Literally Pushing the Right Buttons: How Estudiantes de Mérida Manager Martín Brignani Rallied His Side from Two Goals Down via WhatsApp

You’ve probably sent some important messages on WhatsApp before. Maybe, in this time of delivery and innovation, you’ve even ordered meals or a drink to your door using the messaging service. But it seems few have used technology as efficiently as Martín Brignani.

The Estudiantes de Mérida manager returned to Argentina in May to be with his family during the coronavirus pandemic. But getting back to his team in Venezuela proved more difficult than expected with borders closed throughout the continent. So, Brignani watched Wednesday night's match against Alianza Lima at home on television, as did his assistant, relaying information to the coaches on the ground at the Estadio Metropolitano.

Leading up to the match Brignani said he would relay instructions using WhatsApp like substitutions or small modifications but would leave other tactical shifts up to the staff in the stadium. Whatever Brignani did, it worked.

After a tightly played first half, Estudiantes slipped to a 2-0 deficit, with Joazhino Arroé winning a penalty that was covered in the 51st minute and later scoring a golazo of his own.

But Brignani’s changes from abroad started to take effect. Substitute Cristian Flores set up Edson Rivas to pull one back, and in the 81st minute, Wilson Mena, another second-half change, found the equalizer.

Deep into stoppage time, Mena again came through, winning a penalty that was converted by José Rivas to give Estudiantes its first victory of the 2020 Copa Libertadores.  

While the proof of the pudding was in its winning taste for Estudiantes, the process hardly was smooth for Brignani and his coaching staff.

“A minute before the teams came out, the Internet went down. We were able to fix it and I supported from afar. I could see some things on the TV that being on the touchline maybe I wouldn’t and vice-versa,” Brignani told TyC Sports. “I tried to make the best decisions, among the things we could do from abroad, myself in my house and my assistant from his, isolated, together with what those who were at the game could see.”

In addition to the TV broadcast, Brignani said he had a monitor to see statistics and also a direct line to the staff on the touchline, plus the staff member who was higher up in the stadium observing the match from above.

Hopefully for Estudiantes, Brignani can stop worrying about his data plan soon. If all goes according to plan, and thanks to a good-will gesture from Uruguayan side Nacional, he’ll be able to hop on the plane from Montevideo and hitch a ride before coaching against them Tuesday.