As a Peruvian, I thought I knew a bit about the South American passion for football. But seeing it first hand was something else. I’ve just returned from an epic trip around South and Central America, introducing clubs to PlayerMaker’s groundbreaking technology. Five weeks, five countries, and 19 clubs in total. There were many highlights, but if I had to pick one, it would be meeting Vanderlei Luxemburgo, the most successful coach in Brazilian Serie A history (ex Brazil and Real Madrid, now at Vasco da Gama). He’s got a reputation for being tight-lipped but when I showed him the PlayerMaker System he got pretty excited about all the ways you could use the data.
The lowlight? Probably a brutal 24-hour journey (2 flights, a 6-hour wait and then an overnight bus) from San Jose in Costa Rica to Chillan in south-central Chile. Luckily I went there to visit 2nd division club Nublense and it was worth the travel. My visit to Nublense, our first South American client, was to help implement their systems with the head coach and sports scientist. Training at Nublense started at 7.30am, as soon as I arrived. Still, it was worth it for the beautiful views of the Andes and the warm welcome I received — lunch consisted of an enormous Chilean barbecue which I tucked into with the staff.
In Buenos Aires, I visited the three biggest clubs (Boca, River and Independiente) plus Argentinos Juniors, who are known as el semillero del mundo (seedbed of the world) for their ability to produce great players such as Maradona, Riquelme, Redondo and Cambiasso. PlayerMaker was new to these clubs but they are always looking to innovate and were really interested. The River Plate Reserves commented that the sensors were way more comfortable than GPS devices worn on the chest or back, which is always nice to hear.
I didn’t really know much about the Peruvian football scene so it was amazing to go and meet all the big clubs and learn all about it. Lima’s Sporting Cristal, for example, was an amazing surprise. Their academy, methodology and development ethics were unique and inspiring. It’s always a pleasure to go back home and there was plenty of time between training sessions for a good ceviche or a ‘lomo saltado’.