Gungahlin United’s National Premier League Women’s (NPLW) head coach Diego Iglesias and the club’s National Premier League Capital Football (NPL1) coach Marcial Munoz go way back.
Though their friendship has developed over a long period of time, especially through football, their similar cultural backgrounds and views on how the game should be played is what makes their friendship tick.
Diego and his family migrated from Uruguay to Sydney in 1974, but made the move to Canberra in the early 1980s. Marcial’s family moved to Sydney from Chile in 1986, but relocated to the ACT a year later.
The pair has known each other since the late ’80s when Diego played local football alongside Marcial’s father, Marcial Munoz Senior, for The Condors, a former football club in the nation’s capital that was heavily influenced by South American players.
Marcial was only 10 years old when he watched Diego and his father play together. However, decades later their friendship flourished when Marcial joined Gungahlin United as a player in 2016.
Diego has been a part of the women’s set-up at the club for the past decade, and when Marcial decided to call time on his playing career and switch to coaching, the two mentors forged a strong bond.
Now they keep in regular contact and go to each other for anything.
The duo has played a massive role in building a strong football culture at Gungahlin United, which is reflected in the approach to matches by all teams across every age group, but especially with the top men’s and women’s outfits.
“Marcial and I are completely on the same page because, almost by default, we grew up with that type of [dedicated] footballing environment at The Condors and that’s how we learnt to play our football,” says Diego. “It’s quite a unique dynamic we’ve got.
“Seeing that I am a little older than him, I remember we would play games at training where we would try to put the ball through each others’ legs. Marcial was always the little cheeky one who would do that to some of the older players and then let them know about it.
“We used to have games every Sunday within the club and you would have 30-40 players show up. It would be hours and hours of non-stop football.
“I make an effort to go to the clubhouse on a Saturday morning with the community games going around. I know that every Saturday when I go there I will see Marcial. We will sit down, grab a coffee and talk about everything. It’s like an unofficial meeting where we check in on each other.”
Marcial explains that heading to Gungahlin United to play his final season four years ago allowed the two coaches to build on their football knowledge.
“When I went to Gungahlin for my last year as a player, that’s when communication flowed regularly between us,” he says. “Then when I took over the [NPL1] team, we reached another level. It allowed us to see common ground and identify the outlook that we had because of football.
“I know that because of the roots we have culturally, it plays a huge role in our friendship. Firstly, our childhood, and now we have ended up at Gungahlin in senior roles. To Diego’s credit, he has taken this women’s team a long way with a small budget. We have fought against the odds over the years to make impacts in our positions.”