A miracle called Andorra

EThe last census figures the population of 82,268 Andorra. Of them, only 30,000 are Andorrans. In the heart of the Pyrenees, the Andorran Football Federation He works so that the growth curve of his sport exceeds the demographic one. It is a long process, full of difficulties. To begin with, the small population. Then a good collection, in which the mountains and orography of a country that can barely have four soccer fields for 120 teams appear.

“I don’t like excuses in life. I get upset when I hear top-level coaches complain about the grass, the sun, the calendar,” he explains. David Rodrigo Lleida, 1968), general secretary of the Andorran Federation, the soul of a project that provokes questions in the UEFA of how it is possible for Andorra to grow at the rate it does.

Spain’s rival in Badajoz It is a team that almost always loses, but do not look for scandalous wins in its results. “We have made our rivals feel that playing against us is something uncomfortable, that it feels like going to the dentist,” he says. Eloy Casals (Lleida, 1982), sports director of the FA.

The word compete dominates the conversation. It is something to instill from the base. From the classrooms. “For about six years we have been developing a program called Footbal-Study. We have 20 players on scholarship. From 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. they train with us, then they go to class at their center and then to train again. We have gone from three sessions a week to seven,” he explains. David Rodrigo. “The greater the volume, the greater the possibility of quality growth.”

This training path must have the support of the Government. In Andorra three school systems coexist: Spanish, French and Andorran, each connected to its roots. “Getting the three of them to agree is not easy, but I think we are going to achieve it. We have started with the Spanish. As you see that it is going well, we hope they will join in. That will allow us to go from 20 players to 70 or 80 ; to have 300 more work sessions. That in 10 years, a training path, is 7,000 more sessions. That gives you more foundation, more richness of work,” he explains. David Rodrigo.

With such a narrow base, because of the 30,000 Andorrans it is necessary to remove the age groups above and below that are left out of recruitment or being selected, the world of the Andorran national team has nothing to do with that of other teams. nationals to whom it increasingly faces more and more.

“For us, having players in the Spanish Third League was already an important competitive step. Now we have Iker Álvarez (Villarreal B), Albert Rosas (Betis B) and Marc Vales (Europe), which are the highest level. Before, just having players in the Third Division was already complicated. We are taking baby steps. Also with the Andorran teams, as was seen last summer with the Santa Coloma, which reached the third round of the Europa League and was eliminated by AZ Alkmaar. They are small steps, but for us they are very important,” explains Eloy Casals.

Growth and results

Faith in the model is seen in the results. The absolute makes their matches defeats that have nothing to do with those of San Marino, Gibraltar o Liechtenstein. The inferiors are beginning to look at the option of one day being in an elite round.

Diving into the matches of the Andorran teams one finds striking results. Perhaps the most 3-3 of their under 21s on October 7, 2020 against England. “They had to put Bellingham with 20 minutes left,” he recalls Eloy. And yet, Andorra had the heart to tie in added time.

“When they congratulate you after a game that you have lost 1-0 or 2-0 and you see that they have suffered to achieve it, you leave angry, but with the feeling of being on the right path,” argues Eloy.

A game model

“Whoever sees our under 17 or senior team play can say: Wow, it’s the same thing!”, he explains. David. Because the line marked on the Federation is that the game pattern is common at all levels.

“In the quality of the coaching staff and methodology we do not have to envy anyone anything. Many times I wonder what I would do Guardiola with our brutal limitations. Our coaches are trained in our own school and they all come up with the same idea of ​​the game. And the players may not have the quality of the Spanish, but no one surpasses them in enthusiasm,” he points out. David Rodrigo.

This scheme is repeated in ideas, in approaches, in strategy plays. And that’s where another program developed by the FA comes into play, the Foot-Col. “Our coaches go to schools during school hours to promote football. It is increasingly well received and there are more requests. Above all, it is going very well in women’s football,” he says. Eloy Casals. “We are one of the few small Federations that has a women’s team competing at an official level,” adds David.

Without nationalized

It is a path chosen by many small teams to grow, to take steps in their attempt to one day be in a Euro Cup or get closer. For Andorra it is impossible”.

explains it David Rodrigo: “There are only three ways to achieve nationality. By marriage and having three years of residence. Ten years if you have completed all your schooling uninterruptedly in the Andorran school system. And twenty, in a row, by residence. That is, for that Via, if you arrive at 10 years old you cannot play with the team until you are 30. It is a handicap compared to other teams in our range.

“We had Andorra in Second and some would be good for us, but we can’t. It’s our habitat. And the player has understood that he must take steps in everything: physically, in nutrition… And they have done it,” says Eloy.

DICF Program

The work with the national teams has nothing to do with what is done in Spain. A question of levels and limitations. There appears another Federation program: the DICF, Individual Development of the Footballer’s Capacities.

“There are the 15-20 players under the age of 25 who we consider to be the most talented. It is personalized work with them, without interference from the clubs. It is about helping them improve tactically. Meetings are held with them to show them aspects of the game with videos. of his game to enhance and correct. This is also an incentive for the footballer,” he explains. David Rodrigo.

“It’s not about running away from the street player, we all come from there,” says Eloy Casals, “but it is about taking advantage of everything we have today to improve, so that we compete better and better.”

Of all those aspects that make up the miracle of Andorra, David Rodrigo He stops at an educational aspect: “We have more and more players who are university students. And it is noticeable in how they absorb.”

The match with Spain


Davide Piano

An experienced journalist with an insatiable curiosity for global affairs on newshubpro

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