Part III. Unbelievable: ‘629 games in a row, we either won, tie or lost by just one goal’

Let’s come to another topic. You have got so many experiences. The World Cup Championship in 1991 and so on… What has been the best experience for you around the world? It’s quite hard to grab just one but maybe you can try… What are you proud of at most what you’ve reached?

Honestly, the 1991 World Championship is one of the highlights, because obviously what I like most about it is: We beat the world in its own game. And that’s wonderful. And we did it early. We did it in the first World Cup. So for me, that was a wonderfully satisfying moment. But honestly there are other things that I am excited about. We talked earlier about the competitive cauldron. I am very proud of it and I think this is a true statement. I think for 629 games in a row with my college team, we either won, tied or lost by just one goal. So for 629 games in a row…

It’s unbelievable…

Anson Dorrance beobachtet seine Mannschaft. Der Trainer hat viele Ideen, wie man das Fußballspiel an sich positiv verändern kann.
Foto: Athletic Department, University of North Carolina

Which meant we were still competing in every game until the last second. What I love about this statistic is: It shows you can train competitive fire. Whenever I talk with my players about nine different qualities, I talk about self-discipline, I talk about competitive fire, I talk about self believe, I talk about love of the ball, I talk about love of playing the game, watching the game, we talk about grit, about coachability and we talk about connection. And connection is – how you answer this question – do you love your teammates and do they love you. And the most important thing in all those discussions in those nine different categories: The ring that rules them all is competitive fire. And so the thing I am most proud of is that stretch for 629 games in a row, we either won, tied or just lost by one goal. So that is our capacity to compete because obviously, there are days where we didn’t play well but still we hung in there. There are days when we play against teams that are better. But they couldn’t stretch the lead against us and so for me, that’s just an extraordinary statistic. So, I would say the World Championship, I would say that streak.

And then in 2012, my wife has an autoimmune issue and she was basically dying. And the team rallied to play for her. Obviously, in the United States, when you win a National Championship at a college level, but also a pro level, you get a ring. So, I’ve had 22 National Championships but I only wear one ring: The ring I wear is the ring that basically the team played for her. (beams all over his face and shows me the ring) Inside the ring, it says: ‘This one is for you, M’Liss’, because on the tape around each girl’s wrist, they put M’Liss’ name on there. The team came up to me before the semi-final game and told me that they were committing this year’s Championship to her. Then, we won the semifinal and then we won the final. That just meant the world to me. So, I wear one Championship ring. It was the ring where the team played for my sick wife. She did get better. She had a kidney transplant and she is doing much better now. But basically, I would say the World Championship, the 2012 National Championship, and then that run of games where we either won, tie or just lost by one goal.

Wow, great story and great gesture from your team.

International impressions

You told me that you have moved from country to country. When you think about soccer: Has there been one impression about the differences between the cultures which has impressed you very, very much?

Yeah, I guess what impressed me is: I love the people in every country we lived in. It’s sort of interesting because I was born and raised a catholic. So, wherever I lived, I was at catholic schools. The school I went to in Fribourg, Switzerland, was a Mary’s school. The brothers and sisters of Mary. So, my educators, my professors were wonderful. They were basically brothers and priests of the society of Mary. I only won two academic awards in my life. One award was the English award at St. Joseph’s school in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. That was because I was the only kid in the class that spoke English at home because it was an African school. It was a catholic school, but an African school and it was taught in English. So, I won the English Award. Why? Because obviously, I spoke English. (we laugh) The best part of that award was that the guy that gave me the award was Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah. So for me, that was an extraordinary award to win.

Whenever my father told the story, they told it as a joke. (laughes) I won the award not because I was a particularly good scholar. It was just because I spoke English at home. So, yeah, I was pretty fluent in English. The only other academic award I have won, was the religion award at La Villa St. Jean in Fribourg, Switzerland. And that was really interesting: When I was at this school, I was recruited into the priesthood. And a part of that was: I would have raging debates with my professors and all these religion classes. And the debates always centered around how to be saved in the Catholic church back on that day. Keep in mind, this is in the late 60s. You had somehow convert to Catholicism or you know, profess your love for Jesus Christ. For me, this was absolutely insane. Because how could some person in Equatorial Africa ever run into a missionary that would convert them? And so what you telling me is: Everyone that doesn’t have any exposure to our church is then condemned. So I would have these raging debates. And it wasn’t just Equatorial Africa. I mean the Equator almost hits the island of Singapore. And the population in Singapore is basically, you know, Chinese and Malay, and Indian.

