Bolívar manager Xabier Azkargorta was always a motivator and a coach that maintained a positive outlook on things no matter how they were playing out on the pitch. In his office, he had a sign that read “Never Stop Going Forward. A Golazo For Life.” On Wednesday, that golazo came in the 70th minute when Julio Ferreira scored a tremendous goal with one of the few opportunities he had in Bolívar’s 1-0 victory over León in the Copa Libertadores.
In that match, the Bolivians endured countless attacks by the reigning Liga MX champions, but survived because of their organization and practicality. The squad did not attack much, but at the same time, León failed to find the spaces to put Bolívar in a bind on a consistent basis. The few times “La Fiera” were able to do so, the ball would tease the players and fans in attendance, but they eventually lost.
The win was not just “historic,” as several players mentioned after the match, it was a reaffirmation of what Azkargorta instilled in them in just two short weeks when he took the helm at Bolívar.
It seems like back to the future for the Bolivian. When he took over as coach of the Bolivian national team for the 1994 World Cup qualifiers, there were many naysayers in the Bolivian press that were won over by his work all of a sudden.
Twenty years later, Azkargorta returns to the spotlight once again as coach of Bolívar just hours after parting ways with the same national team that he put on the international soccer map two decades earlier.
Once again, Azkargorta quickly started to show his “coaching magic,” changing the fortunes of a Bolívar side that struggled in the early part of 2014 under caretaker coach Víctor Soria while magnate Marcelo Claure was looking for a replacement for another Spaniard, Miguel Ángel Portugal, who departed for Atlético-PR back in December. That move, ironically, saw Azkargorta go from one of the poorest national teams in the western hemisphere to coaching the club owned by one of the richest men in Bolivia — communications magnate and David Beckham business partner Marcelo Claure.
The Hernando Siles stadium was always the biggest strength for Bolivian clubs and national teams, as it was (and continues to be) a place of strength as even the biggest of rivals trembled when the prospect of having to play 3,640 meters (11,948 feet) about sea level. The same could be said about Oruro (3,706m/ 12,159 feet) or Cochabamba (2,558 m/8,392 feet).
Now when they play away from those confines, their results are dire to say the least. The Bolivian national team have not won on the road in World Cup qualifying play in 21 years. That was when Azkargorta’s side defeated Venezuela 3-1 en route to their first and only World Cup appearance.
Playing away from home was always the demon that Bolivian sides endured. Having to leave that comfort zone was always a problem mentally, and Azkargorta was always aware of that. This is why the win against León was so huge. Azgargorta’s win was not just also important for his team as they went top of the table in their group in Copa Libertadortes; he was also the coach of the first Bolivian side to ever win on Mexican soil.