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The coach of FC Basel in an interview

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The coach of FC Basel in an interview

A good two years ago, Fabio Celestini said he would never get the coaching job at FC Basel or YB. Now he looks after FCB and says what today’s players are missing – and what is impossible for him.

«If I’m tired of watching a game, I might not see the solution. But I got her rested in 30 minutes”: FCB coach Fabio Celestini.

Georgios Kefalas / Keystone

Where is your home?

I live in Basel, but I feel at home when I’m in Spain. My family is from Italy, I grew up in Renens, which was dominated by immigrants. Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Panama – all these countries are part of me. I love the feeling of belonging to different cultures.

Where do you live when you don’t have a coaching job?

Then I go in all directions. I have an apartment in Italy, Spain, Panama, Miami and Lausanne.

Do you have a daughter living in Panama?

Yes. And two children live in Lausanne. And my parents live in Italy again. My partner and I live in Basel and Spain.

Why do you call Spain home?

I lived there for seven years: in Malaga, Valencia and Madrid. I like the culture, this desire to go out and enjoy life. Also football: grandfather, father and son go to the stadium together with bocadillos, i.e. sandwiches. And the weather is very important to me. If there are blue skies 300 days a year, that changes a lot.

Can you enjoy life as a player and coach?

As a player, yes. You have a lot of time – if it works. As a trainer, however, you also have problems when things are going well. There’s always the feeling: That was good, but… . . And when things go badly, there are no buts. Then it’s usually just bad.

As players, you were probably dissatisfied at times. What are you doing differently than your coaches today so that the players aren’t dissatisfied?

Today’s players at professional level all have a good education. They have more instruments to play football. For me, the challenge with this generation is that they always have direct access to everything. Do you need information? You google it. Before you had to ask someone, wait. The waiting no longer exists.

You think that’s bad.

For me patience is important. And patience is increasingly in danger of being lost these days. If the players work well for two weeks, they want to play. Young people today have a better education, but in my opinion they are not simply better per se than we were.

Why not?

Because we played on the street, there are no rules there. There are rules in the club and your talent is structured there. The wild part that you get on the street is something that today’s players are increasingly missing.

How do you find a balance between work and life?

I consciously take time out. When I was in Lausanne, I couldn’t do that. It was just: football, the team, a defeat, problems. . . Pam, pam, pam! You don’t go to the gym anymore, you don’t make time for your family anymore. If I didn’t think about football in Lausanne, that meant I was unprofessional. After that, I thought about it and talked to trainers who had more experience than me.

With whom, for example?

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With Bernd Schuster, with Michel, my former coaches at Levante and Getafe. I once heard Pep Guardiola say when asked if he was watching a Real Madrid game: “No, I’m going to the cinema with my wife.” I thought: “What?” That was crazy for me. The Barcelona coach doesn’t watch the game of his big rival?

A formative coach for Fabio Celestini: the German Bernd Schuster, here in 2004 as Levante coach in conversation with the Swiss midfielder.

Miguelez Sports / Image

What did that teach you?

In order to do my job better, I sometimes have to take time off. Cook, go to the cinema, switch off.

Aren’t you afraid that people will suddenly say you’re lazy?

No. Because it’s not about doing more, but about doing things better. What does it matter if I watch a game that night or the next morning? If I’m tired of watching a game, I might not see the solution. But I had her rested in 30 minutes.

Alain Joseph, the former president of Lausanne-Sport, once said that you were a good coach, but you were always demanding. A video analyst, someone for rehab, it was maddening. They didn’t understand that it was Lausanne and not Marseille or Madrid. Did you have to learn that?

I can’t possibly learn this. Alain Joseph, as the boss of his company, is exactly the same as I am as a trainer. He didn’t achieve what he has for nothing.

You have to demand, demand, demand?

Demanding sounds too negative to me. When someone runs a business and doesn’t come out of their comfort zone, that’s the beginning of the end. My mother worked at Kodak for 30 years. They were the best. Then came digital photography. Where is Kodak today? Every day brings challenges that I want to overcome in the best possible way. Today the training, the interview with the NZZ, Valentine’s Day. And tomorrow something different. The problem with entrepreneurs in football is that they work with their heart instead of their head – and do the opposite of what they are used to in business.

You have a clear point of view. But recently you said in the “Basler Zeitung”: “I am the easiest person to work with.” How does this work?

Ask my staff: Yes, it’s easy with me. But . . .

But?

I have a problem with incompetence. Three or four years ago I took a personality test and spoke to a coach. I said, “I don’t understand why it works with one person and not with another.” And the test showed me: You have this, this and that – and your character has a problem with incompetence.

Don’t we all have a problem with that?

