It is not just the formal education that explains it, however. It is the fact that Argentina is home to such a confluence of ideas, Cocco said, exposed to influences from “Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden” and all points in between, that make it so easy for its coaches to move abroad. “We are happy to travel all over the world and adapt,” Cúper said.
And it is the hothouse environment of Argentine soccer, so destructive in other ways, that is especially conducive to nurturing high-caliber coaches.
Not only, as Cocco said, are there “hundreds of leagues and thousands of clubs,” giving aspiring coaches a chance to cut their teeth, but even at the youth level, the pressure is immediate, and relentless. Coaches have to learn, and learn fast, or they are fired. That was why Pékerman would not give up his taxi; that is why he is at the World Cup, in charge of Colombia.
“In Argentina, as in Uruguay and Brazil, the youth leagues are of an incredibly high standard,” Pékerman said. “It is the best school for players, and the best school for coaches. The demands are very high: it is not just fathers and friends who are watching. The kids know the fans expect them to win, and that gives us, as coaches, an obligation to work hard.”
Those who do not meet the standard return to their taxis, or some equivalent. Only the very best survive, move on, move up, learn how to thrive under the intense pressure. “This experience gives you an advantage in achieving important things when you go to other countries,” Pékerman said.