Soccer Aid Champion

Wednesday 11 June 2014 10:30

Any Whites fan who tuned in to watch Soccer Aid on Sunday night may have recognised a familiar face in the dugout alongside Rest of the World manager Jose Mourinho. We caught up with Fulham’s Academy Goalkeeping Coach Vic Bettinelli following his week working alongside some of the biggest names in world football.

You certainly looked like you were enjoying yourself at the weekend, Vic – how was the experience for you?

It was great. It was a relaxed atmosphere but we wanted to win. It wasn’t life or death if we won or lost but once we got to Old Trafford everyone got sucked into the moment of it all. The ex-pros who were in the changing room never pull their boots on and don’t want to win – that’s why they’re stars. In the end it was a good couple of days – it was fun and it was enjoyable.  

How did you get involved in the project in the first place?

I know Jose so he just rang me and he said: “I need an assistant to help me with Soccer Aid – are you available?” I said I’d be happy to help out with the training and all that so I did some goalkeeping, I did some outfield defending with the boys, and it worked out quite well. I also know David Seaman and, because I was working for Rest of the World, when we came off the England team were waiting to come on. So David saw me and said: “You couldn’t do a half hour with us, could you?” So I was a bit of a double agent really because I did the Rest of the World coaching and then slipped in and worked with David Seaman for a half hour.

How did you find working with some of the most successful players of the modern era?

I’ve worked in the Premier League at Fulham where we’ve had some big names but, for me, a player’s a player. You treat everyone the same. It was interesting, though, because I thought some of the pros, people like Jaap Stam, Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids, were absolutely brilliant. If Mourinho was working with players close to the ball, they’d help the players away from the ball, which was great because they knew it wasn’t going to be a jolly up. But it was more enjoyable to be part of a fantastic occasion that grows the awareness of people’s troubles and kids’ troubles, and I think we raised about £4.2m so it was great to be part of that. It was just a little bit of my time to give in the summer, which was a great thing to do.

It’s important to remember that the whole point of Soccer Aid was to raise funds for UNICEF isn’t it?

Exactly, and if you can help somebody’s cause then I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about us playing a game of football, it’s about the cash you can earn to help other people’s lives and make it a little bit easier. 

One of the players you worked with closely was Edwin van der Sar. He’s obviously a hugely popular individual in these parts – how was it working with him?

It was good! I’ve worked with Ed before because it was one of my roles when I first came to the Club. Many years ago, I don’t know if people remember, I came from Crystal Palace and I joined the Academy as Goalkeeping Coach. But, at the time, we had Edwin as number one, Mark Crossley was number two, and Dave Beasant was Goalkeeping Coach, but he was also our number three goalkeeper. So, every Monday I’d always take the goalkeepers – Edwin, Mark and Dave – because Dave still wanted to keep fit. So I’d worked quite a lot with Ed and it was nice to get back and train with him again. For me, he could probably still do a job for a Premier League team, maybe as a number two just because of his character and his presence around the place. He’s got everything; he’s great with his feet, he’s a top-class goalkeeper. You don’t win the Champions League with Ajax and then win it with Manchester United by being an average keeper. It was good to see him again.

Your Rest of the World side ended up 4-2 winners on the night. What was the gameplan?

We looked at our setup and thought England wouldn’t hit long balls over the top of us because of Jaap Stam’s pace and Edwin’s positioning – plus it looked as though they’d have Kevin Phillips or Teddy Sheringham up front. We had two men sitting off the defence – one of which was Edgar Davids – so thought they wouldn’t be able to hit balls into the strikers’ feet. The only thing they could do was play it wide, which Mourinho was quite happy with. Although they had a bit more pace, he said: “I don’t mind them playing it wide and going one-on-one with the full-back. If any crosses come in, Jaap Stam’s probably one of the best headers of the ball that’s been in the British game.” So he was happy with that, and that’s sort of how it panned out on the night.

What was it like working with Mourinho?

The biggest thing for me, working first hand with him, was his knowledge of the people; unbelievable people skills. He knew what foot they kicked with, he knew what they did in previous games, he knew what films they were working on, how many times they’d played in Soccer Aid, and there was this real personal touch. The first day there were people like Gordon Ramsey, who you see on the telly is quite a fiery character, and you see him in front of Mourinho and he was just melting. There were a couple of cheeky moments, like when he came on the pitch and tripped Olly Murs up, but that’s just him. Even around the place, around the Training Ground and around the hotel, he had time for everyone. He actually fell in love with Fulham’s Training Ground, he absolutely loves it. He loved the experience of doing it and he was so excited about doing it, but he wanted to win it.

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