Julio Lamas, the eminence that left basketball to accompany the Abel Balbo project at Central Córdoba

Three defeats in the first six dates of the Professional League and some differences with the leadership of Central Córdoba in Santiago del Estero motivated the resignation of Sergio Rondina a little over two weeks ago and led to the priests of the Railway to find a new helmsman. The choice generated surprise both for the name of the technical director, Abel Balbo, and for that of his main assistant, Julio Lamas. The former coach of the Argentine basketball team will not be the first man to experience the jump to football from another discipline.

“I have no intention of joining football, it is not my plan. It was an offer from Abel, that he asked me to be part of his coaching staff to help with the organization. I don’t know about football, I’m not up to the task, but it could happen that I join their team if it ends up being specified. It is an option, it is not a fact. I like his ideas, the person of him”Lamas had assured in a talk with sports journalism students on April 11, just a couple of days before announcing his retirement as basketball coach.

One hundred and three days later, the man who led the national team to fourth place in the London 2012 Olympic Games will sit for the first time on the substitutes’ bench on a soccer field: it will be this Saturday at 8:30 p.m., when Central Córdoba, which is only one point away from the relegation places, receives Racing in the Madre de Ciudades for the 10th date of the League. On Tuesday he was already in the audience at the Ciudad de Vicente López stadium, where the Santiago team, led temporarily by Adrián Adrover, lost 2-0 to Platense.

Julio Lamas’ last job in basketball was as coach of the Japan national team. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

“Julio Lamas needs no introduction. He is going to be there for the management of the coaching staff, he is going to be my collaborator in the management of the group. He has an enormous trajectory at the world level and is a professional of the highest level ”, Balbo explained Thursday in his first press conference with his coaching staff. The former forward of the Argentine national team cannot boast of an extensive resume either, since he only spent 21 days in charge of Treviso’s squad in Italian Serie B in 2009 and directed 10 games against Arezzo in Serie D between June and October 2012.

The enormous trajectory of Lamas to which Balbo referred is beyond dispute. He led the national team in two cycles (1997-1999 and 2011-2014) and was also in charge of the Japanese team between 2017 and 2021; he played for 20 years in the National League, in which he won titles with San Lorenzo, Libertad de Sunchales, Boca and Ben Hur de Rafaela; and he worked in Spain in top teams like Real Madrid and Tau Cerámica. It will be necessary to see how much this will serve him for this new experience in the ruthless Argentine soccer.

The Dutch case

Ariel Holan traveled a similar path, although his mother sport was field hockey. He began his career as a coach in the early 1980s at the German Gymnastics Society of Lomas de Zamora, worked at Banfield and also led the Uruguayan women’s team, with whom he won the bronze medal at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo. (in the semifinals, they lost 7 to 0 with Las Leonas).

After that experience, almost two decades later, Holan began his experience in football, first as Jorge Burruchaga’s assistant during his time at Arsenal, Estudiantes and Independiente; and then with Matías Almeyda in River (he got promotion from B Nacional) and in Banfield. Despite this, every time he mentioned it to him, he continued to associate it with the discipline of stick and ball.

After disassociating himself from Banfield, where he was also a Reserve coach, he was chosen by Defense and Justice to replace José in June 2015. Market Flores, who had only led five games (four defeats and one draw) against a team that was playing its first season in the highest category of Argentine soccer and looked fearfully at the table of averages.

“Managing here is the fruit of many years of preparation. The transition between hockey and football has already been going on for 12 years. I ask people to trust us. We are going to give everything we have and we will seek to put together a competitive and effective team”, said when being presented at the Bosques site on June 12. Misgivings and skepticism flew over him and it seemed necessary to chase them away by confirming his belonging to that universe that many denied him.

Ariel Holan had his first experience as a soccer coach at Defense and Justice.

Ariel Holan had his first experience as a soccer coach at Defense and Justice.

The mistrust began to evaporate as it almost always does: hand in hand with the results. After debuting with a 0-0 tie with Huracán at Parque de los Patricios, the Hawk beat Nueva Chicago 2-1 and thus cut a streak of 12 games without wins. That victory was followed by another two against Lanús and River. Thus began a cycle that culminated in the first defense classification for an international tournament: the 2017 Copa Sudamericana.

Holan’s career continued with his successful time at Independiente, with which he won the 2017 Copa Sudamericana and the Suruga Bank the following year, and with his first experience at Universidad Católica de Chile, also with a consecration: the 2020 domestic competition. Then he did not have as much success in the Brazilian Santos, in the Mexican León or in his second landing in the Católica.

