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Ancelloti’s Football Secret: It’s All Psychology!

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Carlo Ancelotti (57) is the man that is supposed to win the Champions League with 2016 German Champion Bayern Munich this season. In a recent interview the Italian star coach told Xinhua about his special working style and his passion for movies, food, cooking and his left eye-brow.

ancelotti“I don’t like to be called a coach or manager, I prefer to be called a human that is doing the job of a coach or manager,”  three times Champions League winner Ancelotti said.

Xinhua: Mr. Ancelotti we hope you don’ t mind . . . .

Ancelotti:  (laughing) . . . well if you start like that then I do mind, don’ t call me Mr. Ancelotti, I prefer Carlo . . . .

Xinhua: . . . . ok, Carlo. We don’t mind, but we change our first question as we are so familiar with you already.

Ancelotti: (laughing) . . . well let’s see what you are up to . . .

Xinhua: . . . we don’t want to ask you about your defense at Bayern Munich, we want to know all about your famous left eye-brow . . .

Ancelotti: (laughing) . . . and ? . . .

Xinhua: Well it’s often raised and there are many stories behind. Once it’s an indication of your bad mood. Others say it’s been moving up and down ever since you had an accident with a Vespa when you were young.

Ancelotti: You might be disappointed now, but there is no secret. Honestly. (laughing) At least I don’t know of any. What I can say is: There was definitely no accident. I’ m surprised myself that my brow is moving. Sometimes when I see interviews of myself, I say: Huh, this left eye-brow is moving up high. But then I see it’s mine and I don’t know why it happens.

Xinhua: That is disappointing indeed, but unrevealed secrets are nice too. Let us try the next one: One of the passions you have are movies. Would you be an actor today if football coaching didn’t rule your life?

Ancelotti: I definitely would not, being actor was never a goal of mine. I just love movies and I was lucky to be even part in two movies – well, in a bit part. But in general it just relaxes me a lot to watch movies.

Xinhua: Any favourite ones?

Ancelotti: There are many great movies.  “La vita e bella” from Roberto Benigni for instance, he won an Oscar with that. Or Robert de Niro in the movie “The Deer Hunter” is one of the greatest movies. De Niro as an actor is my favourite. So I like all of his movies.

Xinhua: What do you especially like about him?

Ancelotti: His talent.

Xinhua: Can you learn something from movies for football or life?

Ancelotti: There are a lot of movies that inspire and motivate you regarding your life and life-style.

Xinhua: You use movies for your coaching work?

Ancelotti: Yes sometimes I do. But I just show parts of a movie, some special moments or a touching speech, something like that.

Xinhua: So you know most movies by heart or do you have to spend some time to select them or find them at home? In 2003 in advance of the Champions League final of AC Milan against Juventus Turin (3-2 a.p.) you showed “Any given Sunday” with Al Pacino who made a speech.

Ancelotti: It was a tremendous speech and that’s why I used it. In football it’s the most important part, to speak to the players. Before the game you have to motivate them, give them clear instructions, but football is not only about technical aspects, it’s about motivation and psychological aspects.

Xinhua: So is football coaching like acting, at least sometimes?

Ancelotti: I don’t think so because it would mean comparing football with movies. Every football game is a new movie. You cannot say we do the same as De Niro did in this or that movie years ago. We can’t say let us do the same in tomorrow’s game as we did ten years ago. It’s a new task every time in football.

Xinhua: As a movie expert, do you like to watch movies in their original language or dubbed?

Ancelotti: At the moment, I watch many movies in English and Italian. In general, I think the best is to watch them in their original version in order to get the actors’ real voices and, if you like their original character. The voice gives you an impression about a person.

Xinhua: You work with movies to create a good atmosphere – do you do that mainly to create a good mood or do you want the players to be motivated by special scenes?

Ancelotti: Before every game you have to be professional. In this case, the speech was about team-work, about being a highly motivated group and fighting for every single ball. And that at least is the big secret about football. You try and work together as a team.

Xinhua: You are regarded as the master of good moods in football coaching due to your reputation of being able to deal well with players and the atmosphere around them. How do you manage it?

Ancelotti: (laughing) Call it part of my character that I need a good relationship to the people I work with. I think it’s a very important part of our job to build a good relationship because together we have to reach a goal, together we have to help each other, we have to stay together here all day. Considering that I think it’s better to have a good relationship.

Xinhua: Did you follow a plan after you decided that a good relationship in football is important. Was it something you had in your mind when you were learning the coaching trade? Or where does it come from? Maybe it’s something out of your past from the farm of your parents where people have to work together and function in order to get the job done properly.

Ancelotti: Let’s say I experienced that in my life, in the good and in the bad times, in the past on my parents’ farm and later. Life can always teach you something new, you just have to listen. In this case it was the right thing for me to listen.

Xinhua: A lot of coaches try to create a good mood, but you are regarded to be the best good mood creator. We remember Ronaldo from Real Madrid talking about you saying: “He’s a bear, he is such a cuddly and caring person.”  

Ancelotti: Everyone has his own character. I’ m quiet and calm. Why? Maybe I’m calm because I never had angry people around me. My father was a calm and quiet person, so was my first teacher and my first wife. To be calm is no strategy, or acting. It’ s part of me.