I lived there for a few months, so I know this very well.  

So, you know what I am talking about. They were all condemning the person so I just couldn’t believe it. And all of a sudden: This missionary around Chapel Hill came to visit me and my wife. I was listening to their lessons. All of a sudden, they started talking with me about baptism for the death. And the thing I loved about the Mormon faith: They condemn no one. Because they embrace the fact. You might not have any exposure of Jesus Christ or anything else. So this is why there is the ceremony in our church where we baptize the death. Staying in the opportunity to choose Christ. So that solved this issue for me that I used to have raging debates with.

I won the religion award in La Villa of St. Jean. That along with the English award at St. Joseph’s school in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. I won the religion award for the highest advocate. So, what I really appreciated about my religion professors is this: I know I was an absolutely pain in the ass in their classes. They knew I was passionate about these arguments and discussions I would have with them. As a result, I was engaged in every religion class and most of the time through debate. And I was certainly not shy and I would attack anything they said that I disagreed with. As a result, I became very, very comfortable with all the tendencies in our faith. But then converted to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of this one little caveat which is no one is condemned. Which is the position I think we have to take in any current religion. Because surely, you can understand the extraordinary disconnect or disingenuousness other religion that condemns you if you aren’t exposed to it. Can it become any more ridiculous than that?

Which is why I came to UNC to study philosophy, because for me, these debates are critical. And different from my undergraduate English and Philosophy degree. So these elements for me were very important growing up. Honestly, as you can see for my respect for core values and teaching young men and women to live principle centered lives. For me, this is our mission. This is our mission as human beings: To help each other get to that place where we are all living principle centered lives.

I am just impressed because it is such a broad range of influences from so many different countries like Ethiopia and Singapore. If I just compare it, it’s crazy.

Have you got also a funny story that you’ve experienced about soccer you can tell? Maybe during one of your trips abroad?

Usually, it’s funny story at the expense of a player. I guess my favorite story when I was coaching the men is: Obviously, this is a contact sport. The thing I hate about watching the EPL right now is: Anytime anyone is nicked in the box, they roll over like they had been shot by a sniper and I just hate the performance now in these matches. Because to play football, you got to be very tough and you hit all the time and practice and these people that are hit in the practice don’t roll six or seven times. By the way, to roll six or seven times, it takes an incredible amount of effort. So trust me, if you are really hurt badly, you are not rolling six or seven times. You’re rolling once. And then you stop and then basically, that’s the issue. So what I don’t like is watching all these players roll all over the place. It drives me crazy.

Anson Dorrance’s ideas on how the game could be changed with positive impacts

This is much more in men’s soccer, right? That’s my impression. Women immediately get up again, even in part when they have directly collided heads in a duel. And the men often remain lying on the ground, although nothing has happened. That’s unbelievable!

It is unbelievable and you are right. But the women’s game is – well, we aren’t acting as much as the men. The women’s game is a more honorable game. I really agree with you because I am disgusted with where the men’s game it going. I think we should start to change the rules. I mean, we should introduce the sin bin. The sin bin is what happens in ice-hockey where a violent player is thrown off the ice for two minutes for being too aggressive. I think we have to give our referees more tools and we also have to change the rules in the penalty box. Because if the guys dribbling away from the goal and someone nicks his foot and he collapses on the far corner of the penalty box dribbling away from the goal. It’s a penalty kick. Are you freaky kidding me? There was no justice in there! I think for a penalty kick to occur there has to be a scoring chance. And it has to be intentional by the defender!

What’s your opinion about the German VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in the Bundesliga?

