He is the Don Fabio you don’t know. An Italian manager with the same first name and a fan of his far more famous and illustrious counterpart Fabio Capello, Fabio Lopez is a coach you probably haven’t come across yet, however at the age of 36, he is an ambitious and up-and-coming manager who is well known in Central Italy.
Fabio Lopez is a young, ambitious Italian coach
Hearing his story and listening to his views on the game is to get a glimpse of how difficult it is to make it big in the cutthroat world of a football coach. But it’s also intriguing to hear the tale of a manager who truly loves the game and has a burning desire to succeed.
To date Lopez has had but two full-time coaching stints in Lithuania’s top league and is a respected manager who has been an assistant coach, goalkeeping coach and scout for some of Italian football’s biggest clubs.
This well-rounded base will surely help Lopez as he seeks to further his career. One Game, One World was fortunate enough to speak with Fabio Lopez recently and hear about his career and football philosophy as well as his goals for his managerial career. There is a belief about Lopez that will certainly be an asset as trudges on down the difficult path of manager stardom.
This interview and profile is above all else a documentation of a man and his dream. Time will tell whether he will “make it big” in football, for now enjoy his unique take on the sport.
One Game, One World: Tell us a little about your playing career?
Fabio Lopez: I started to play soccer when I was 6 years old. I played for a little club not professional, like all young boys. After 12 years old I went to play in a soccer academy affiliate to AS Roma, and there began my real career.
At 16 years old I went to semi-professional side Agiatese and my position was goalkeeper and from 16-18 years old I was one of the top goalkeepers in central Italy. I played in SERIE D (SEMI-PRO LEAGUE) for my entire pro career.
When did you decide you wanted to go into coaching?
I start to think about a coaching career when I was young player, because I believed that I could give more as a coach than like a player. Every club where I went to play at I had a good relationship with my coach and I also began to understand that my teammates would listen to me and believe in what I told them. So after playing, I started my coaching career as a goalkeeper coach.
How did you get your first job and with which club was it?
The first job was in my ex academy school, “ AS EUROLIMPIA ACADEMY “, an affiliate with Roma as a goalkeeper coach.
How did you make the move to Lithuania to coach?
I went to Lithuania to coach because I go every year on holiday there. I went to the stadium to watch a Lithuania A LYGA match while on holiday and made some contacts. After some stage, about 4 months later, the club president called me and wanted me to be the coach.
What is the state of football in Lithuania?
In Lithuania football is very hard, because it is not a sport that has a great deal of money in it. The level of quality of the players can be very interesting though, because many have good physical attributes. I think with good work in the academy system on the technical side and they can develop very good players in the future.
What was the talent level in Lithuania?
In Lithuania there is a lot of good young talent and I think many players could play normally in Italy or in Europe without a problem.
In Lithuania you coached FC Banga and FC Siauliai. Which time did you enjoy more?
Yes I coached 2 clubs. My time where I worked with the most success was in FK Banga, but eventually it was my decision to go leave from this club after some time as I needed a change. When I left FK Banga we were 4th in the championship and I have big chance for the top of the table. Something began to change at the club however and I didn’t get the support I was hoping for.
So I decided to go leave and the position at FC Siauliai came up. In Siauliai it was a good experience when I began to work there and I had 9 straight positive results, but I began to really understand that my Italian mentality was very different from the Lithuanian mentality and I decided to leave and go back to Italy.
Lopez on the touchline in Lithuania
Which countries would you like to coach in now?
I think for young coach like me it is not important where I go to work. I think about results and success and trying to win it doesn’t matter where I am. I am ready to move wherever in order to win.
What is your preferred formations/tactics?
My preferred tactics and formations are 4-4-2, 4-3-3, or 4-1-4-1 but I think every coach must find the best solution depending on the players he has at his disposal. The strong coaches don’t make as many mistakes and know how to get the best out of their teams.
You have achieved your UEFA A License? Tell us a little bit about this process and how difficult it is to achieve an “A” License.
To achieve these licenses are very hard. In Italy I began my license process for becoming a youth coach, then I had luck to sign a contract in Lithuania with a Lithuanian professional club and it was there I sought an UEFA A License. I also became a teacher in tactics for the Lithuanian Football Federation for coaches that were going get their UEFA B License.
