The salvadoran national soccer team will once again have to watch the World Cup from the comfort of their homes. The salvadorans ended a humiliating and frustrating World Cup qualifiers with a 3-1 loss to Canada on Tuesday. The team is winless in 12 months and fans are beginning to lose their patience with the team and the federation. As El Salvador officially says пока to Russia 2018, the rebuilding process is officially underway. The only problem is, how to start?
El Salvador has been in the rebuilding process for years now. Numerous head coaches who are appointed for short periods of time and somehow are expected to demonstrate great results. Los Cucatlecos have had a total of eight coaches in the last few years and of those eight, only Albert Roca (2014-2015) made notable progress with the team.
In 2013, El Salvador was forced to practically rebuild their whole national team when several players were found guilty of taking bribes for match fixing. Both current and former players had been communicating with Taiwanese gamblers who offered them great amount of wealth to lose certain games by a certain score. The whole incident brought the whole country to utter shame and made the national team call up players from the U-20 level to fill the voids left by veterans and captains.
What makes the rebuilding potentially harder is the fact that there are several players who refuse to play for the national team at one point or another. For example, Arturo Alvarez, potentially the best offensive talent the country has, has announced that he will not accept the team’s invitation to come represent his country. He argues that he does not get along with the training staff and would prefer to just play club level.
As disappointing as it is to see such a good player decline the invitation, I must say I understand. You see, playing with the national team is usually a privilege and somewhat of a vacation. For El Salvador however, it’s a major downgrade. The national team players are kept in horrible conditions for athletes due to the lack of money. They fly at horrible hours because it’s cheaper, they stay at 2-3 star hotels with no proper equipment that a player needs to stay in good shape or recover, and most importantly, their pay. The players get paid a total misery and most of the time, extremely late. Individuals who are playing in Europe leave their teams to come represent La Selecta and barely get paid. Why would a player want to travel with the national team in horrible conditions and a lack of pay when they can remain in Europe or the United States? According to midfielder Richard Menjivar, during one of the qualifiers, some of the players had to go out and pay for their own food and ice because the team couldn’t provide it. Disgraceful.
As a country, El Salvador is notoriously poor and lacks proper training equipment for the players. However, the salvadoran soccer federation, FESFUT, does in fact receive money for every game that’s played, win or loss, and makes a massive revenue off home tickets. So where does the money exactly go? How could a team play so many local tournaments and have such an amazing home crowd yet not be able to afford athlete’s simple needs? That is the million dollar question. Although never entirely proven, it’s said that the FESFUT directors keep the money for themselves and only spend a limited amount on their players. The FESFUT directors in the recent years appear to be more interested in their own business instead of what is actually best for the team. For example, the team can never have a quality foreign coach because hiring a local, unsuccesful coach is much cheaper.
Along with that, the federation prohibits the exchange of jerseys amongst players after games. A traditional custom after games which the salvadoran team cannot take a part of because the FESFUT only provides them with two jerseys for a whole tournament and if a player were to need a third one for whatever reason, he would have to pay for it himself. We see all over the world that national teams get different jerseys every year or for every tournament. Sadly, El Salvador has had the same uniform since 2011. The only thing that has changed since then is the home jersey. Aside from that, the away jersey, both shorts and both socks have remained the same.
I understand that the El Salvador national team is far from even competing in North America, let alone a World Cup. It’s difficult as a fan to see your national team struggle in a downhill spiral in the past couple of years. But what can be expected with such an irresponsible and self-interested federation who would rather spend the country’s money on themselves at the cost of the nation team. A country that went to two World Cups in a span of 12 years but hasn’t been able to qualify since 1982.
Ironically, I think the problem isn’t the players. As a whole, the country has potentially great players who I believe, have yet to have a coach to truly take them to the next level. The core of the team is still young and most of them play outside of El Salvador. The problem is, they have yet to understand and establish a playing style that suits them to their strengths. Each player appears to be in his own world and struggles to communicate with his teammates.
In the end, the first step in El Salvador’s resurrection would be to fire the FESFUT directors and replace them with individuals who are concerned about the team’s progression and not their pocket’s progression. Directors who put the team before anything else. After that, hire an experienced and knowledgeable coach, no matter the price, and have him around for more than a couple of months so that he can establish his playing style. With the right changes on and off the field, El Salvador can begin to turn things around and can begin to prepare for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.