Actually, I have no issue with the VAR. I think that gets to the truth. So, I have no issue with the VAR. But what I have issue with is the amount of penalties that are called they are real penalties, they are scored. There is no real scoring chance. So, I think that’s an issue for me. But also we don’t give the referees enough tools. So what the referee has to be able to do is to basically throw a player off the field. And he could throw the player off the field for anything. I think a lot about that is: The coach has to think about what to do and so do the players. So, now you are a man down. How do you take advantage of it? So, I love all that. I hate penalty kicks to decide the game. I think, you want to go to overtime – first of all, I like the American solution: Golden Goal. As soon as you score a goal, the game is over. So you don’t play addition 30 minutes post game to see who the winner is. And then go to penalty kicks if still tied – no! Someone scores a goal, BANG, game over. But I also think every five minutes, you should throw a player off the field. Both teams. And as soon as the overtime begins, you eliminate offside. After five minutes, it’s 10 against 10. After ten minutes, it’s 9 against 9. After fifteen minutes, it’s 8 against 8. And here’s what I love because this is so interesting: As a coach I would love to decide who I throw off and who I leave on and what my formations going to be, because keep in mind: No offsides anymore!

Would be very interesting, very different.

That would be an incredible game because talk about space!

And also interesting for the spectators to watch the coaches how they decide then. Cause you’ve got the pressure. You haven’t got a lot of time to decide!

Yes! (enthusiastic) The spectators will love it and they will all disagree with the coach. All of a sudden the commentators after the game would have a field day with the decisions they made. But also the game ends with the result. You eliminate offside and there’s going to be an early goal. You eliminating players because I hate penalty kicks. I have spent so much of my time to protect a poor, sweet girl that caused us to lose a National Championship because she missed the goal. It’s not their fault. Let’s figure out a different way where the team loses, not a player loses. And I just hate it. But also, I don’t like the number of penalties right now. Ridiculous! No scoring chance. I like the AR cause the AR is getting to the truth. And if the AR is saying that that guy took a dive, I want that player to be thrown off the field because I don’t like the yellow card system.

You always have to count the cards. Does the player have five cards now?

I feel it. Because basically, the first yellow card is not a penalty. Or another player has to be careful. If the guy has a horrendous foul, penalize him: Throw him off the field! So yeah, have a yellow card means throw him off the field for 20 minutes.

Did you already talk to the Soccer Association and suggest your ideas?

I talked to everyone all the time, also to the journalists, and they just disagree with me. They are traditionalized. I hate it. We should introduce the sin bin! Give the referees more tools!

Or just making a pilot project just to try it and showing them the prejudices?

Well, I run a soccer camp each summer. These were kids and they were all coming in and we have camp tournaments, of course. In the final game at the camp, they play for the 1st place, 3rd place, 5th place etc etc etc. If there was a tie at the end of a game, we were immediately started with no offsides and immediately, every five minutes, throw a player off. And usually, by the time it gets to 5 against 5, there was a result.

What did the players say?

They love it! And the parents love it because the excitement is incredible! No offsides! No one is yelling about offsides or screaming about anything. And, who are you leaving on the field? And then it’s like gladiators. Who are your gladiators? I love it. Finally, there is two players left, one on each team. Who is the gladiator? These are things we can all talk about. And so for me, it’s such a simple solution. And it ends everything. It’s like a three-points-shot in American basketball. That was such a great addition to basketball. And so, yes, let’s keep making soccer more and more exciting. So let’s stop the penalty kick, talk about the most boring and terrifying moment in the game. That’s horrible. It’s not fun to watch. It’s embarrassing to watch. And the only people to leave penalty kicks with satisfaction is the ones who win. No one is excited about the second.

No, it’s horrible for them.

It’s horrible for them, but also for the poor player that missed.

I just remember Bastian Schweinsteiger in the Champions League Final when they lost in Munich 2012. He thought about it a very long time, he said.

I hate that. Because I love my players and I don’t want them to be scared by this.

I understand. Great idea in my eyes to try it out.

There is so much to talk about soccer all the time.

I totally agree, that game is a wonderful game to be part of it.

Do you know to whom you wanna give the book to?

I already gave the book to Madi Pry. The reason I gave it to Madi is, that Madi retired from playing for us because of constant injuries. So I gave it to her because she writes beautifully and I really respect her, and she is going to have it circulating through our team.

It’s great. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you, Lisa. I am into this conversation. Good luck to you.

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