At 73, the coach has been in Uruguay for 16 consecutive years. He holds the world record for matches directed by a national team. He has already been to four World Cups. And it goes for more.
Diego Godín was not yet three years old and Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani were one and a half years old when Oscar Washington Tabárez made his debut as technical director of the Uruguayan team on September 27, 1988.
“Which is what I want? The last Dance. Now I say it. I will not be announcing when I am leaving the national team but it is obvious that certain things are going to happen. Note that there are not all advantages that a person of 40 years has in relation to one that is 73; There are also things that I have affirmed, life experiences, positions that I did not have at 40 ”.
The serenity of always was spiced with a bit of annoyance by the rumors that grew about his possible exit from the Celeste substitute bank due to the consequences generated by the coronavirus pandemic.
They said that he could not travel, that the Association was going to offer him another position with less pressure and obligations, that there was already a candidate to replace him … The Maestro relied on the formula that Phil Jackson used for his last stage in the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan and who returned to the scene with the Netflix series.
His story also enters the final stretch, but it is just beginning. “In a Barcelona newspaper they give the news that I could not travel for health reasons. And I felt like Heidi’s grandpa Tabárez admitted. Beyond the problems I had, I have fought them, it bothered me because people from the Uruguayan Football Association were called in and they said that I was going to be a manager and they already had a new coach. I spoke with them and there is nothing, but as they said in the Michael Jordan documentary, I begin to prepare for the last dance, for me it will be the last dance and for the players who are 33 or 34 years old, the desire to do everything they are possible ”.
A month after that press conference, the Master leaves the empty Centennial of Montevideo. Uruguay receives Chile for the first date of the Qualifiers heading to Qatar 2022. The show begins.
“I see something and write it down,” says the Master. “For example, once an actress said ‘the beginning always generates fear and the end always causes sadness.’ And it’s true, even being a champion you think ‘now what’. The important thing is in the middle”.
In his first stage in the national team he directed 34 games until the end of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. In 2006 he returned and is still there.
In October 2019 he reached the 200 matches directed in the celestial bench but since March 25, 2016, when he directed the number 185, that his name appears in the Guinness Book of Records as “the DT with the most meetings in the same selection in the history of football “. And he shares another item in the Guinness: together with the German Helmut Schön and the English Walter Winterbottom he is the coach with the most world championships directed in the same national team, with four editions: Italy 1990, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. Qatar 2022, the record will be yours alone.
Between the two cycles of the Master in Uruguay, 16 years passed. And thirteen technical directors: Pedro Cubilla (1991), Luis Cubilla (91/93), Ildo Maneiro and Roberto Fleitas (1993), Héctor Núñez (94/96), Juan Ahuntchaín (96/97), Roque Máspoli (97/98 ), Víctor Púa (98/99 and 2001/2002), Daniel Passarella (2000/2001), Jorge Da Silva (2002), Gustavo Ferrín (2003), Juan Ramón Carrasco (2003/2004) and Jorge Fossati (2004-2005 ).
Legend has it that at the beginning of the 80s, when his wife was pregnant with their fourth daughter, he heard on the radio that Peñarol was looking for coaches for the lower ranks. The requirements? Have experience as a player and have complete studies. The next day, Tabárez began his career as a DT.
In the rearview mirror, in the distance, his days as a primary school teacher were still valid in the neglected neighborhoods of Cerro, Paso de la Arena and La Teja. His career as a central defender in lower-level teams in Uruguay – he went through South America, Montevideo Wanderers, Fénix, Bella Vista – was complemented by his work in the classrooms, with the white coat. And the combo ended was fruitful when he got the coach diver.
In Peñarol he won the 1987 Copa Libertadores. He had a fleeting stint in Colombia at Deportivo Cali. He smiled back at Boca by shouting the local tournament champion in 1992, something the Argentine team hadn’t achieved since 1981. He made the leap to Europe to sit on the bench in Cagliari and Milan, in Italy; and Oviedo, in Spain. He returned to Argentina although he did not set foot in Vélez nor could he repeat his success in a second cycle in Boca.
For Tabárez the key is in three letters E: Explain, Train and Evaluate. The Uruguayan player must be clear about what is explained. That is to say: he must know what responsibility each one has on the playing field and in relation to his teammates. You must train it in the week and finally carry it out in matches to be evaluated.
“I do not ask for mercy: I only hope that there are people who believe in this”, said on March 8, 2006, when he was presented for his second cycle as DT of Uruguay. What he asked them to believe in was reflected in the folder that he had presented to the AUF under the title of “Project for the institutionalization of national team processes and the training of their players.”
“He is my idol”, Reinaldo Rueda, the Colombian coach who directs Chile, said in the preview of the initial clash of the Qualifiers. “Tabárez is the man of reference in a historical process for South American football. For something the Uruguay team is positioned as the best in South America worldwide and was fifth in the world in Russia-2018. My respect for that coaching staff.”