Following a string of bad results in the Copa Diego Armando Maradona, Racing Club had been going through a rough patch to the backdrop of boardroom conflict. Four straight losses had put manager Sebastián Becaccece in a weak position and it appeared as though it were possibly the beginning of the end to his spell in Avellaneda.
The Copa Libertadores game against Flamengo could have been the last chance for the young manager, who may not have the full support of president Víctor Blanco and the board of directors. The decision of Diego Milito to resign as the technical secretary was a huge blow not only for the club, as the iconic former striker was doing a great job, but more so for Becaccece. It was Milito who insisted on naming the 39-year-old as Eduardo Coudet’s successor, despite the doubts that Blanco and other board members had, and who had also backed him at any difficult moment.
Milito with a foot out the door meant Jorge Sampaoli’s former assistant had no choice but to go through the next challenges on his own, with a lot to prove to president Victor Blanco and other members of the board of directors yet to be fully convinced.
That’s why the second leg of the round of 16 was so important for Becaccece. With his main supporter gone, plus an awful start to the local competition and skeptical bosses, progressing in the Libertadores seemed to be the only way to survive. Fortunately for the coach, Racing came up big against Flamengo in the Maracanã. A historic victory signified the passing of a big test and strengthened Beccacece’s position at a critical time.
The manager’s time at El Cilindro was a little difficult from the very beginning. In the first place it was due to the fact that the standards were really high, as he had to replace championship-winner Coudet. Secondly, his previous short stint on the other side of Avellaneda, when he coached Independiente, didn’t go as expected and he was fired shortly after being appointed. That recent memory had a bad impact on his image and immediate impressions at Racing weren’t great.
Things changed for the young manager after an unforgettable Clásico win over El Rojo, when La Academia beat their rivals with nine men. That important result fortified Becaccece in a moment where he was starting to stagger.
Racing’s big night in the Maracanã that booked them a place in Libertadores’ Quarter Finals may be another point of inflection for the combative coach. It was an astonishing feat that puts him once again in a strong position.
With no chances left to challenge for the domestic title, the Copa Libertadores remains the last shot for Becaccece to impress his bosses. A good run in the most prestigious competition of South America could gain their trust. He already made a strong step by defeating the defending champions in Brazil yet more challenges are to come for a manager still to fully win over the board.
He may have not been the first option for president Blanco and his arrival was largely due to a figure no longer at the club. But he already bounced back in crucial games and once again had a response from the team in order to keep working at El Cilindro.
After Racing’s massive achievement against the odds following those difficult weeks, Becaccece can take a breath. As Fabricio Domínguez converted the decisive penalty on Rio de Janeiro, the coach collapsed, face down on the field, after 90 minutes (and weeks) of suffering. La Academia’s coach overcame another test and keeps his job with the task of delivering results to a board of directors that will continue to demand the best of him.
Martin O’Donnell – 20 years old. Sports writer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Student of Communications