Sports

Exclusive interview: Adolfo Sormani eager to be Faroe Islands football coach

When I discovered Adolfo Sormani’s excitement for the vacant Faroese national managers’ position and asked if I wanted to interview him, I was taken aback. It was nothing I have encountered in all my time writing for the Faroe Islands. Such a direct and impulsive move by him, to go out of one’s way to speak to a local publication of one’s enthusiasm for the manager’s role was refreshingly uncustomary.

But when you look at the footballing history of the man it starts to make sense. You see, everything Sormani has accomplished in football has been out of the ordinary; from assistant coach in China (Wuhan Zal) and England (Watford), and youth coach in his homeland of Italy (with the historic Juventus and Napoli academies), to managing in Albania (Partizani Tirana) and Denmark (Vejle Boldklub). Sormani has always gone down the unorthodox route, fuelled by his uncompromising love of the beautiful game.

His managerial highlight so far is winning the Danish 1st Division in 2017/18 with Vejle, but at just 54 years of age, I am sure there are many more honours to come.

You can tell a lot of a manager’s worth and integrity from the opinions of his former players, and when I brought up Sormani’s name to Viljormur Davidsen (whom he managed at Vejle) his face instantly lit up, and he declared “I like his coaching style, very professional, I think maybe he could take us to the next level”.

With such a glowing reference, I was intrigued to discuss the man in question’s vision for the Faroese national team, and he certainly did not disappoint. Below is my interview with Adolfo Sormani:

Isaac Roblett
So, first of all, Adolfo: what’s your football philosophy?

Adolfo Sormani
Very simple, I like to play offensive and attractive football. I want to take control of the game. I want my players to be ready to play the game, play, play, play. Winning matches in a bad way only work in the short term, you will never get results long-term this way. I am 100% a winner. And to win you have to practice football in the right way, because of people, fans, they love the way I play and they’ll support that 100%.

Isaac Roblett
That’s very interesting because Lars Olsen is the first manager who tried to produce attractive football for the national team, and for many years the Faroese side have been synonymous with long-ball football.

Adolfo Sormani
You know my last experience in Denmark when I started the preseason, especially the defenders, they used to play only long balls. But from the beginning, I tell them that we had to change the mentality. When you change the mentality then you start producing a different game.

I would say with a fast-flowing game, you enjoy football more and so this is the reason why we had very good results (Sormani got Vejle promoted to Superliga in 2018) because in my opinion the way we play was enjoyed a lot more by the players, but to be successful everyone must buy into the ethos.

When you start playing this kind of football you can get results very soon because all the players feel part of the process, and results soon follow.

Isaac Roblett
I would agree, you see a lot of teams play more of a high tempo and pressure game now and it’s kind of changed a lot over the last five, six years.

Adolfo Sormani
Yeah, 100%. The reason why English football is so successful in the world is that they play the game full on because you cannot go there and play and wait. The high tempo game is the only way you can improve and truly test your opponent.

Isaac Roblett
It seems like you have a bold football philosophy. So how will you implement that with the Faroese players and the nation’s footballing culture?

Adolfo Sormani
Of course, it is a process of change. But the idea is that you need to convince the players that the way they can play, I don’t want to say that it is much better, but it’s completely different. They can be much more involved in what they do and have more belief in their abilities. You need to work psychologically in their mind to convince them that it’s the only way you can play, and truly believe in themselves.

Isaac Roblett
Fantastic. So the main question is: why the Faroe Islands? What attracted you to the role?

Adolfo Sormani
I mean the Faroe Islands job is a great opportunity with so much potential. This is a great challenge to bring them to a new position, so trying to perceive their mind is probably one of the best challenges you can take. Because I know that if you try to do that and do so successfully, you can get results, as I have in the past. It’s very simple, with such a mentality I will be successful there.

I watched the recent match (against Romania), and was very impressed, as all the players wanted to play the game in the right manner, and were very ambitious on the ball. The scoreline (3-0) did not truly reflect this, as Romania were never fully in control as the final score suggested.

Isaac Roblett
I agree, as you have probably gathered, the last year has gone a bit stale (only one win all year), and also as you said, there’s a lot of potential in the team: we are currently ranked 108, but have been up to 78 in the world ranking. We also currently have more professional players abroad than ever before.

Adolfo Sormani
This is an important part of the opportunity because when the players work abroad they can have a completely different point of view, so they are more professional (as they are playing a higher standard of football), they have another ideology in a different country, and you start from a new vision and so your results can be positive because the players are more open-minded, and their footballing knowledge, ability and standards also increases.

Isaac Roblett
100% and also when you’re training every day with better players, standards go up, I think we found, as well. And when you’re playing against better players you improve as a player. The Faroe Islands league is semi-professional so you’re playing against the same standard every week instead of testing yourself against better players, and overall improving your game. So what was your knowledge of Faroese football?

