El Diablo – Still A Formidable Character
Marco Antonio Etcheverry was one of Bolivia’s greatest ever footballers.
Nowadays, El Diablo is a sporting ambassador for DC United and a qualified coach who currently works with the USA’s youth teams.
Bolivia had just achieved something nobody had ever done before: they had beaten Brazil in a qualifying match. On the road to the 1994 FIFA World Cup™ in the USA, the Bolivian national team boasted a fine crop of players headed by Etcheverry or El Diablo [The Devil] as he is known to fans across the American continent on account of his devilish gambeta, or ability to hold off opponents while on the ball. It was that crop of players that defeated the future World Cup winners 2-0 in July 1993. The Hernando Siles stadium in La Paz experienced one of its most glorious moments when Etcheverry scored the opening goal.
Two months later, Bolivia and their talisman Etcheverry sealed their historic qualification for USA ’94. El Diablo’s World Cup campaign was to be short-lived as a sending-off barely five minutes into the opening match against Germany sidelined Etcheverry from the competition. Nevertheless, his ability did eventually make its mark on North America.
Two years later, when Major League Soccer (MLS) was launched in the USA, he was one of the foreigners who were invited to play in the inaugural season. “I was one of the pioneers of that league together with Valderrama, Donadoni and Jorge Campos. It was hard work; we really beavered away: we travelled everywhere to be with the fans and sign autographs here and there in the hope that Americans would learn to love the sport,” recalls Etcheverry, now with shorter hair but still the same elegant and deliberate way of talking. Etcheverry is wearing a tracksuit with “US Soccer” emblazoned on it in recognition of the new position he has taken up. After retiring as a player in March 2006, he toured the USA as an ambassador and youth team coach of DC United, the club for which he played for almost a decade. He continues to tour the country now, but as assistant to Dutchman Thomas Ronden, the coach of the USA U-20 team.
Despite Etcheverry’s professed love for his country, he acknowledges that the USA has given him financial stability and the status he deserves. He certainly did his bit by committing himself to MLS when many predicted disaster for the new undertaking. Twelve years on from his arrival in Washington DC, he is able to say that he made the right decision: “When I first came here, there weren’t any pitches. On top of that, no stadiums had been built for football. Now as you drive along you see a lot of football pitches and they are always in use. Young people love football! There’s a real passion for the game. Everyone in the USA went crazy over Beckham’s arrival. People like Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Juan Pablo Angel also came over here, players who provide encouragement and improve the level of football.”