Xinhua: But on one or two occasions, you tried to do things the other way around, meaning you raised your voice and players experienced an unusually angry and explosive Carlo Ancelotti. But obviously you did not like it as you commented that it simply didn’t work.  

Ancelotti: Sometimes you have to show your feelings. Sometimes you’re angry, for instance when a player does not show a good behaviour. This is one of the few things that really makes me angry, when a player behaves badly or is selfish or not serious and not professional.

Xinhua: Franck Ribery told us a lot more about you . . .

Ancelotti: (laughing) . . . now I’ m listening . . . .

Xinhua: He said when you talk to the team you are not able to stick to just talking about football – and that, he said, is one of the great things about you. Is it important to see the person and not only the footballer?

Ancelotti: We are all human beings in the first place. If you work together with people you have to consider that. I don’t like to be called a coach or a manager. I prefer to be called a human being that is doing the job of a manager.

Xinhua: Meaning it’s better to be sensitive to find out how other people are and where the possible problems in their character are situated?

Ancelotti: I look at every person in a positive way in the first place. I have trust in people. I’m not worried. After that you see how things develop.

Xinhua: Talking about development, what about your passion for fishing. We heard you like it a lot?

Ancelotti: (laughing) Well not a lot. It’s not something I’d do if I had only little time on my hands. I was in Canada and we had a lot of time. So I tried and it was fun.

Xinhua: So it was you standing in a river facing Canadian fish?

Ancelotti: No we went to fish on the sea in a bigger boat.

Xinhua: When fishing is not that of a great part of your life, tell us what is?

Ancelotti: Well I like to cook. I love to see movies and watch football games. My biggest passion is football. Sometimes they ask me if I feel a lot of pressure, but I don’t feel pressure. You don’t feel pressure when you are doing something you love.  

Xinhua: So cooking and food is a special Italian thing.

Ancelotti: Cooking and a special feeling for food is part of the Italian culture. I grew up in a family where food was really important. When my father came home from work, he wanted to eat well.

Xinhua: So we learned Italian food is the base – what else is on your list?

Ancelotti: Maybe thirty years ago it was a little bit difficult to eat in different countries, but today you find a lot of great food around the globe.

Xinhua: How about German food?

Ancelotti: Germany is not far from Italy and the north of Italy. I grew up there and the food is quite similar to the German food. They cook a lot of pork as we in north Italy do.

Xinhua: Next to food you said football is your passion. How can we imagine a week in your life: Football and cooking?

Ancelotti: I watch a lot of football games when I have time. If possible alone, then I can relax best.

Xinhua: You have worked for many big clubs and have won a lot of titles. That means there must be a lot of pressure and expectations around you. Don’t you have any problems to fulfil the expectations?

Ancelotti: I don’t feel a lot of pressure because I like what I’m doing. Of course I’m worried in advance of the game, I’m disappointed when things don’t work as I want them to. But I don’t regard that as a catastrophe.

Xinhua: So what do you do when you are angry? You kick the couch at home or throw things around?

Ancelotti: Yes, I must admit I kick the couch every now and then. But when it comes to players or my club, I try to stay calm and talk about things the next day. I try to forget disappointing results, but it doesn’t. I try to look forward, that helps. It was different in the beginning, but meanwhile after over 1000 games on the bench I can control it alright.

Xinhua: Is it easy to take over a team of Pep Guardiola or difficult?

Ancelotti: Oh that is easy. You find a team that is in great shape, a team that has a lot of knowledge and determination.

Xinhua: But how difficult is it, to take over the ideas of Guardiola and at the same time try to implement your own ideas.

Ancelotti: I’m not about to start a revolution. This is a team of high quality that has learned a lot in the last three years.

Xinhua: You once said you can teach players of that special level many things about football. So is coaching on this level more about managing a team instead of educating it?

Ancelotti: There are many players you can’t tell anything new about football. They have fantastic individual quality. I think the key is that all of these outstanding footballers invest their quality for the benefit of the entire team.

Xinhua: Compared to Pep Guardiola’s way of playing the game, your style seems to deliver more freedom for the players. Is this what we are seeing at the moment, that the team tries to adopt this new style?

Ancelotti: This is not true. It’s not about more freedom. The players have to adopt the organisation we need on the pitch. I want a team on the pitch and not a group of individuals. There are some rules players have to follow. Defensively it’s only organisation. Everyone can defend and everyone defends when they don’t have the ball. Offence is different you have to rely on the creativity and the talent of the players. In my game there are rules too, the players are not totally free.

Xinhua: Let us talk about the current situation at Bayern Munich. After the 1-0 defeat against Atletico and the 1-1 draw against FC Cologne in the Bundesliga several players said that the team could not invest 100 per cent and assumed a “mind problem”. Is it a mind problem or rather a physical problem?

Ancelotti: Things like that can happen, but I think it is more a physical problem when you have to play games every three days. When you face physical challenges like that your mentality is affected. You can’t be at 100 per cent in every game physically. You are worried about your physical condition and things like that. You lack a little bit of motivation and concentration. But in general it is nothing to worry about in this stage of the season.

Xinhua: Recently we heard you talk about the important games next spring time, meaning the knock out games in the Champions League. Is that why you are not worried about the current difficulties?

Ancelotti: We started very well into the season. But I understand what happened in this week. It is important to know why this or that happens and to be able to explain. Because we can understand what happened I am not worried. The team has an enormous quality and I feel deep trust in these abilities.

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