For Fernando Fiore the soccer coverage never stops! At 61-years- old “El Presidente” is still going strong and working towards the next World Cup in Qatar 2022. Throw in all his activities with brands and his coverage of Inter Miami of MLS, Fernando Fiore is a busy man.
Still Fernando Fiore has time to stop and chat about what occurred this past summer with the USMNT and their Gold Cup and Nations League glory, Mexico and what’s next for El Tri under Tata Martino, Inter Miami, and his thoughts on the Gabriel Heinze fiasco in Atlanta United.
Fiore has always been one to speak his mind and he did not pull any punches on the USMNT and Mexico. Here is our interview with Fernando Fiore and where he sees Concacaf’s biggest nations and what’s next for Inter Miami.
A look at the United States and Mexico
Bolavip: The last time we spoke it was doom and gloom for the USMNT, now the tables have turned, and the U.S. is on a road of success (after winning the Nations League and Gold Cup), while Mexico is back to the drawing board. What did you think of the USMNT’s summer?
Fernando Fiore: (Laughs) Well am still one of those pragmatic people that still has not swallowed that (the USMNT) did not qualify to the last World Cup. I am the first person to state that you can’t just have the goal of going to the World Cup, because every tournament on the road to the World Cup is important and helps the cause. Then at the World Cup you’re going to try but to win the World Cup is very hard. Nonetheless you can’t just ignore the other tournaments you have in the lead up to the World Cup… For me this summer was really important for the USMNT, they defeated Mexico in two cup finals, and there is a lot of optimism in the United States, especially when you consider the number of players that are young and playing in Europe. So, I am optimistic but want to see this team in qualifying.
BV: On the flip side of that coin, the Mexico project with Tata Martino seemed to be the final piece of taking El Tri to the next level. Where is the Mexico project under Tata Martino now?
FF: (Laughs) Poor Tata he just doesn’t have luck in finals. With Argentina, with Mexico. Am going to take this question with two perspectives. Mexican soccer and the structure of Mexican soccer have a huge division, when viewing the sporting aspect. They (Mexican Soccer) are extremely successful in the marketing and structure part, but on the sporting side a lot of times there is confusion, and a lot of times Mexico does not reach certain objectives like they would on the economic side. So, what happens? The projects are serious, they (Mexican Federation) bring in El Tata Martino, the players that are in Europe both the more experienced players and the younger ones, but when they get together as a whole it doesn’t translate at times to a cohesive unit on the field. So, the fifth game (at the World Cup) is the holy grail, it’s hard to maintain the fans' clam for four years waiting for the World Cup and the chance of getting to that fifth game. You can’t just wait for that chance, so back to my point, if you win the Gold Cup and beat the USMNT and the teams in front of you, when you win it’s “we have no rival in Concacaf” and when you lose it’s, “this tournament is not important”, all of that causes a division. I think Mexican soccer needs to concentrate a lot on the sporting side of things to get to the World Cup and that fifth game objective. The process is a good one, the players are good… I see Mexico with a lot of potential, but they need to start reacting and winning.
BV: In many ways the USMNT success defines Mexico and vice versa.
FF: Yeah, and on top of that Mexico has the luck that their biggest rivals is not a soccer mad country that when they are beaten, they don’t have that folklore of getting joked around for a week like in Argentina, Brazil, or Uruguay.
On this season in MLS
BV: What have you made of this MLS season?
FF: It is a different season in that games are being played constantly, this was due to the fact that the league kicked off in mid-April, due to the pandemic, and this forced a congested schedule virtually all season. In October for example Inter Miami has a lot of games midweek and there is a lot of travel so it will make for an interesting end of the season.
BV: Which team has surprised you the most?
FF: This season we have seen two great teams in New England and Seattle, and we have seen teams suffering this season, both L.A. clubs, Inter Miami, who are now just getting on a winning track and hopefully will make the playoffs. This season is different because of the calendar that has each team playing a lot of games in a short period of time. Also, you need to add into the mix that the MLS is selling more, and a lot of young players are leaving the league much earlier than anticipated. Teams are getting gutted during the season now and that effects things.
