Tuesday January 29 2013
Roberto Baggio’s ignored vision

Asked to help reinvigorate the Italian game after World Cup disaster in 2010, Roberto Baggio quit in frustration last week. David Swan looks at what went wrong.

He was meant to oversee one of the biggest changes to Italian youth development of the past decade or so, and he created a plan of just how he intended to go about it. Appointed in August 2010 after an abysmal Italy showing at the World Cup, Roberto Baggio was the man the FIGC felt would improve Italy’s young talent. Now, just over two years later, he has left, with his project having never left the ground.

When he first joined as head of the technical sector, the FIGC had a very clear directive in mind, one which they shared with the world on their website. “The goal is to renew the youth system, in a difficult moment for Italian football, with close co-operation between the FIGC and the clubs in the training of young players.” Baggio, they thought, was a perfect candidate to help them with this.

However, they also made it clear that achieving this goal was not a one-man job. Il Divino was not the only new face to wander into the Federation at that time. Gianni Rivera was given the role of President of the youth sector, and Arrigo Sacchi was appointed as co-ordinator for the Italy youth teams. The three would need to work together if they were to overhaul youth development.

It is from this remarkably early stage that things started to go wrong. In spring 2011 Baggio initially presented an idea that involved supervising the development of players by analysing over 60,000 matches, at a cost of €7m. It was rejected by Renzo Ulivieri, President of the Italian Coaches’ Association, because it encroached on the work of Rivera and the youth sector, and did not fit the ex-Brescia man’s remit as head of the technical sector.

He went back to the drawing board and produced a document entitled ‘Renewing the Future’, which outlined his plans to improve young players in Italy. He presented it to the FIGC in December 2011, and afterwards they said it would be “discussed at the next council meeting.”

Whatever was said in that discussion, and any subsequent meetings after that, the outcome was not favourable for Baggio, who claimed on Wednesday that the FIGC “are not willing to go forward with the project.”

It was not the first time he expressed dissatisfaction with the process. In October last year, he was more than a little disgruntled at the length of time it was taking for the FIGC to respond to his ideas.

“It has been 10 months and I am still waiting for an answer. I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed,” he said. “The funds have been allocated, but so far all we’ve had is an initiative in Tuscany. It was free and attended by clubs like Pisa and Pontedera. Since then, nothing.”

The funding is still an issue, and it was one that Baggio returned to during his leaving announcement last week. “President Giancarlo Abete funded my project, allocating €10m, but the money did not arrive,” he told RAI news programme TG1.

There was a reason the cash did not arrive –the FIGC were not convinced about the project’s direction. There were whispers that Baggio was more interested in dealing with players – encroaching on Rivera’s role once again – than he was with the Coaches, which is where the FIGC wanted him to focus. It was a difference of opinion that Abete confirmed when questioned last week.

“There was a misunderstanding from day one,” he explained. “Baggio thought his task was the scouting of players. But Sacchi, Albertini and I explained that it was up to Club Italia. He had to deal with the training of Coaches – to define rules and principles for the teaching of football to young players.”

It is a little harsh on Baggio. He did include the plans for changes to coaching that the FIGC were looking for – they acknowledged as much in an end-of-year budget statement posted on their website in December 2011, stating there were details on “the renewal of the training course for Coaches.”

Earlier in 2011, in an interview with GQ magazine, when the project was only in draft stage, he spoke of a document that featured the “restructuring of Italian football, from the school for Coaches to the methods used to teach young players,” all geared towards making alterations to the coaching methodology.

Last year, in an interview with the Corriere dello Sport, he was even clearer: “The fundamental principle is the education of the Coaches. Young players need people who have had adequate teaching.”

Whether he was happy to proceed with these plans is another matter. His desire to work with players became apparent when news of his match analysis idea broke, and it could well have taken a reminder from the Federation to get him back on track fulfilling responsibilities he was not entirely prepared for. The motivation for his decision to leave, therefore, may well have been summed up best by Abete: “I do not think he felt at ease in his role.”