Adolfo Sormani
I watched the game against Romania because this is part of my job to fully understand the mentality of a team, and to do so, of course, you need to watch a lot of games.

The way I viewed the match was there was not a big gap between the two countries. I will say a normal team against a good team. So you just need to work on the games, you need to work on the fact that you can improve and it doesn’t matter how long it can be because if you work hard in my opinion, in a short period you can reach a very good level and so the idea is that whoever the opponent, you can say at least you gave it a go.

I also watched Sweden vs Malta match, and Malta just sat back, with no intention of playing any football. And in the end, they lose as well, without playing any sort of game, what is the point?

When you give your best in the game you don’t have any regrets. And concerning the Romania match, at no real point of the match could you say Romania would win, as the Faroe Islands were always positive and giving it a go. The final score was so harsh. So you can be competitive, and you can prove yourself against anyone.

Isaac Roblett
It’s true, but sadly it has become a recurring theme in recent times that the scorelines such as against Romania do not truly reflect the match.

The Faroese culture is that they believe every game they go into can do something. It’s a stoic and commendable ethos. Despite the nation’s small size, the fans do have high expectations, hence why they have overachieved so much in their footballing history. The Faroese players understand this and will give it a real go no matter the opponent, which is a huge factor in why they are 70 places in the rankings above a team such as Malta. The footballing mentality aids them to overachieve.

Adolfo Sormani
Yes, and now more players from the Faroe Islands are playing professionally abroad than ever before, there is even more potential to reach the next level on the international stage.

Isaac Roblett
Very true. You have you worked with Viljormur Davidsen at Vejle in Denmark, and also as a result have faced various Faroese players such as Hallur Hansson, Sonni Nattestad, and Heini Vatnsdal to name but a few. What have these encounters told you about Faroese footballing culture?

Adolfo Sormani
These are all very good players, and I think in my time at Vejle, Davidsen improved so much. It tells me, we can help you, and improve the Faroese players. I always tell my staff when we are in a different country, you have to live in their manner. You need to live exactly the way the native people do, the language they speak, the food they eat, to fully understand them.

Isaac Roblett
That’s great to hear, as the fans want a manager who truly engrosses themselves in Faroese life. Do you have much knowledge of their distinctive culture?

Adolfo Sormani
At the moment, I don’t know much about it, but in the end, as I said when you go to a new place in my opinion as a coach, first of all, you need to know everything about the country.

Especially when you’re a national team coach; you’re representing that country, you are the pride of the nation, so it’s important to learn every aspect of the country to fully understand its mentality and history.

Isaac Roblett
That’s brilliant to hear, and the Faroese people have a massive sense of pride and relationship with the players and coaches because it’s such a small nation. A lot of Faroese people say they have Brazil’s footballing passion but in Europe. If you go to any village in the Faroe Islands they have a football pitch, even if it’s 200 people living there. The National Stadium holds 10% of the population, so it’s such a big part of their identity in everyday life.

Adolfo Sormani
I can understand this, I feel the same way about football, it’s my life.

Isaac Roblett
The Faroe Islands have had various foreign managers in recent years, but only one has ever actually lived in the Faroe Islands (Brain Kerr). Many fans would prefer a manager who lives in the islands, to truly enable a relationship between the manager, country and natives. If you did get a job would you live in the Faroe Islands?

Adolfo Sormani
Of course. This is my job so I have to do anything to give my best, so if I have to live there it’s not a problem for me. I want the best and I want to be the best that I can be. So, whatever is necessary to be competitive.

Isaac Roblett
That kind of leads me to the next question. Going back to yourself, you’ve worked all over the world in different countries (Albania, China, England, Italy, and Denmark). How do you think all those varying cultures have shaped your ideology?

Adolfo Sormani
I think that honestly, I changed completely when I went to England and worked at Watford with Zola because I couldn’t comprehend the completely different approach to the game. Not by the players but more by the fans. It changed me as a person, and now one thing is clear for me: I cannot go back to Italy and have a job there because this is not part of my new mentality.

Isaac Roblett
Really? That’s very surprising to hear an Italian say that.

Adolfo Sormani
I am 100% sure, from my experience working in different countries, they respect you so much more than Italy. They appreciate you so much more and see your football philosophy as part of the culture. Working in so many countries has given me the chance to see different things and experiences, which change you. I don’t want to talk bad about my country, as they gave and taught me so much, but it’s how I feel now.

Isaac Roblett
That’s fascinating to hear and brings me to my next question about your rich Italian background, and coaching in the famous Juventus and Napoli academies. How did such prominent institutions help shape your coaching ideas?

