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The Need for Fun in Football (from BBC site)


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Fun is the key to England's football future

Post categories: Football

Matt Slater | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I heard a great quote about football last week: "A coach's moral obligation is to play beautifully whatever the opposition does."

According to the Football Association's coaching education manager, Steve Rutter, Guus Hiddink said that, and even if he didn't, it's the kind of thing we would want a citizen-of-the-world, footie philosopher like the Dutchman to say because we want it to be true. And not just of his teams.

But wanting something to be true is usually a response to knowing that it isn't. How many coaches in this country can honestly say they are going for Guus's Grail as opposed to securing three more points?

If the football I experience most weekends is any guide, not many.

Thankfully, the FA has noticed. It may have its well-documented failings as a vote-winner, financial regulator and property developer, but it has finally identified English football's most fundamental problem: a serious shortage of smiles.

England's 2010 World Cup dreams ended in tatters at the hands of arch rivals Germany. Photo: Getty

The misery of England's World Cup campaign in South Africa (and so many other campaigns before) was the culmination of an often joy-free learning pathway for our overplayed but underprepared players.

What starts with the well-meaning but misguided urgings of a competitive dad, continues with prehistoric coaching methods at their first club. By the time a youngster moves into "adult football" at 11, the essential truth of British football is hardwired: it's the winning that matters, not the learning.

While youngsters in other nations are working on their weaker foot, trying (and failing) audacious tricks and playing different positions, our youngsters are pumping the ball forward to the biggest kid on the team.

What's the problem? The under-nines haven't lost for a year.

But fast forward 10 years and many in the team will have drifted out of the game, bored and disillusioned, and the big kid will be struggling to keep his place in a pro academy. He'll have a drawer full of cheap trophies but a terrible first touch.

This is why England's finest (and Northern Ireland's, Scotland's and Wales') are lauded for their courage, determination and effort, but derided for their control, passing and tactical inflexibility. Time and time again the best British players are found out to be honest workers when what is required are skilled technicians.

It was with this in mind that I joined 600 coaches at Wembley last Thursday for the launch of the FA's new grassroots coaching manual, "The Future Game".

You could argue anything that requires a manual - particularly one that weighs as much as a phone directory - cannot be much fun but if we are looking for the Promised Land we should probably bring a guidebook.

Full of illustrated drills, best practice on running a club and the latest thinking on topics such as injury prevention and sports psychology, "The Future Game" is an encyclopedia of good intentions.

But the manual itself isn't really the point. Just as most reference books end up as decoration, the FA's tome is bound to be more admired than read. It's real worth, however, is in the thought processes it represents and in that regard the journey is more important than the destination.

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For a start, this book is a more accessible version of the edition that was published in April. That book was pitched at the country's top 1,000 or so coaches - it was more of a mission statement from Sir Trevor Brooking's football development team at the FA than something AFC Kebab might use for their kickabouts.

But there is a connection. In amongst all the verbiage about four-cornered learning and the merits of guided discovery, you get the sense we finally have a plan: get as many kids playing as possible, teach them the basics (properly), allow them to develop those skills in a relaxed environment, introduce competition gradually and give the England manager the biggest possible pool of fit-for-purpose footballers.

Barcelona don't play beautiful football because they work on it in practice (although they do that too), they play beautiful football because Iniesta, Messi, Xavi and friends learned how to trap a ball and pass it when they were six and were then given the next 10 years to nurture that skill without being screamed at to "Get rid!".

So while the FA is keen to promote its glossy guide (available from the FA Learning site for £30), it is also eager to draw attention to the 7,588 people who became newly qualified coaches in the three months between September and November. That's not to mention the 1,500 or so who gained more advanced coaching qualifications in that period.

I think this progress - and we are only a month or two away from reaching 250,000 qualified football coaches in England - is something the FA can be proud of.

Once the book launch was out of the way, the rest of the day at Wembley was taken up by presentations from senior FA coaches and Q&A sessions with big-name managers, among the latter was Sam Allardyce: he definitely did not see this week's events coming.

To be fair to Big Sam, his talk was engaging and informative. I was pleasantly surprised and it is easy to see why he is so well regarded by many of his peers - he cares about player and coach development and is open to new ideas.

I wish I could say Fabio Capello's session was as interesting but I'll be polite and say much was lost in translation. I don't doubt for one minute that English football could learn much from his experiences in the game but, for whatever reason, it's just not happening.

By far the most interesting speaker, however, was England U17 coach John Peacock. OK, he had a great tale to tell - the story of how the Three Lions won their first age-group title earlier this year since the European U18 victory in 1993 - but it was fascinating to hear the new philosophy spelled out so coherently and then demonstrated with clips of Barca-style "passing through the thirds"...from an England team!

