In nine months, Rafael Dudamel has seen the face of victory and also that of defeat. That of the Colombian League champion in December and that of the coach who was now to watch the finals from the outside in June, regardless of any protagonism.
A blow brought a new one: the final of the Super League, the Copa Colombia, the League and the Libertadores. But the ball knows how to take revenge. Opportunities, prefers to tell him Dudamel, who resigned with deep pain to continue leading Deportivo Cali, the team that fills his whole heart, but the players and the permanent illusion of a coach who never lowers his eyes prevented it.
A few days ago the Venezuelan helmsman started the preseason with the sugar team, with the challenges of defeating the Peruvian Melgar in the round of 16 of the South American Cup and making a League that in the second half erases the misfortune of the first. “A new cycle”, says the ‘professor’. “Perhaps the most important,” he remarks.
Last Friday, sitting on a bench in one of the pitches of Cali’s sports headquarters in Pance, Dudamel attended El País. He spoke of defeat. of the financial crisis. Efforts from De Mera and Didier. From what Ortega said. And from Dayro, Dayro Moreno.
What lessons remained from the first semester?
To reinvent yourself and rethink the way forward, you will always have to look back, do self-criticism and know what you can do better. What we experienced in Cali happened at very fast speeds, arriving, winning the title… but there are no excuses. Emotionally we were not at the level of demands. If to win the title we overcame everyone because we were very strong, it must also be said that emotionally we were very vulnerable in this first half of the year. This has strengthened us and we understand that for the future, there is no other choice but to return to the path of victory.
One downside has been the departure of key players who have not been properly replaced. Will there be good reinforcements for this second half?
Managing under the financial panorama of the club, which everyone knows, is not easy, because Deportivo Cali was built under an image of ease, high salaries, which is far from what our reality is today. today. A reality in which we must be responsible. You don’t have to pawn the club and I don’t want to be complicit in that, forcing the arrival of long-distance and expensive footballers. We have a generation of young and talented players that you have to know how to surround. We have good goalkeepers, in defense the arrival of Germán Mera has been managed, a team of young people with great experience and a hierarchy that is happy to see him work because of the feeling of belonging he has. Last half, we lacked depth, relief, and perhaps in the midfield, at the extremities, we can add a piece to find the levels of intensity that characterize us.
Cali suffered from a goal scorer this half, after the departure of Hárold Preciado, and it weighed on him. It is said that Dayro Moreno would arrive…
In the field of speculation, I prefer not to join. I’m talking about Germán Mera because he’s already working with us, and Dídier Delgado, but when it comes to the possibilities, I can’t be irresponsible and raise expectations. You have to wait for precise and prudent moments to talk about hiring. We have good elements up front, Lucumí, Ángelo, a Vuletich who has a contract with the club, but, as I discussed with him personally, he will not be one of the first options for the technical staff this semester.
But speculation aside, do you like the Dayro name?
It will be interesting for every manager to have a man who has scored seven times in the league. His experience may be useful to those growing up, but let’s hope the days pass, and if he arrives, we’ll have a lot to consider in terms of goals, his role in a very healthy and supportive team.
The same thing happens when ‘Teo’ arrived, it was said that indiscipline issues could affect the group, and nothing unusual happened. Is there that fear with Dayro?
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Everyone in life has made mistakes at some point, but the ball keeps rolling and the opportunities keep coming. And Dayro was able to recognize in his moments what he had to live and, above all, to win new opportunities. Today, he is the League’s top scorer and it’s not easy in such demanding and competitive football. If that possibility materializes, Dayro would be a great value for Cali. He is in the final years of his career and will want to end his football journey with a good image. ‘Teo’ did it that way, playing at the highest level in the last years of his career and being an example. Anyone wishing to join an exemplary lineage will always be welcome with us.
Kevin Salazar also arrived…
It’s a prospect Cali leaders have been following for some time. He is a talented boy who has just played in B and who will require different work to reach the levels of the first division and, above all, of Deportivo Cali.
Speaking of young talent, Congo and Camargo’s work in Libertadores was surprising…
They gave the team stability in midfield. It was these two pieces that emerged in the last quarter of the League and earned a position for the work they had done, for their ambition and their personality. They are 20 and 22 years old and they look like players with more than a hundred games in the first division, and it is something innate, how to win opportunities and take advantage of them.
You quit because of poor results, but you didn’t leave in the end. What stopped him?
My illusion, my desire to continue giving to the club that has given me so much. A second semester or a third phase of this cycle that I live is coming, which I think will be the most transcendental. Winning, losing, sportingly redirecting the sons of the club, that what we do on the pitch helps the team to emerge from the financial crisis, with the sale of players or with lockers, but that sportingly Cali is what who corresponds to me, be where you need to be. Financially, leaders will be in charge and they will develop their own strategies. But the day I leave, I want to start a new cycle of my life after leaving Cali in a privileged place.
On June 29, Deportivo Cali will face Melgar in the Round of 16 of the Suramericana, managed by Néstor Lorenzo, the new coach of the Colombian national team, and the Argentine will not want to make a fool of himself. How do you analyze this game?
It will be a great commitment for our team, which will be led by the coach of the Colombian national team. What a great moment for them to make themselves known. We have a lot of players who, thanks to their abilities, can be part of the national team in their different categories, and for me it will be important because it is a question of facing a team that has left out Racing d’ Argentina, River Plate from Uruguay, a Brazilian team, and that says a lot about Melgar’s level. If we intend to go to the quarter-finals, we have to be very serious and respectful, and have a high level against Melgar.
Do you assume South America as a revenge?
I will always regard as very good what I experienced at the Libertadores, we faced powerhouses with much greater buying power than ours and it helped us to realize that we can compete with big South American clubs who have champions of the continent, of the world, and We were not below average. More than a revenge, it’s an opportunity to continue beating life.
Are you worried about Cali’s financial situation?
No. I take care of the sport, for financial matters there is the president and the committee. The current financial situation of the team does not correspond to the management of Dudamel, it dates from many years ago.
Michael Ortega left the team and said he felt betrayed by you. What does he answer?
Me, for all the players who were part of the 2021 champion team, I will forever have words of gratitude and in my heart they were marked for life, the life that continues and in which we must constantly revalidate the achievements. I wish Michael Ortega the best in his career. It’s not the “friends of the Dudamel football club” team, it’s Deportivo Cali, a professional team in the first division of Colombian football, where I have to work with players at their peak performance. The footballer is not hired to assess the work of the coach. The footballer is hired to perform at the highest level. From there, we often get the word gratitude wrong, because we footballers and coaches give to the club, but how much does the club give us! Respectful of what Michael feels and says, I remain with undying affection and gratitude to the champion team. And I keep everything that he and I, as professionals and as men, talk about face to face.
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