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Soccer coach says ‘unity’ is behind revival in fortunes of Mexico’s most beloved soccer team

There’s one foreigner living in Guadalajara who won’t need to pay for meals in local restaurants over the summer.

pg24Matias Almeyda, the 44-year-old Argentinian coach of the Guadalajara Chivas, is the city’s hero of the moment after winning the Concacaf Champions League – his fifth trophy in the two and a half years he has been in charge of Mexico’s most popular soccer team.   

The nail-biting April 24 victory – the Chivas won on penalty kicks after a tie in regulation time – means Guadalajara will be represented at the World Club Cup for the first time.  That is a massive achievement for a novice coach who was virtually unknown in this country before his appointment.

Although he enjoyed a successful playing career in Argentina, Spain and Italy – also appearing 30 times for his country, including at two World Cups – Almeyda was a gritty defender who rarely scored goals and usually only made the headlines when he lost his cool and became embroiled in tussles with opposing players.

But Almeyda was respected for his intelligence and leadership qualities, traits that have served him well during his time in Guadalajara. For starters, he has completely reorganized the facilities at Chivas’ Verde Vallle training complex in Guadalajara.  Local sports writers have been impressed by how he has eradicated elites at the club and brought players and staff closer together.  The team and club employees now all eat together at a single long table, one way Almeyda ensures that everyone is treated equally. He is also a hands-on coach, not adverse to mucking in to help to set up equipment – a role usually reserved for junior staff.  His mentorship of the younger players – insisting they continue their studies – has also been a revelation, sports writers note.

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