Who is Imanol Ibarrando? Rarely will you see Ibarrando show his face doing interviews or press conferences. At times, he shares inspirational quotes through his Twitter days before Mexico plays a match, but most of the time he is a silent figure in the Mexico national team background.
Ibarrando had a brief career as a professional soccer player with Spanish club Rayo Vallecano and later funded an institute in Bilbao. After getting the job with Mexico as a sort of mental health coach, his first big task was to regain the trust within the player’s mindset after the brutal 7-0 loss vs Chile in the Copa America Centenario, in which Mexico bounced back with a 2-1 victory over the United States in Columbus, Ohio.
In the past, Osorio has not been shy to back up the importance of Ibarrondo in his coaching staff, “The United States is a top country in the world and all the athletes have mental help,” Osorio said. “What is wrong with that?”
As for his methods, he commits to group meetings, along with one on ones with all the players, where he guides the players to formulate an upside in their mental approach. “When I work with the group I like to create spaces with a lot of tension so people really dare to show vulnerability,” Ibarrondo said. “Showing vulnerability is sharing fears, worries, desires, dreams, longings, objectives, challenges, saboteurs.I think that when a team is capable of sharing that internally, when it shows vulnerability inside, it portrays invulnerability on the outside”,Ibarrando stated to ESPN FC.
Mexico has now qualified the round of 16 and will face the powerful Brazil on Monday. All odds will be stacked against the team of J.C Osorio, and Ibarrando will be tasked with nurturing and preparing the team after their recent loss against Sweden. ”We will meet to process the emotions after a disappointing defeat, the last match marks the emotional state and there are feelings of grief, disappointment, sadness, anger, we have to let that arise and turn it into the best state to face Brazil,” Ibarrando said.
As history has shown, Mexico is more than capable of putting up a fight against Brazil. To go back to the last World Cup, Mexico had the game of their lives when they held the Verde-Amarela to a draw in the 2014 World Cup. Hopefully, something similar can happen and Mexico gets the win. Of course, with a little help of Ibarrondo.