Even if someone is my friend but incompetent: I can’t work with them. On the other hand, someone can be an absolutely stupid guy, but highly competent: and I can work with him. When Alain Joseph talked about football and he asked me questions – okay, sometimes I had a problem! But I always explained to him what I meant. He can say I’m difficult – but I always explained my point of view to him.

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Why?

Because he was my boss. If Alain said: “We’re having a session in Fleur de pains”, a tea room – then I said: “Alain, I don’t want to go to a tea room. I want to go to your office where you are the boss and I am your employee.” I used to play for a big club like Marseille – the president doesn’t have the meeting with the coach in a tea room. But I don’t think you should hold a meeting in a tea room in Lausanne either.

And what is it like at FC Basel? President David Degen has a strong character and a lot of football knowledge – things can quickly go wrong.

With my wife too – but it’s not like I don’t love her anymore. Where is a life where everything is perfect? It does not exist. Do we want a team where everyone is great friends? No. Everyone has to fight for a place, sometimes they have to be angry with each other – but then they have to give everything together for FC Basel. It’s the same in the relationship between president and coach. You have to communicate, confront each other. When Alain told me something, I often thought: He doesn’t know anything about football – but in the end he made me think. And later I thought: Maybe what he said wasn’t so stupid after all.

David Degen once said in an interview with the NZZ: “A fully developed coach like Pep Guardiola will never be a coach in Basel, we will always have coaches who are in development.” But sometimes it seems that Degen has a hard time accepting that he doesn’t have a perfect coach.

But which team does Guardiola have?

Only one, of course, currently Manchester City.

I follow the rhythm of the team and adapt. You can push and demand in this direction or that – but ultimately it’s about what’s best for the team.

You once said: “You have to have an idea and believe in it. And people who do that are sometimes said to be stubborn or dogmatic.” Have you become more open and less stubborn than before?

I won’t change my idea of ​​football, impossible. I want to be dominant, with and without the ball. Tell Guardiola: “Change your idea!” I want to be part of this session: How you tell Guardiola to change his idea of ​​football. He shouldn’t play from the back anymore, just long balls – I want to be there!

Do you know Guardiola?

Yes. I once met him at a game organized by my foundation. We were talking and he said to me: “Do you think I tell Iniesta how to play?” No.

Because Andrés Iniesta knows how to play?

Exactly. When working with a player like Iniesta, it’s about him being happy and knowing three or four things about the opponent. But do you think that afterwards Guardiola would have told Iniesta that he had to run here and there and play this and that pass?

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About a year ago you were in discussion as coach of the Swiss women’s national team – what interested you about that?

It would have been an incredibly exciting challenge. The association called me and I thought: Wow, a national team, a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – I was proud that this opportunity existed. I love challenges, but I also told the association that it would be a risk to leave men’s football.

Your playing career, your idea, your first months at a club always promise a lot – but after ten years only one title is on the books. Why not any more?

I won everything I could win in Switzerland.

But not the championship title.

But I was successful everywhere. Promotion with Lausanne, third with Lugano, first cup victory with Lucerne in 29 years. I was also voted Coach of the Year in 2016, and I won the Fair Play rating and the U-21 Trophy in the Challenge League and Super League with my clubs. But until recently I didn’t coach YB or Basel, the two big Swiss clubs of the last few decades.

In 2021 you said you would never get the coaching position at YB or Basel, you knew that.

It was a difficult time for me back then; I was repeatedly close to getting a job at these clubs and thus a greater chance of winning the championship. So I said that – maybe it wasn’t right, but that’s how I felt in that moment.

Did you ever feel like you were being treated unfairly?

It’s not injustice. But you do and do and do, you are successful, you want to move forward – and in the end it came to nothing. So I felt like it was impossible for me to ever get that chance. And yes, I had never been given a project with a squad with which it was realistically possible to become champions.

Is it possible with FCB?

At the moment we want to save the team and the club, you can’t talk about the championship title. When I took over the job on November 1, 2023, we were five points behind Lausanne-Ouchy in last place. If we do more this season than stay in the Super League: fantastic.

Fabio Celestini

Fourth FCB coach in one year

bsn. · Fabio Celestini, 48 years old, took over FC Basel at the beginning of November 2023 after the team did not win a point or score a goal in October. It was in last place, with one game and five points less than Stade Lausanne-Ouchy. Celestini was the fourth FCB coach in 2023 after Alex Frei, Heiko Vogel and Timo Schultz. With Celestini, Basel won an average of two points per game and are now in ninth place.

Celestini has already worked as a coach in the Super League in Sion, Lucerne, Lugano and Lausanne. As a player he was at Lausanne, Troyes, Marseille, Levante and Getafe, among others. He played 35 times in the Swiss national team from 1998 to 2007.

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