Wednesday 25 March 2020, 08:58

Remembering the legacy of the inimitable Don Nacho

  • Don Nacho Trelles passed away on Wednesday aged 103

  • He coached at the 1958, '62 and '66 FIFA World Cups

  • The Mexican legend spoke with on his 103rd birthday last year

In 1916 there were more horses than cars in the world’s major cities. To make a phone call, you needed the assistance of an operator. The tsars still ruled Russia, and large swathes of the globe were caught up in World War I.

It was also the year that Don Ignacio Trelles Campos was born. The legendary Mexican, widely regarded as his country’s finest coach, passed away today aged 103. To pay tribute to him, we're bringing back our interview with him from July 2019.

“I was in charge of the Mexico team at the World Cups of Sweden '58, Chile '62 and England '66,” the much-loved Don Nacho told “At the first of those I got to see the World Cup debut of a wonderful player called Pele, the best the world has ever seen."

Trelles was not only an excellent national team leader, who was at the helm of El Tri at three FIFA World Cups™, but he also had prolonged success domestically, winning more LigaMX titles (seven) than any other coach. An immense personality, he helped revolutionise Mexican football with his tactical and welfare innovations.

For example, his pioneering efforts led to the national team being given additional coaching and support staff, including assistants and doctors, for the first time. He was also the first to use different types and sizes of footballs during training.

Don Nacho Trelles

Call the builders In 1965, Mexico were about to play a crucial away game in Costa Rica during qualifying for England 1966. The Tico fans had created a fiercely intimidating atmosphere as they waited for the Mexican players to take to the field. Sensing this, Don Nacho decided to walk out first wearing a builder’s hard hat, as if to invite the opprobrium of the home fans. And it worked. When his players ran out moments later, the pressure-cooker atmosphere had abated. In the end, Mexico escaped with a priceless 0-0 draw and qualified for the World Cup a few months later.

‘Inventor’ of the line of five In 1961, Trelles’ Mexico side went down 8-0 to England in a friendly at Wembley in what was the worst defeat in the team’s history. Five years later, El Tri again found themselves facing the same opposition at the same venue, but this time in a World Cup match at England 1966. Determined his side would not be humiliated again, Trelles sent them out with three central defenders and two wingbacks, an unusual tactic at the time. The end result was a 2-0 win for the hosts, who would go on to be crowned world champions.

A handful for refs, an inspiration for Chespirito Trelles’ intractable character was exemplified by an incident with Mexican referee Arturo Yamasaki, who attempted to send him off during one particular game. Faced with the coach’s refusal to leave the sidelines, the ref warned him: “Either you go or I do,” to which Trelles shot back: “As you wish, but I’m very comfortable here.” Left with no option, the match official suspended the game. These and more of the coach’s eccentricities were captured by the famous Mexican comedian Chespirito in his film El Chanfle, in which the actor Ramon Valdes, who bore a striking resemblance to Don Nacho, plays a character called Moncho Reyes.

Don Nacho Trelles

After a coaching career spanning 43 years, Trelles finally left the dugout after spending the 1990/91 season with Puebla. He would remain active in the game for several more years, however, as coordinator of the academy teams at Cruz Azul, a club where he held an honorary position for many years.

Trelles, in brief

  • In charge for 1,083 matches in Mexico’s Primera Division, the second highest total of any coach in the league’s history.

  • He is the most successful coach in the history of Mexican club football with 22 official titles, including seven league championships.

  • With 117 games across four decades as coach of the Mexico national team, he still holds the record for most international matches at the helm of El Tri.

  • He was in charge of Mexico for their first World Cup game in 1958 and victory, against eventual runners-up Czechoslovakia in 1962.

  • He was the national team’s technical advisor at Mexico 1970.

  • He also took charge of the team at two Olympic Games: Tokyo 1964 (first round) and Mexico 1968 (semi-finals).