Now I am seeking a new contract with a club and then I will go to take A PRO LICENSE tests. But I try to remember that I am only 36 years old, so I think I have time to keep growing as a coach and I believe in my ability as a manager.
How difficult is it for a coach to find work in Italy?
The problem for me coaching in Italy is that I am only 36 years old and so I am a little too young for Italian professional clubs at the moment. This past year I have received 3 offers from Italian professional clubs in Serie C2, which is a very good level, but I decided not to take these positions, because I wanted to win outside my country and coach somewhere else. I am interested in coaching jobs abroad even in the United States with the USL or MSL. I think these leagues suit my style and with my soccer preparation I can have very good results.
Who is the best player you have ever worked with?
I worked with good players in Lithuania, national team players and many players I had from the U21 Lithuanian team. In Italy I coached for many years a player that now plays for Fiorentina named Aya Ramzy who is a central defender. I worked with him for many years as a youngster and helped him with his development in soccer and also helped him with the mental aspects of the professional game.
You have also worked as a scout. How do you enjoy this?
Yes I work as a scout because I have many contacts and many people know my work in central Italy. I work first for Atalanta. Then Fiorentina asked me to be a scout and this was a very good experience, but eventually I decided against a new contract as I wanted to go back to coaching.
How much have you learned under your mentor Giuseppe Materrazzi?
I have learned so much from my best friend and teacher Giuseppe Materazzi. I meet him many times in the week, and he wants me to be his assistant if he goes back to coaching another team. He thinks highly of me and I of him, but sometimes you can be an assistant only if you have personality of an assistant, and I was born to be a head coach. Of course, if Materazzi finds a club and I am free I go with him, I would certainly think about it.
Lopez lists manager Giuseppe Materrazi as one of his biggest influences
Tell us a little bit about your own coaching style? Do you stand the entire 90 minutes? Do you yell?
About my football style, I can tell you standard things, because in every team conditions are different and change at every moment. I think that normally it is important to work very much with tactics, especially what players should be doing when they don’t have the ball, and of course with tactics concerning special problems that a coach has in the team.
One thing that I work on so much is psychology. I think this is the most important component for a strong team. I like to be close with my players, like brothers even, and I have had positive results as I believe good relationships with players mean they trust me and make them want win for me, themselves and the team.
I don’t like to change my tactics because of the opposition. I like to present my football in match not take initiative from another club. In many training I focus my players on being fast and strong and to be able to change immediately tactics and formation, as all strong club know how to change fast.
Do you have any job offers at the moment?
At the moment I am free and searching for new club and new experience. There are opportunities of course for a move for the start of next season , but I don’t want work in Italy at the moment, I would like to work abroad and win.
Where do you hope to be in the next 5 years?
Next 5 years? I don’t think there is a good answer to this question but whatever I am doing surely I’ll be trying to continue to win matches.
Lopez believes in forging close relationships with his players
Which clubs do you support?
From when I am young I am supporter from AS ROMA, but of course when you become a professional coach you just must think about the club where you work. Perhaps someday it will be a good but strange emotion to have a future team of mine play against Roma!
Who do you like for the upcoming 2010 World Cup?
About the World Cup, I very much like Fabio Capello, my style in coaching it is very similar to this big coach, so I think that England against Brazil are the favorites for the final match. Of course I don’t say Italy for purposes of luck!
Why is football the world’s most popular sport?
This is important question, it is the most popular sport because can play all youngsters without money without being from a rich family can grow up playing the game.
I am also sure that when young boy play football it can help them grow up to be good people in the future, because in football you learn many lessons like how you feel and deal with loss and you experience emotions together with others. All of this helps one in life.
What does football mean to you?
What football means to me, it’s about my life, my family, and my players! I like to teach the values of life to players sharing the victories and defeats. One story I have is of one of my players from Lithuania after 2 years of having left there called me and asked me to come back and coach him and to try to win together again.
One Game, One World thanks Fabio Lopez for his time in answering our questions and wishes him luck in the future. If you would like to learn more about this manager check out his website.