Sunday April 23 2017
Zemanlandia lives on

Pescara bring Roma face-to-face with their favourite former Coach, as Andrea Tallarita analyses the utterly unique Zdenek Zeman.

Roma and Pescara do not share very much, but as of this season, they will have one man in common – Zdenek Zeman, otherwise known as Il Boemo, once at the head of the Wolves and now riding the Dolphins.

Watching a Zeman-orchestrated match was never a waste of time in the past, and it isn't now. His rigid 4-3-3 was uniquely built around the concept of outnumbering your opponents not in the midfield, but in their own box, from the beginning to the end of the game. At the end of any given season, his teams had usually scored more than the champions and conceded more than the relegation contenders.

Zeman started coaching in the 70s. It was a different age of football, an unreasonable period which bracketed the monstrous teams of Pelé and the gorgeous 1982 Brazil of Socrates and Zico. Beautiful football, in line with the Brazilian tradition, didn't necessarily have any relation with victorious football. It was the right time for Il Boemo.

The Czech-Italian had a discontinuous career that is only too easy to criticise. The man won even less than pre-Leicester Claudio Ranieri, who was dubbed 'il perdente' (the loser) by everyone who wasn't his mother. And yet he remains beloved everywhere he worked – even in the football bear-pit that is Rome, where he trained wolves and eagles indiscriminately.

Luis Enrique and Rudi Garcia also proposed an offensive brand of football, but when all of them were sacked, only Zeman was allowed to leave surrounded by the love and the respect of the tifosi.

And this is because Zeman's style isn't even beautiful football, it's more like Milan Kundera's 'The Intolerable Lightness of Being' applied to the sport, a tactical zen in which all that matters is the purity of the game. They had to make up a name for it: Zemanlandia, a compound which recalls the idea of an Italian amusement park (Mirabilandia, Fiabilandia).

If you do not care to watch him for his football, watch Zeman for the history that he teaches. The man is a walking archaeological treasure, a Coach who still holds true to a type of football that only made sense 20 or 30 years ago.

In this, no less than in his character and his interviews, he is a man of principle. He remains the most constant symbol of an obdurate anti-Juventus sentiment in Italy, for the openness with which he denounced football corruption years before Calciopoli – and he paid for it dearly, watching his career tossed down a stadium train. Even so, he never apologised.

Dislike him as much as you like, and claim – if you will – that he is a dinosaur, a relic, the empty bottle left behind after the picnic. Or call him a survivor, a fighter, a Che Guevara of the game who never gave up. Either way, show some respect. He is all that's left of a world that vanished no less than Telstar balls and cotton football shirts.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports.

Have your say...
Ha.He is a character! I remember him from his Foggia days n he was a very divisive figure even then. Some would say he was revolutionary,some said he was copying the 'English' style.James Richardson said in a pre-match v Juve 'Have we got n afternoon of long balls down the middle to look forward too!' Ha.His teams were always pretty good though n entertaining,had no chance of winning with the likes of Milan n Juve but good nonetheless. Says what he thinks like when he said Juve were doper's,ha
on the 26th April, 2017 at 2:23am
Regardless of his sentiment and opinions on Juve, as a manager Zeman has proven himself time and again to be completely inflexible. Innovation becomes predictable when it isn't renewed, so Zeman's ideas are impractical and outdated. Entertaining to watch but usually by the opposition supporters as they thump 4 or 5 goals past his teams. He can now add a Pescara relegation to his CV. Time for him to exit Zemanlandia via the gift shop.
on the 25th April, 2017 at 7:59am
@Al Dino - I understand your points, but I still can't fit Zeman in that role, but after seeing this: I can see another person who would fit the bill perfectly. Not to mention that statement like this one is complete trashing of Serie A. I hope that Roma trash them tonight and finish the game injury free.
on the 24th April, 2017 at 7:30pm
@mmmmmm You are right about the injury risks that players take weather they step on to the field or practice that however is a calculated risk that all players take what i dont agree with is your claim that all lower teams play like Pescara did against Juve which isnt true i have watched enough games to know the difference between playing a more physical game and deliberately trying to injure opponents what Pescara players did during that game was deliberate as in many instances they didnt even go for the ball as for Muntari he was a great combative player and is a lot like Vidal in his play and style but he wasnt the only one who was making reckless tackles during the game pretty much all Pescara players did it and not only on Dybala! Now i cant say for sure that Zeman told them to play like that as i have no proof of it so i will give him the benefit of doubt but what bugs me is that someone who preaches purity in football you would expect him to tell his players at half time to stop with those reckless challenges but he didnt which makes him hypocritical and you lose respect for a person like that!
on the 24th April, 2017 at 4:28pm
I do not believe tat Zeman made Muntari attack Dybala. Who ever watched Muntari can tell that the man was never a nice player, where ever he played tackled and red cards followed, and Dybala could injured himself without Muntari, that's the part of the game. Going that way is just low, and as far as I could tell lower clubs in Italy generally play that way when they are facing big clubs.
on the 24th April, 2017 at 9:20am
In Italy when someone realizes he's a loser all he has to do is attacking Juventus and fans will temporary forget what he does to their teams

He ( Using ) Muntari tried to injury Dybala just to eliminate Juve from CL so I have no respect to him , only shame
on the 24th April, 2017 at 7:37am

Pretty sure I called him delusional but whatever. Why would anybody start reading now?

Gosh, if only this article came out BEFORE we faced him. And like so many others in his position, all bark and no bite.

However you want to imagine it, it's Pescara vs Roma. Maybe we needed articles written for whenever we face Del Neri, be it Verona or Udinese.
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 6:00pm
How can a man be a tactician if he coaches for several decades and never changes a thing. I am sorry, but that's just plain stupid. Football has changed a lot since 10 years a go, and 30 years a go is like dinosaur era. I am not saying that he is a stupid man he had some good points, although in 70 years one should have some wisdom in itself, but you cannot say that someone is good because he is a stoic. Everything evolves, so should've he.
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 3:15pm
Stick to calling him a loser juve fans, because you can't call him a liar.
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 3:02pm
In Italy there are teams that complain and teams that win, and very rarely do the two overlap. Zeman does a lot of complaining and not much winning.
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 1:52pm
Zeman is a god of football. He is not anti-juve he is against cheating. Whoever thinks rudi Garcia is a good coach should watch baseball. If Roma would have ever given zeman the team he wanted he would of won plenty.
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 1:40pm
Roma faithfuls love this guy? The one who couldn't elevate them from mediocrity? Say what you will about Rudi, at least he brought the team to a point where they could dream to be at the top vs settling as a team that will never amount to anything. If Roma do like him so much, then they like being bottom feeders more than competitors.

And yeah, he's anti-Juve like many others. How about he gets in line? He's not someone worthy of my respect, he's a delusional old man who should be ignored.
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 10:37am
Of course you will call him a symbol, a treasure, and a man of principle becaus of his "anti-Juventus sentiment".

Of course he will be surrounded by love because of that.. He didn't win so he needed to please the sheep fans with those sentiments.

And that typical excuse of bitter losers as always: "we play attractive/beautiful/gorgeous/exciting/attacking football".

Yet we all saw how Pescara played against Juve's ankles before the Barca game. You could see his bitterness flowing over on the field.
Beautiful football indeed...
on the 23rd April, 2017 at 2:04am

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