Hernán Pablo Losada interview

Photo by Daniel Esteban

Meet the new coach for CF Montréal, Hernán Losada, aka El Profesor

We spoke with Losada about moulding this year’s Montreal team, what it was like being present for his country’s World Cup win and segueing from being a player who was too old to a coach who’s too young.

In March I had the privilege of getting a one-on-one with Hernán Pablo Losada, the new coach of CF Montréal. After a little time together, he has made me a believer in the plan being rolled out for the team, easily backing up his nickname “El Profesor.” 

It is clear why the club is taking a chance on this young coach.

Paul Desbaillets: The questions that I had to start with is you being in Lusail Stadium, on Dec. 18, 2022, as a fan, as an ex-player, as a coach and a proud Argentinian, while rocking your retro 1986 le Coq Sportif classic kit — tell us, what that was like for you?

Hernán Losada: An amazing experience that I will never forget. It’s a special moment, especially as an Argentinian. You know how much passion we have for the sport, and we were waiting for this for a long, long time. I knew that if I wasn’t there, I would regret it, so I made the biggest effort possible to find a plane ticket in record time. 

The final was one of the most beautiful moments as a spectator that I’ve ever had. I felt like it was the very last big moment of Lionel Messi and the very last chance to win the World Cup, so I needed to be there, and then I did it, so it was beautiful.

PD: Because you are part of the game — you’ve played the game professionally and you’re a coach — were you able to disconnect and just enjoy it as a fan or was it hard to do that?

Hernán Losada: Can I be honest? 

PD: Yeah, this is the whole point, man. Let’s do it.

Hernán Losada: I didn’t enjoy it, okay? I was–

PD: Too stressed?

Hernán Losada: Yeah, too stressed. Suffering a lot — until the game was at 20 and Argentina was dominant.

Of course I tried to also analyze the game from a tactical point of view, to try to follow certain players, how they move on the field, like Enzo Fernández, (Alexis) Mac Allister, young midfielders who did a great job. But the moment they made it to one, I knew we were going to suffer, and with the two, two when you go to extra time — it was all suffering. I have to be honest: I just wanted the game to end because we were suffering too much and the emotions were everywhere. It was an incredible experience, luckily. 

PD: It turned out the right way.

Hernán Losada: Yeah, happy ending, but we suffered too much. I think we played an excellent final and we deserved to win it in regular time.

PD: The energy that you felt that you just mentioned, that suffering — have you felt that at other levels of your professional footballing career, like as a player in a cup run or as you were going through the coaching ranks?

Hernán Losada: Yeah, it’s a beautiful question because, as you say, I do believe sometimes you feel a special energy on the field. I felt it as a player a few times. I felt it as a coach and I felt it at that final — the energy.

PD: Retiring as a player, moving into first-team coaching in Belgium and then the MLS, having the media anoint you “Youngest coach in the MLS” in 2021 when you arrived in D.C., how did all that affect you in your development as a coach?

Hernán Losada: When I retired as a football player, they told me I was too old to keep on playing. Now I jump into the coaching career, and they were telling me I was too young, so I say age is just a number. It is important to be prepared, and I’ve been preparing.

For this coaching career, four years before I stopped my football career, I started to study. Before I retired, I did all my licences and diplomas. UEFA B, UEFA A and the pro licence. The moment I retired, I already had in my power the title to start as a coach. I started as an assistant coach for under-21, and then I took over the first team. Everything went fast, but not because I was young; it was because I was prepared.

I think that’s the message, and when I arrived as the youngest coach of the MLS, I felt I was prepared. I feel I’m prepared now, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to stop learning. You always must be open to keep on learning, to keep developing yourself, and I am.

PD: Thierry Henry, Rémi Garde, Wilfried Nancy, Jesse Marsch — how does it feel to be mentioned among these accomplished football minds as you prepare to deal with this young team? As you said, you’re been training, preparing and planning for years, but now here you are at the head of the Montreal project, does that weigh on you?

Hernán Losada: First of all, it’s an honour to be on that list, to be part of the CF Montréal family. I know it’s a big responsibility, and it pushed me to work harder, to learn quickly to help this team and this club in the best way.

Following the philosophy of the club and the organization, I think in time we will get the result and the performances we want. Sometimes it’s not only about results but also about — especially in CF Montréal — developing the young guys.

Seeing the progress of players, I think that the main reason why a coach gets paid is to make players better despite the result. I know everyone is watching the results and it’s like nothing else matters, but the development and the progression of the players, it’s crucial because that’s the main asset of the club. Seeing them making progress and seeing them developing day by day and week after week, that’s something I want to work with. That’s my passion.

PD: Last season was a big high for the club. A lot of players have moved on — Mihailovic, Johnston, Kone, even Kamara. A lot of change. How are you keeping the core team that’s here now involved in that same winning mindset as last season and making sure it is not just felt as a one-off? How do you keep that energy and keep them motivated?

Hernán Losada: That’s one of the toughest parts as a coach because I’ve been there as a player, and I’ve been in teams having very good seasons and I know that you relax a little bit. 

So, to keep that drive, to keep that motivation, it’s part of my job, to keep the group tied together, concentrating and pushing them for more. Trying to integrate the new guys as quickly as we can is important; creating a solid group and a collective above the individual from day one; realizing that everything that we did last year is part of the past and the only thing that counts is the present. This is today. We have to put all the energy into today.

PD: How important are the supporters, the fans, to the success of this club?

Hernán Losada: Huge. It makes a world of difference when you play for your fans, when the players are playing for the family and friends coming to watch, supporting them in the stands. I felt that energy the last 10 to 15 minutes playing at the Olympic Stadium. I can’t wait to play at the Saputo Stadium. The supporters will play a big role during our season. If they are behind us and they can push us to run that extra mile, well, I’m sure that will be the difference between making the playoffs or not making the playoffs. 

I encourage all the fans to come and support us, and then it’s up to us to give them something back. We need to give them entertainment, we need to give them emotions, we need to give them a reason to come back to every home game.

PD: So it’s not a myth that the energy of the fan gives the player the push they need? Do you feel that buzz in your body when they get going?

Hernán Losada: The home team feels it, the referee feels it and the opposition feels it. 

When you have 20,000 behind you and pushing you to the limits, you are not tired anymore. You don’t feel the fatigue, you don’t feel the cramps and you can do the extra effort because in your head you feel so much energy behind you and then you go for it. 

So, I believe they can make a difference this season. ■

For more on CF Montréal and to view the 2023–24 schedule, please visit the team’s website.

This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

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