The European Championship 2016 qualifiers are certainly producing some unexpected results with San Marino earning their first point at such a stage with a 0-0 home draw with Estonia. At the final whistle, the San Marino players celebrated as is if they had won the tournament. However, their victory may pale into insignificance compared to the 1-0 win secured by Faroe Islands in Greece with Joan Edmundsson claiming the only goal of the game. Although a competitive win for the islanders could be classed as a rarity, the shock defeat has already provoked a reaction in Greece.
It should be remembered that Greece won the European Championship tournament in 2004 and were eliminated from this year’s World Cup via penalties when drawing with 1-1 Costa Rica in the Round of 16. Prior to this match with Faroe Islands, they had lost both home group matches in the Euro 2016 qualifiers without scoring a goal and had claimed their only point via a 1-1 draw in Finland.
Since the summer, Italian Claudio Ranieri has been manager of the national team, an appointment which was confirmed following his dismissal from the Monaco hot seat at the end of the French Ligue 1 season.
Ranieri has rarely been unemployed during his long managerial career and is undoubtedly gifted in that role but he does have history of language difficulties which may not be unusual with coaches trying to promote their ideas in a strange country. It was noticeable that the Italian struggled with the English language during his early few months at Chelsea and he used a simple form of French when conducting interviews at Monaco.
Mastering the Spanish language appeared no problem to Ranieri during a fairly successful spell at Valencia but coaching the Greek national team when only meeting the players for short spells of time could present its fair share of communication problems. It is essential for coaches to be able to express themselves in a matter which motivates staff and generates understanding, and linguistic barriers can be a restraint in achieving this purpose.
Although the Greek situation may highlight this particular problem, it could be generally argued that any national football association should demand that some knowledge of the native language as a pre-requisite prior to hiring a foreign manager. Fabio Capello’s limitations with the English language did not help his time as the national coach whereas in a different context, Pep Guardiola spent months learning German before assuming his role as manager of Bayern Munich.
There will have been examples of language barriers presenting no problems to successful foreign coaches with former boss and extrovert Otto Rehhagel being the most successful ever Greek manager despite his German background while Ranieri’s predecessor Fernando Santos had coached at Panathinaikos.
However, the gamble on Ranieri has clearly not worked with Kostas Tsanas, who is Greek born and bred, being appointed as his replacement offering Greece some hope that there is still an opportunity to qualify for the Euro 2016 tournament.