoso, who disputed 220 games in the German soccer elite.

The 'Fluff', a native of Azul and arisen from the inferiors of Estudiantes de La Plata, came to Germany in January 1990 and never left. Played in the FC Homburg, SC Freiburg, SV Werder Bremen and the Hamburger SV, club where he retired in 2004 and where he still works. It was there that he became the first Latin American coach in Bundesliga history –When he was acting coach in 2011 and repeated in 2013– and where he now works as a technical coach in youth, mainly in the definition with the attackers of the most advanced categories. Carries 30 years living in Germany and much of his life is tied to the league that has broken with confinement and brought football back to the world.

In an exclusive dialogue with Infobae, the Argentinian Rodolfo Cardoso He explains why it was so important that the ball roll again in German lands, in addition to talking about the influence of the fans, the culture of the German player and how he works in the quarries of a country where everything works perfectly.

– Why was it so important for football to return to Germany?

– There was a lot of money at stake and, mainly, many clubs that could have gone bankrupt financially. Soccer currently moves a lot of money and around it there are also other businesses that depend on it. The Bundesliga has shown the world that it is possible, that a return was possible if things were done as they should be done. Beyond that there are still people who do not agree, who are not happy, we who are part of football are happy that the ball rolled again. You have to see the positive side, many financial problems were avoided and it helped people to believe again that they can get out of this pandemic or that it is possible to control it, gradually return to normality. Little by little in Germany everything is being given more ease.

– How do you think the Bundesliga carries that responsibility to lead the way in front of the world?

– It may be that many countries take the German league as an example to follow, I think that the hygiene protocols of the Bundesliga are working well. Everyone wondered if things were really going to work. But so far the plan has worked, three dates have been played, no new cases of contagion have been discussed, everything is going well for the moment. It is undoubtedly an example for everyone.

– How have you seen the players in the return to the activity?

– I was surprised by the level, I saw everyone pretty well despite the fact that the players were so long without playing and with little group work time. There was only a week and a half of contact training. But the matches have turned out quite interesting, the level of the Bundesliga has not declined at all. There have always been nice games, bad games, with many goals, with few goals. But what surprised me that most of the games have been entertaining and the dynamics continue to have it, you have to see this weekend how the players are after having played during the week. Surely there are a lot of spare parts, capable some injured. But the start was fleeting and the level was very high, a pity that the public is not there, which gives you a little more strength.

– How much influence does the public have on soccer players?

– And it must be difficult, some other player may lack concentration at some point. If you look at the stadium and it's empty it can take a little bit of the game, I think. The lack of public influences a lot. In Germany in the last minutes, when you play at home, people always give you more strength. For the soccer player it is sad to enter such a large stadium and not see the public. Until you start playing and get into the game, the player should feel a little. It must be sad.

Bundesliga matches are played without an audience due to the coronavirus (REUTERS)
Bundesliga matches are played without an audience due to the coronavirus (REUTERS)

– In Germany there were few complaints among the players about the return, where is that confidence to play despite the pandemic explained?

– I saw that there were some complaints but very few. I think there was fear, I do not know if it has happened on any campus, but if any player was afraid, he got along quite well. The footballer lives in his world, he rarely finds out what happens in society, but I think that after all the tests were done, that there were most negatives and while they saw that everything was practically normal, I think they were fear goes. Day by day, game by game, more confidence is generated. Out there if a player died after 20 days was something else, but I think that at this point it is over. If they were afraid they would not hug each other and more and more teams are scoring and hugging.

– Has the Bundesliga always been this proactive?

– It was always a very orderly league, it always remained one of the strongest leagues in the world. Maybe when I came here, Italy made the difference for the economic aspect, it had the best players, something that later happened with Spain. The advantage that these championships take is in the players, worldwide it attracts more to turn on the television and see Messi or Suárez at Barcelona, ​​or when Cristiano Ronaldo was at Real Madrid, or in England there are also good players and he handles a lot of money. And capable Germany does not become number 1 but it does not have ups and downs, it always remains at a high level, the clubs are financially well, the stadiums are always full, there is good organization, attractive football is played. Since I got here, it is like this and it remains.