It was beautiful to watch and still fresh in the mind when I went along to the child protection module of my Level One coaching course that evening in Walthamstow. There were 14 of us there that night, on hard plastic chairs in a chilly sports hall bar. But we were hearing exactly the same philosophy as outlined by Allardyce, Brooking and Capello at Wembley that afternoon. Teach them well, keep them safe and keep it fun.

We should, barring serious stage fright, pass our assessments this weekend. Most of us will go no further up the ladder. But it's a start and the future of our game depends on it.

ps Touch wood, I will blog next week about how I became a football coach. If you are interested in joining the tracksuited ranks too, you could do worse than starting at the FA's coach and referee recruitment site.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

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Can you top these quotes:

The things they say: Claudio Borghi

(FIFA.com) Friday 25 March 2011

There is no doubt Claudio Borghi is very much his own man. Even now, at 46 years of age, the recently appointed coach of Chile continues to display the very same attributes that shone through during his playing days: impudence, daring and improvisation.

Famous for his frank and entertaining press conferences and one-on-one interviews, El Bichi has become a firm favourite with the media in his homeland Argentina and further afield. As part of our regular ‘The things they say’ series, FIFA.com has brought together a selection of some of Borghi’s choicest phrases.

“So, is it XL or what?”

In relaxed mood on his unveiling as Chile coach, Borghi jokes about the size of the tracksuit he’ll be wearing for his first photos in the role

“We’ve all got something to say about football and we all think we’re good. It’s the same with sex.”

Borghi on why football coaches are on the receiving end of so much criticism

“[Diego] Maradona scored better goals than the one against England at Mexico 1986. There were loads of mistakes leading up to it, and does anyone really think Diego would have scored that goal against Italy or Uruguay? They’d have brought him down before he had chance.”

Borghi, a member of Argentina’s 1986 FIFA World Cup™-winning squad, on El Pelusa’s mythical strike against England

“When I started my playing career I was like a dolled-up woman in a disco: I looked much better than I actually was.”

Looking back on his early steps on the footballing ladder

“The fame you get from football can be hard for youngsters to handle. When I met my (future) wife I (was so poor I) had lice! She was 15 and when we went out we could only afford one coffee to share between us. Nowadays lads find themselves wondering whether the girls chasing them have ulterior motives. It’s hard being 20 and having 1,000 pesos (around £150) a day to spend. You can’t help but think how great you are!”

On the problems that fame can cause young players today

“In football you can’t wait until you’ve conceded a goal before you start taking the game to the opposition. It’s like with women: if you go to a disco and see a stunning blonde you have to go after her, you can’t just wait until the end of the night or for the disco to close.”

Describing, in his own trademark fashion, how he likes his teams to play football

“I find it hard to be alone, I’ve been told that it’s down to a fear of abandonment. I feel so comfortable with my wife that if she left me, I’d have to go with her!”

On his personal issues and relationship with his wife.

“Footballers are a special breed. If you do a lot of dead-ball work they say you’re a pain, but if you don’t do it they say you don’t know what you’re doing. If you give them the day off they’ll say you’re lazy, but if you train them too hard they say you’ve gone too far. You can’t win.”

Borghi’s view on the peculiar relationship between today’s players and coaches.

“If I’d played ten more games like that final against Juventus then I’d have been bigger than Maradona. But matches like that only come around every so often.”

Recalling the plaudits he received after starring for Argentinos Juniors against Juventus in the 1985 Toyota Intercontinental Cup final. Juve edged the game on penalty kicks.

“I always had good trainers. When I was a kid me and my mates would go into supermarkets and come out wearing new trainers. But it wasn’t stealing, that’d be grabbing something and making a run for it. We’d take off our old ones and leave them there instead...”

On brushes with petty crime during a difficult childhood growing up in the west of Buenos Aires.

“I don’t like talking about players who are ‘versatile’. In my opinion, someone who’s versatile plays badly in every position.”

Discussing the trend for players to be deployed in a number of roles.

“Alexis [sanchez] could end up being better than [Lionel] Messi. It’d be great if Barcelona bought him, that way we’d see who’s best.”

Borghi’s verdict on the Udinese and Chile flyer, who once played under him at Colo Colo.

“Coaching Boca [Juniors] is like having sex with the windows open. You don’t get any privacy, ever.”

In his own inimitable way, giving his view on the rash of dressing-room leaks during his time at the helm of the Buenos Aires giants.

“[Juan Roman] Riquelme is a different kind of player, like a woman with three breasts.”

Again, true to his style, when praising the very special qualities of the iconic Boca No10.

“I’m not going to start calling up players with three ears just to set myself apart from [Marcelo] Bielsa.”

Following an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy when quizzed on his predecessor in the Chile hotseat.

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