Adolfo Sormani
They massively helped shape me, because they make you see things in such a different way. They showed me that football is not one hour, five hours a day. Football is 24 hours a day if you want to work at the top level as these clubs do. It’s part of your life and you cannot say okay, now I can go home.

People sometimes tell me that I never relax. I never relax because my mind is always connected with my job and I want to find always a new way to solve the problems and be better. My job is not like go to the office, stay there for eight hours then you go home and it is over. My job is something that I live 24/7. I’m sure when you live football that way for you it’s not a job. It’s exciting, it’s the only way I can function and for me something I need. Coaching at Juventus and Napoli allowed me to understand that.

Isaac Roblett
Fascinating to hear. You have worked with some heavyweights in the footballing world (from Gianfranco Zola at Watford to your father, former Roma and Napoli manager Angelo Sormani). How much influence have such prodigious people had on your management style?

Adolfo Sormani
A lot, especially when people give opportunities you never thought you could have in your life. So I have to say thanks to these people all the time. England is the best place in the world for football at the moment. And I had a fantastic experience coaching there thanks to Zola.

Isaac Roblett
Speaking to some of your past players such as Viljormur Davidsen, you have some glowing references. How important are player relationships to you?

Adolfo Sormani
As I said to you I am very passionate and I try to improve my players all the time. And give them the foundation to be better. Don’t forget that today is a big opportunity to improve, so don’t give up this big opportunity. When my players think in this manner it goes hand in hand with success.

Isaac Roblett
So obviously I did mention we’ve had many coaches from overseas, but all the coaches have been Scandinavian, and one Irish. How would your Latin roots (Sormani was born in Italy to Brazilian parents) align with Faroese footballing mentality?

Adolfo Sormani
I was lucky because I had the opportunity to see different kinds of football, different mentalities, especially different cultures. When you have the opportunity to do that, in my opinion, you are more open-minded, and you become a very good listener. And when you are a good listener, you understand what are the problems and you fix the problems the way it’s necessary to do, so you don’t have to change everything, you have to adapt to the mentality, and of course, transmit your ideas to the players.

Isaac Roblett
What is your vision for the national team? If you get the job tomorrow, what would be your overall vision for the next two years?

Adolfo Sormani
First of all, to know everything about the Faroe Islands and the Football Federation, and about all the players that are part of that. So I would like to know each one to have an individual relationship with them.

But not only as a player, but personally, as a human being because I want to know who they are. And then, of course, try to work for the next year. Try to understand the vision of the football federation, work with them and of course implement my ethos.

Isaac Roblett
It has been noted that one of the grievances from fans with the current coach is not giving some of the young and exciting players a platform to excel. How important is youth policy to you?

Adolfo Sormani
I feel that this is a very important point because the youth are the future, so of course, you cannot only focus on the players that are part of the team but also focus on implementing new players that can be part of the side in the future as well.

Isaac Roblett
Lars Olsen has been in charge for 8 years, with some amazing achievements. He got to a highest-ever ranking of 78 in the world and achieved a record number of points for the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign (9 points gained). How would you fill his boots and how would you ensure his achievements are topped?

Adolfo Sormani
It will be a great challenge because in the end, especially in 2015, they achieved very good results. But my target is to try to be top. So my idea is not to reach the top 70-80 rank. But to win against every team I face, take it game by game, and as a result, achievements will take care of themselves.

The idea is all good players in the football federation have to believe that we can be better. So that means that attitude and mentality might be the most important thing. Treat football as your life.

Isaac Roblett
You’ve had a lot of time focusing domestically, all around the world, how do you think you will cope with international management?

Adolfo Sormani
Of course, you don’t have all the time that you have when you train, when you manage a club, so you must be prepared to do the things in a limited manner and ensure the best attributes are put across. But in the end, you don’t need a lot of time with my philosophy, because psychologically you convince the players to work with you, communication with players is key to reaching targets.

Isaac Roblett
How important is building a close and open relationship with supporters to you?

Adolfo Sormani
It is so important. Every time I go to a different country, I would like to speak the native language because it is the easiest way to approach people. I currently speak Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English. So if I got the role, I would love to learn the Faroese language, to speak to the community, to the people in the most effective way.

Isaac Roblett
That is so refreshing to hear, and something that will echo with the Faroese population. One last question, to sum up overall what does football mean to you as an individual?

Adolfo Sormani
It’s my life; it’s my happiness. When I think about football, it’s everything. I cannot live without football.

It remains to be seen if Sormani will be the next Faroese manager, with various other names also linked to the vacancy, such as Guðjón Þórðarson, Bo Henriksen and Thorvaldur Örlygsson. But one thing can be said with confidence: you will be hard-pressed to find a candidate as ambitious and passionate about football as Adolfo Sormani.

Liked the article? Support Local.fo on Patreon!
Share this article on social media:

More in Sports