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Have your say...
I am not surprised that this happened. A fuoriclass like Baggio can't be part of the mediocre bureaucratic environment that exists in Italian Calcio. I hope that in a near future we see him undertake something comparable to his grandeur. I wish him the best. I consider myself a very lucky soccer fan to have watched him played for almost all his carrier calcistica.
on the 22nd March, 2013 at 6:31pm
Come on, this is FIGC, what do you expect guys from a federation that even can;t treat the club equally? a joke of football federation
on the 1st February, 2013 at 4:26pm
ahhhh.. Old italian men in suits. The constant stain that continues to make this country impossible to move forward.
on the 30th January, 2013 at 11:37pm
What do you expect?? Sacchi was jealous of Baggio in 94, because he single-handedly took Italy to the final. Sacchi, then decided to make one of the worst decisions ever in football, by leaving him out of euro 96. This wasa great disappointment to me and my friends in England, as went to 3 Italy matches, hoping to see the Divine Ponytail. There's no way Baggio can work with him!
on the 30th January, 2013 at 4:19pm
agree here giambrone, the germans know exactly what they are doing and they are right on track as well. the simple reason why, they have a strategy plan and hire the right men to the right place. If baggio decides to have an oppostion to the FIGC i will support him all the way. but he will never do that, he is so super in ethics and want space to create something good for the italian football. I love you Roberto.
on the 30th January, 2013 at 9:21am
you want to know what wis going wrong David, it is Giancarlo Abete and the rest of the guys in FIGC.
I always called for new elections and change at the FIGC especially after the disaster (WC'10) that is!
I always feard that the project of Baggio would fail and it has happened! the youth system needs to be complied with the strategy plan of the FIGC if there is one! Baggio had a program but FIGC staff never had a plan from the start! I feel sorry for Italian football system, it is distracting!
on the 30th January, 2013 at 9:14am
"Good horses don't necessarily make good horseman" & that's exactly the case with Baggio. Fantastic as a player but untested as a coach, reason why he never became one.

The FIGC should have been more clear before his appointment instead of giving him a broad title like "project youth" then afterwards dictate what he should do...
on the 30th January, 2013 at 7:14am
How can I say it I been lucky to watch my favorite player Roberto Baggio play for my team juventus and Italy! Also seen two World Cups in my lifetime!! They can't find a place for one of the GREATEST ITALAIN BORN player?? as he did effortlessly on the field I am sure he can help upstairs??
on the 30th January, 2013 at 5:19am
Questo e tipico Italiano. There can be no other result. The FIGC deal in Bureaucracy like a sculptor deals in clay. First,choose three indivuduals where one will do, toss in conflicting directives, make sure their responsibilities overlap. Then wail in anguish when nothing is accomplished. It's okay,though,our coaches and players always succeed in spite of these "geniuses".
on the 30th January, 2013 at 1:05am
It's like ignoring God.

on the 30th January, 2013 at 12:44am
italy is an old country. those in power fear big changing and people bringing in new ideas. such a miserable mentality
on the 29th January, 2013 at 11:39pm
Burrecracy getting in the way of getting things done. Italy as usual, unfortunately.
on the 29th January, 2013 at 8:16pm
I want Baggio to one day take charge of the national team. I wanna see him lift the world cup he never go to as a player. FIGC was wrong not to listen to his ideas, he's smarter than all those people in the federation.
on the 29th January, 2013 at 6:36pm
For a man with zero coaching record to date since retiring, it was indeed strange to see him given the task of educating and reviewing how coaches operate at youth level. the very fact that his recommendations always seemed to veer back towards dealing directly with football proves that he was not quite comfortable with the job he was assigned to. Baggio the player was not appreciated enough by italian football and now Baggio the brain is also being left frustrated and criminally underused.
on the 29th January, 2013 at 6:03pm
I've supported and grew up watching Italy since USA 94, the divine pony tail was one of the greats, a legend in fact. Effortless in all that he did. Helped every club he was at, he was a benifit to all.

It's a shame that the FIGC can't somehow find a place for him. Not just a token offering but a place well he will feel valued and actually benifit youth.

I'm only 28 so I've not seen all of Baggio's great goals and skills, but you only have to youtube his name to see that no one has come close.
on the 29th January, 2013 at 5:30pm
Agree with tge top 2 comments.

There has been many next Baggios.But he was the last Italian player to win world player of the year in a non worldcup year where ur team won.
on the 29th January, 2013 at 3:00pm
I would love to see Baggio create a rivalling governing body against the FIGC. Maybe he could get some assistance from Germany, as they clearly know what they are doing and are far more transparent & competent than the FIGC. As with FIFA & UEFA, I don't believe that it is healthy having only one party ruling without having any opposition.

It just seems to me that Baggio's appointment was a token gesture, much like the 9/11 Commission report.
on the 29th January, 2013 at 2:15pm
It is all Sacchi and Ulivieri's fault. Both of them are jealous of him and wanted to give him a hard time. Baggio carried Sacchi at USA 94 as well as Ulivieri at Bologna in 1997-98.

Hopefully Baggio can still have an influence on calcio. Perhaps he needs to be more cynical or more of a fighter. He needs to succeed over Sacchi, Ulivieri and co, members of the "I'm jealous of Roberto Baggio Club"!
on the 29th January, 2013 at 12:45pm

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