RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The World Cup hasn't even begun and already there's been a training ground run-in between two Dutch players and Cameroon's entire team delayed its flight to Brazil in a dispute over their tournament bonus.
Prodigious talent often goes hand-in-hand with oversized egos and managing them can be a fulltime job for team leaders in the pressure-cooker environment of the sport's showcase event.
Sometimes, players' feelings need as much massaging as their muscles.
"Conflict is inevitable," sports psychologist Bradley Busch of London-based mental skills training company Inner Drive said Monday. "It is what the team then does with it that is important."
Disputes among players or between teams and coaching staff are nothing new at major tournaments.
The Dutch were in the eye of the storm at the 1996 European Championship, with coach Guus Hiddink sending home pugnacious midfielder Edgar Davids from England after a profanity-laced outburst accusing him of being a stooge for veteran players.
Dutch media reported that the squad was divided between a young group of aspiring greats like Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Michael Reiziger and Patrick Kluivert rebelling against established stars like Danny Blind, Dennis Bergkamp and Ronald de Boer. Ironically, Blind and Kluivert are now senior members of Louis van Gaal's technical staff in Rio.
But it's not just a Dutch problem.
Four years ago in South Africa, France had a meltdown for the ages thanks to disputes between players and coach Raymond Domenech.
The team shocked the nation and provoked the ire of politicians and fans alike by refusing to train after Nicolas Anelka had been sent home for insulting Domenech during halftime of France's second group game against Mexico.
Domenech later called the players "a bunch of irresponsible, stupid brats."
Coaches might not always be so candid about how they feel, but they must know about possible conflicts and deal with them if they are to get through weeks of intensive preparations and must-win matches at the World Cup.
"Everyone has their own reputation and personality and agendas. In one squad, you have 23 of these so I think tensions will inevitably arise," Busch said. "Over the course of a tournament it is important to have good, clear communication and processes where people can talk freely and honestly and not see it as a personal attack."
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