BV: Talking about the Inter Miami project and all the issues the club has had, this season despite the woes could still end positively, the team could still make the playoffs. What do you make of Inter Miami’s season?
FF: Simple and quick. They need to make the playoffs. After being in a six-game run that it seemed the world was collapsing and playing bad in some, really bad in others, and extremely poor in other games, if we make the playoffs, we saved the year. If Inter Miami doesn’t then a lot of things will fall upon the team. Those of us who work with team are focusing on the positives, but not forgetting that there was a stretch were the team played very poorly. Despite all the “haters” we could still make the playoffs in our first two years of existence and work with a little less burden looking towards next season.
BV: Despite all the negativity you have the case of Robbie Robinson who went to the Chilean national team, there are national team caliber players on Inter Miami, in the end MLS needs big city teams to do well, it always has would you agree?
FF: The emblematic franchise, in every league in the world there are one, two, three teams that represent that country at an international level. All this talk about parity is nice but the reality is in every sport there are a few teams that always stick out and are the standard of that league and that country.
BV: Taking to one Argentine and asking about another, what did you make of the Gabriel Heinze situation in Atlanta United?
FF: Well, let’s go about this in pieces, if it is true and it is proven that Heinze limited his players water, just with that it’s hard in any place in the world for things to get off on the right foot. It sounded a bit tyrannical. A lot of times in Argentina certain things that go on behind the scenes are buried and that is why it might have taken a while for it to come out, but here doing those things stand out. I don’t think a player's performance will drop because of water intake. Worse a tragedy could happen, and a player could collapse on the field from the Atlanta summer heat. It has been mentioned that American Football coaches in the United States have similar styles and that supposedly makes the player on game day ready to rip their opponent apart. Nonetheless the style is one thing, if you throw in that the coach does not cooperate in the rules of the league, does not attend media commitments, doesn’t adapt to the MLS contracting structure, and fights with the club’s star player, it’s destined to end badly.
BV: Was it a case of just refusing to adapt to a new environment and doing it “my” way?
FF: When someone offers you the chance to work for them, you adapt to the rules of that company, team, or person, you respect certain boundaries. Henize did not do that, and he was pushed out. One thing I saw that I did not like was when Henize fought with Jim Curtin after the Concacaf Champions League game in front of all the cameras, completely out of his mind, and Curtin just said “I think he’s a good coach but to come here and act this way and yell at me after a game when I was going to shake his hand”, and it’s true there are things in this country that people are not going to put up with.
BV: Next season looks to be a definitive year for MLS, Vela’s contract is up, (Bob) Bradley’s contract is up, Gonzalo Higuaín’s contract is up, where do you see the MLS come next year?
FF: All of that plus there is the whole issue with the television contract to keep an eye on. The last deal was an ample deal that involved many networks, now there are a lot of new players to consider so that aspect will be interesting for the league. We will have to see what that new TV deal looks like.
El Presidente signs with FuboTV
BV: Can you explain what your role is now with FuboTV, and why do you think South American World Cup qualifying has been such a hard sell in the United States?
FF: Well for us who have been in the media and are fans of the South American qualifiers have been through everything in the last 30 years. From not having any way to see the games, to going to restaurants to watch the games on closed circuit television, to games on open air television, to pay per view, and beIn Sports, issues with rights owners and cable operators. Now it’s FuboTV who just by signing up a viewer can stream all the games and watch it at their discretion. For me it’s going back to my roots covering the teams I grew up watching in Argentina. I will be doing pre games, halftime, post games. We are in a process of putting everything together. For the first batch of games, I will be doing the games in English and later doing them in Spanish as well. Am very happy to be covering Conmebol qualifiers and with Tigo Sports in El Salvador and Honduras I cover the Concacaf qualifiers, so I have a full plate! So even past my 60 years of age, we need to stay young and adapting to a new way of doing things with the companies that have hired me, and working with sponsors like Heineken, Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s, and other brands that keeps me close to my Latin audience and community.