– Would it be crazy then to see a Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo playing in Germany?

– There is a lot of control. Now Bayern Munich, in the last 10 or 15 years, has brought in a renowned footballer and can spend a little more money than the rest. But the other clubs take great care of the economy, not like in Spain because there are several teams that have problems, except for the big ones. The German teams always try not to make investments that may cost them in the future, here every year you have to respect budgets and debts are paid. The punishments are great. For example, TSV 1860 Munich when I was playing was very strong, it got to play European competitions, but later it got into debt and now it is in the third division. They are luxuries that few clubs can afford. Perhaps Bayer Leverkusen or Wolfsburg, which has Volkswagen as its main sponsor, who anyway will not go into debt to bring in a figure anyway. And today for an 18-year-old boy they already ask for many millions of euros, perhaps in other leagues there is not so much pressure that the investments work. Only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund can afford to have such expensive substitutes.

– What style does the German footballer have and how has it evolved over time?

– It has changed a bit technically, the German player has improved his individual technique. He was always powerful, physically they always had large stature. But after the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup there was a break in philosophy, the Jürgen Klinsmann cycle began together with Joachim Löw and they made an important replacement. They began to work differently in the youth teams and in the clubs, much importance was given to technique without trying to lose that grip and that physical power that always characterized them. Apart from the fact that there are many nationalized foreigners, such as Turks or players of African origin, I see it day by day when working in the lower divisions. It is played with the same dynamics as always but with better technique.

Rodolfo Cardoso retired from professional football as a Hamburg player in 2004 (NA)
Rodolfo Cardoso retired from professional football as a Hamburg player in 2004 (NA)

– And on a cultural level?

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– Everything has changed a lot there. Not only in Germany. Now with social networks the boys finish the games and are with the phone in hand, in training the same. The player now gives more importance to upload a photo or video for comments, than to sit in the locker room and relax chatting with his teammates. We used to go to a VIP area after the games to eat something and be together, with our families included. I don't see that anymore.

– How much does that influence your daily work?

– Before you saw the strong hand of the coach much more, now you work more with data, with GPS, chips. They are pending not to exceed workloads and training. That has improved a lot. There were many coaches that if the team did not work well on the weekend, Tuesday would come re hot and give you extra training. Nowadays there is no more, when the boys put some cones they look at us with a strange face. That old school no longer works because before the player decided a lot on his own on the court, he was more daring, and today you have to invest time in preparing tactically, explaining to the player what he has to do and how he has to move. Today it is all more mechanized.

– Is the Bundesliga the championship with less room for improvisation in Europe?

– It happens in many countries, not only in Germany, today it is played quickly with two touches. The coaches ask the players not to have the ball on their feet as much. But later in games, you get a defense behind and you need someone to do something different. Let there be a gambeteador who gets one or two guys off him, and that player is missing a lot today. It strikes me that even in South America that mischief is lacking. The '10' no longer exists. I always say that the player who has something different must be allowed to play. There is no need to remove the paddock. The coaches themselves sometimes get it out of them with that insistence on playing fast, with speed, taking advantage of the counterattacks, defining the play. That has taken the player off the pause, the gambeta.

Rodolfo Cardoso was interim coach of Hamburg in 2011 and 2013, being the first Latino coach in Bundesliga history (@ rodolfo.cardoso_official)
Rodolfo Cardoso was interim coach of Hamburg in 2011 and 2013, being the first Latino coach in Bundesliga history (@ rodolfo.cardoso_official)

– What is it like to train a footballer in the German quarries?