The Velasco case

Although he never sat on a substitute bench, a volleyball legend, Julio Velasco, also had his love affair with football, chosen in 2000 by the International Volleyball Federation as the best coach of the 20th century along with the American Doug Beal and the Japanese Yoshida Matsudaira.

Like most Argentine children, Velasco had kicked a ball during his childhood in his native La Plata. He had even reached the ninth division of Students before opting for volleyball. After his first experience as coach of Ferro and after joining the coaching staff led by South Korean Young Wan Sohn, who led the Argentine team to third place in the 1982 World Cup, he moved to Italy, where he built the legend of the.

He won nine titles with Modena (including four consecutive Scudettos) and in 1989 he took charge of the Italian national team, which he led until November 1996. He was two-time world champion in 1990 and 1994, he won five World Leagues (1990, 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1995), three European Championships (1989, 1993 and 1995) and the silver medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He then directed the women’s team between 1997 and 1998.

Julio Velasco won the World Cups in Brazil 1990 and Greece 1994 directing the Italian team.

Julio Velasco won the World Cups in Brazil 1990 and Greece 1994 directing the Italian team.

While he was successful in his sport, his name was twice associated with football. Both times, from an idea by Silvio Berlusconi to incorporate him as Milan coach. The first, in 1991, when the tycoon was starting his political career. He then suggested that the Argentine would be the ideal replacement for Arrigo Sacchi, who had led the team to two-time European Champions Cup and Intercontinental Cup championships, and who was about to take charge of the Italian team.

“It was crazy. Berlusconi, in the middle of the electoral campaign, said that he had thought of me for Milan. Absurd. For all things you have to know the details. You can know how to manage a group, but that does not enable you to direct any sport”Said Velasco in 2007. On that occasion, Sacchi’s replacement ended up being Fabio Capello.

After his first term as prime minister of his country, Berlusconi returned to the fray in April 1996, when he was looking for a successor for Capello, who was about to leave for Real Madrid. “And why not Velasco?” He asked his collaborators in managing the Red-black. The idea did not catch on and finally the occupant of the bank was Oscar Washington Tabárez.

The meeting between the man from La Plata and the king of sports finally took place in May 1998, when he accepted a proposal from Sergio Cragnotti, president of Lazio, to work as sports director of the Italian capital club. The experience was short-lived: although he had a four-year contract, he resigned after only one year of work.

“I wanted to leave because of some events that occurred. I didn’t want weird things and I wasn’t going to do things I didn’t do even when I didn’t have a handle. I couldn’t be in office and then say what is usually said: ‘I didn’t know what was happening,’” justified years later. Those strange things that Velasco spoke of were linked to economic mismanagement. Some time after his resignation, Cragnotti was forced to sell the club and Cirio, the flagship food company of his emporium, went bankrupt.

Velasco also worked at Massimo Moratti’s Inter from May 2000 to the end of 2001. There he served as manager. “I had a more organizational role, I was in charge of everything related to the first team, with Marcello Lippi as coach. But when they fired him, another technician (Marco Tardelli) came with his new team. The contract ended and I decided to return to volleyball because what lit the flame for me was training “he explained.

Julio Velasco joined Marcello Lippi.  (Photo: Luca Bruno / AP)

Julio Velasco joined Marcello Lippi. (Photo: Luca Bruno / AP)

Once again in his discipline, he led the Czech Republic team for two years, in 2003 he took charge of the Piacenza team and later he had a second cycle in Modena and also guided Montichiari and Brescia before returning to the direction of national teams: first from Spain (2008-2011) and then from Iran (2011-2014).

This was followed by his time with the Argentine national team between February 2014 and September 2018 (he won the gold medal at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games), a third cycle in Modena and a final job in the Italian youth team.

Beyond his formal roles at Lazio and Inter, Velasco maintained contact with football and several coaches met to exchange concepts with him, including Marcelo Bielsa and Jorge Sampaoli. Josep Guardiola also did it in 2002, when the Catalan played in Brescia and began to prepare for that job that he already imagined for after his retirement.

“(Guardiola) I wanted to delve into some issues such as group management, problems arising from the relationship with the players and concepts of the psychological aspect. I was very surprised that an active player would care so much about these issues. I was struck by his eagerness to know and understand, almost worthy of an intellectual”revealed in an interview with the Marca newspaper in 2011.



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