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Shared Passions: Fútbol, Geology

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
AAPG member René Manceda (red arrow) in 1973, when he was playing championship futbol in Argentina.
AAPG member René Manceda (red arrow) in 1973, when he was playing championship futbol in Argentina.

That Argentine AAPG member René Manceda watched the recent World Cup from his home in Madrid (he was rooting for Argentina) with a passion unknown to most Americans is nothing new – the rest of the world watches with a similar energy inexplicable to most in the United States.

But what makes Manceda’s story different (at least for those in AAPG) was that he watched at perhaps a profoundly deeper level – both intellectually and emotionally.

Manceda actually has played the game – as a professional.

And he played it for Argentina, the South American powerhouse.

In fact, his good friend, his old teammate, Carlos Bilardo, is Argentina’s current general manager.

Manceda, who is now a geology adviser/leader of the structural community for RepsolYPF, played “fútbol” professionally for six years, for teams like Estudiantes de la Plata and Libertadores de America Cup Champion, both championship squads.

It has stayed with him.

But like most who had to choose between avocation and occupation, Manceda made some tough decisions along the way.

“I was a university student in chemistry during the early stages of my professional soccer life,” he recalled, but it was impossible for him to pursue due to the number of games and trips his soccer club were playing and taking.

His solution? (Educators, cover your eyes.)

“I decided to abandon the university – temporarily – and keep on when my soccer career finished,” he said.

Back to School

Fortunately for geology, after his legs aged and his body would no longer accept the punishment of running up and down the pitch, he did indeed return to school.

“I discovered geology because some friends were involved in earth sciences and I was fascinated,” he said.

He re-enrolled in La Plata University at Ciencias Naturales y Museo de La Plata, where his new fascination quickly became his new passion and pursuit.

To this day, he sees a similarity between the two – mainly, both soccer and geology, he says, hold for him an “impressive experience.”

He cites the joy and challenge of playing in front of thousands of fans and the satisfaction, for instance, of geological mapping of the Andes for the past 10 years, as well as his continuing work for Respol in other exploration projects.

And those projects have taken him all over the world: Argentina, Venezuela, the Caribbean, the United States, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, East Africa, India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and Australia.

In fact, when contacted by the EXPLORER for this article he was on the move again, this time back to Argentina, but until recently had been in Madrid.

“In Argentina I will be part of a new ventures international team, created recently, advising in structural issues,” he said. Specifically he will be a member of a control quality team for exploration projects and preparing a structural geology internal course in the Andes.

Still Kicking

But once a fútbol player, always a fútbol player – and Manceda is not shy about his take on what went right what went wrong for those countries not named Spain that were involved in the recently concluded FIFA World Cup.

“Both Spain and Argentina have plenty of excellent quality of players, but the difference was the teamwork,” he said of the eventual champs.

“Spain chose a brilliant technique during the last six-seven years with minor changes in the players and coach,” he said. “On the other hand, the Argentinean players are stars on their European team and a strong international experience, but the national team never chose a strategy and change around hundreds of players.”

The results, he believes, were poor qualifications for the World Cup, even though the team was, as he says, “impressive” in its loss to a “tactically organized Germany.”

Still, like most Argentines, he was not happy with the quarterfinal loss.

“In other words,” he said of both his good friend Bilardo and famed Argentine player/now national team coach, Diego Maradona, “the coaching was a disaster.”

Another observation: He said the most disappointing team in the tournament, France. “It was another example of this terrible management” system, he said – something that holds a lesson for those in the geosciences.

“I think some should make an analysis of these examples in term of team management,” he said.

As for the United States effort in the World Cup, he is mostly sanguine.

“If USA soccer continues to improve” it could gain increased world-wide legitimacy,” he said. “It might even survive in a country dominated by American football, the NBA (National Basketball Association) and hockey. Obviously, though, Europe looks like the best soccer level – the amount of money that is around the several leagues in Europe is considerable.”

As to his old and new life, he sees a very real connection between being in the field and once being on it.

“There probably exists many connections between soccer and geology,” adding that kicking balls and kicking stones are more similar than one might believe.

“But to me the most significant is that it is the same feeling I get, whether I am in the middle of game in a stadium with 50,000 fans or testing a structural model in real time in a dozens of million dollar wells.”

Well, maybe not entirely the same.

“While I was a professional soccer player in Argentina, I never played in a World Cup, unfortunately.”

Fútbol’s loss. Geology’s gain.

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