Spain’s Enrique imposes new rules, including cellphone ban
MADRID (AP) — Like a general inspecting his troops, new Spain coach Luis Enrique stood on a makeshift platform and attentively watched as his players practiced below on a recent hot morning in Madrid.
He yelled while giving instructions about what he wanted them to do, often asking them to repeat drills.
The “Luis Enrique era” is beginning with changes for Spain’s national team, and not only on the field.
The coach appears to be taking a hard line to try to get “La Roja” back on track after its recent setbacks, imposing strict new rules that include a cellphone ban during meals.
Enrique also has taken away the free afternoons that were usually given to players in the team’s training camp, and has warned them not to spend too much time playing cards or video games, according to Spanish media.
The team will also reportedly avoid stopovers in Madrid between games, a normal procedure that allowed players to meet with family and relatives.
It’s been a stark change to how things were conducted under Julen Lopetegui, the coach fired two days before the World Cup for accepting a job with Real Madrid without telling federation officials in advance.
So far, Enrique’s players were not complaining.
“It’s always good to have a little bit of discipline,” Francisco “Isco” Alarcon said Wednesday. “Not having cellphones during meals seems like a good idea to me. A lot of times we are more focused on the machines instead of communicating and speaking with our teammates.”
Enrique appears to be concentrating on bringing the players closer and building greater camaraderie within the group.
This week he took the squad to an “escape room,” an attraction where players had to work together to solve puzzles and try to break out.
“It went well, it allowed us to disconnect (from their routine) a bit. We had a lot of laughs, it was fun,” said Isco, who called Enrique a winning coach with “a lot of character.”
“We are happy,” Isco said. “We can’t wait to start playing the important matches to see where we stand.”
Spain had been thriving under Lopetegui entering the World Cup, but the shocking coaching change culminated with the team’s elimination against host Russia in the tournament’s round of 16.
That followed early exits in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship.
Enrique’s first match in charge of La Roja will be Saturday against England in the UEFA Nations League.