– The goal always in the club is to get players, the coaches have to help the boys to arrive. But always instilling respect, humility, work, perseverance, all those things are basic, and here in Germany I study above football, I don't know anywhere else. You also always think about what happens if the player does not reach the first division or what he will do when his career ends, that he can do something with his life after 35 years. This is very important. And at a soccer level it is easier because there is a lot of talent, we have had, for example, the Korean Heung-Min Son, who lived here in the Hamburg pension. I had it in the lower divisions, I watch it on television and I am happy. What we treat at advanced ages is to improve their strengths. When we take stock with the rest of the coaches we conclude that instead of correcting mistakes it is better to highlight virtues. Because we can have them for a year and they leave. So it is better that, if a striker has a good forehand shot, he directly has a deadly weapon. Which if someone sees him from outside says: "This boy has this, I love it." It doesn't do to have a little bit of everything. We will always want a left-handed player to hit him with both legs, but if he is left-handed, he should play with the left-handed and have something that the others do not have.

– Is there any aspect of your training that can be applied now or is the contrast of time and context very great?

– Telling my players about things that I lived before is very difficult, where we come from, how we grew up, the boys now have another life … What am I going to tell you that I had a tin roof and we had to clean up morning and afternoon? You can tell it as an anecdote but the boys will not understand it. What has not changed is the footballer's attitude, the hunger he has to have, the predisposition, not always waiting for the coach to come and tell you what you have to do. Having a little patience sometimes, more than anything at 18 or 19 years old, when they are leaving the bottom but they play in reserve, then they go to the bank first, then they go down again. That's where the boys lose motivation, the desire, they lose their minds. From my experience, I ask you to listen, to be attentive, to value what you have. Here they are too good sometimes and we try to get them out of that bubble. Sometimes they even have to go to loans to other teams and see how the others train and see that the court lacks a little grass to realize it. You have to instill in them the sacrifice, arriving early to training, that they value all the materials they have. The desire has to be and they have to wait for their chance, because anyone can debut, but then you have to stay.

Rodolfo Cardoso has lived in Germany for 30 years and his children were born there (@ rodolfo.cardoso_official)
Rodolfo Cardoso has lived in Germany for 30 years and his children were born there (@ rodolfo.cardoso_official)

– You have been living in Germany for 30 years, what is life like there and why are there players who never adapt?

– Here if the train arrives a minute or two minutes later it is a scandal, society is used to everything working so perfectly that sometimes they do not know how to react. To you in Argentina, if the bus does not arrive on time, you will immediately think about how to get to work. In Germany everything works well. Many taxes are paid, but hospitals, transportation, and schools work well. German lives to work and it is not that it is cold, it is different, they give you support in their own way and then it depends on you. If you start erasing because you don't like something or the other, German will isolate you but because they won't change. They are not affectionate like the Argentines but they help you. I lived in small cities, like Homburg or Freiburg, where people go to bed early, and now I live in Hamburg, a big city with a lot of life. Immigration has grown a lot, there are many foreign players and also many immigrants on the street. Spanish is heard, which was impossible before. Also many Turks, many people from Poland, and now many refugees. There are foreign people working here.

– And now how do you carry your work in Hamburg?

– We had to adapt to the rules, everything was very controlled. Even the state sent people to check that everything is done. And also adapt the workouts, we had to do basic things. In Hamburg three weeks ago we resumed work with the youth but we do nothing but pass and kick the goal, or some physical exercise. Another thing cannot be done. You have to be more aware that the boys do not get together and keep their distances or do not touch the ball with your hand, or you are watching those who watch you to see if you do things properly. We are more aware of that than seeing how the player trains. We are limited. Most likely, the regional league we play will not resume and we will have a vacation. Hopefully when we come back we can train normally.

– What message do you think will remain in the Bundesliga and in world football with the pandemic?

– You have to value the fans, is the main message. Today you can see the lack of fans. To those people who always go, who buy the ticket, who sometimes want to ask you for an autograph or a photo and one is shot. People are the main thing in soccer. I think it can also change the economic scenario, player prices are going to drop a little bit. I hope that it will normalize because in recent times, truly scandalous figures were being handled. The clubs will surely have to take some precautions with the money. And also to take care of health, you realize that we are small, that we are nothing. The players have become quite humanized.

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