Bafana Bafana:Our players are just not good enough

I want to repeat the title of this article. Our players are just not good enough and it’s about time they were told so and time they admitted it. I was talking to a colleague with whom I collaborate on matters pertaining to soccer and I suggested that we have a skills test to be conducted among the PSL players. His response was that they would refuse to participate because the test would reveal their limitations and inadequacies.

Every time we have a poor performance from Bafana Bafana, the post match interview with the players produces stock responses. The most popular is, “We didn’t play well this time. We’ll have to perform in the return leg.” When last has Bafana Bafana played well? I strain my memory to recall the occasion.

You see, if our players accept that they are not good enough, they may do something about it. But for as long as they think that they are good enough, they are going to sit back and believe that what they do at the regular training sessions is good enough to get them by.

Our players are comparable to a boxer who gets knocked out in the first round each time he fights. After the fight he says that he did not fight well, but things will be different the next time. When the next time comes he gets knocked out again.

Our players are not good enough because they do not work hard enough at their game. How many of them stay after regular training to work on their personal skills? I believe that there are very few who do so. If there are, then they are doing the wrong things, because it certainly does not show in their performances.

To get to the top you have got to be prepared to work hard, to put in the extra hours and only then will the results show. I remember in the sixties there was a winger with the surname Robertson, I think, who played for Tottenham Hotspur. He used to stay after practice each day and cross the ball fifty times.

Do you think that the dead-ball specialists get up one morning and decide, “Today I am going to get the ball to bend and dip under the crossbar if we get a free-kick outside the box,” without having practised the skill at all? No on your life! The dead-ball specialists spend hours and hours developing, honing and perfecting their skills. To illustrate my point, I want to quote, at length, from an article by Peter Sanderson, that appeared on the UEFA website. The article is entitled, “Pirlo the pass master.” For the ignorant, Andrea Pirlo is the midfield general of A C Milan and Italy.

“Crossbar Challenge

What followed will live with me for the rest of my life. The hour we’d been promised had long since passed but Pirlo seemed in no rush to go. If you have ever seen the advert where Ronaldinho thumps five consecutive shots against the crossbar and refused to believe it was possible then read on. Pirlo turned to me and asked: “Reckon I can hit the bar from here?” “No,” I replied. It seemed a fair guess as he was fully 35 metres out. Before I had [a] chance to change my mind he had sent a thunderous shot crashing against the bar. He turned to me and said: “Reckon I can do it again?” “No,” I replied. Boom, crash. Two out of two. The third time he didn’t bother asking yet incredibly the ball homed in on the crossbar like an Exocet missile. As the fourth ball pinged against the crossbar and back to his feet everyone grew silent in awe and he made sure he kept things that way by hitting the bar a fifth time. He left the pitch with a wry smile, to a standing ovation from everyone who had witnessed it. Better still, UEFA Training Ground got it all on camera.”

When one of our players is able to produce skill of similar complexity, I’ll be the first to applaud, but I suppose that it will never happen.

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Local Coaches: Don’t blame the innocents

It is becoming customary that harsh criticism is always directed at local coaches when they do not match the ever-increasing expectations of the public, in their achievements when compared with their foreign counterparts. This pressure increased when the end of the season served as an opportunity for such dissatisfaction to be voiced in the media. Ordinary and qualified observers alike point out, for example, that the top four teams for the season 2010/11 were all coached by foreigners: Ruud Krol (Pirates), Poppe de Haan (Ajax CT), Vladimir Vermezovic (Kaizer Chiefs) and Ian Gorowa (Mamelodi Sundowns).

The local coaches, say critics from the public, failed by not winning but they are also blamed for “struggling to keep any consistency and delivered predictable and boring soccer.” Youth national coaches are not spared either. The annoying failure to qualify for the final stages of CAF and FIFA youth tournaments, which is usually is a reliable indicator of a country’s potential for future success in international football, is considered unacceptable by the passionate South Africans. The demands for improved performances have become relentless.

One factor that has been ignored for too long, by those who run and coach professional football and national teams, is the vital role of quality standards that must lay the foundation for any approach or style in competitive football. At a time when the best football trends, in the world, show impeccable ball skills, fluent combinations of passing and dribbling, unrestricted mobility, tactical diversity and rich individual creativity, it has become more difficult to convince the South African fan that scrappy, stereotyped and disjointed play are acceptable, even when matches are won.  It is undeniable that technically, the PSL and the national teams lack exhilarating, skilful displays and inspiring attractiveness of actions. Many are happy with coaching strategies of the “result only” but a vast majority’s expectations remain unfulfilled.

Technical and tactical errors, for long time now, are so abundant in almost every match that to many it has become strangely acceptable, as long as results are still pleasing.

Mike Ntombela, a well-informed football analysts and former professional player, recently told the media that “coaches need to pay attention to basic skills such as passing, controlling, heading and scoring. Unless we focus on those basic skills then we will continue to see mediocre football. There are very few players who can dominate the ball – mostly it’s the ball that dominates the player. It is the coaches that must come on board and take responsibility.” This observation is absolutely correct and the advice “to pay attention to basic skills” immensely pertinent to the current state of local football.

 

For local coaches to ensure that the important responsibility of teaching, developing and perfecting all basic skills, there must be a system of knowledge which would empower them with the most effective tools.

It is here that the hard-to-believe reality strikes. Those who are supposed to design the curriculum of coaches’ education, omitted the vital chapter on Basic Ball Skills, in the sense that a detailed description, the sequence of learning and consolidating, the application criteria and specific training methodology, of such fundamental skills, were not provided in the coaching modules.

In a coaching module designed to offer local coaches the foundation for knowledge, related to the principal game factors, mainly ball skills, there is only one page where technique is mentioned as: Passing, Dribbling, Control-trapping-receiving, Instep shooting, Heading and Goalkeeping skills. There is nothing about the various passing, dribbling or scoring techniques, which are so influential in today’s football! There is no information, on how to learn and improve ball skills, or how to apply them in the changing game situations! Instead, and this is totally irrational, there is reference to the “high importance” of long pass which is positioned as one of the “general principles of play.” Aspirant coaches are taught that the players “must apply positional-play in order to play long passes” and “the quickest way is the long pass” (assumingly there is weak or no opposition at all – our quote), and that the “long pass requires good kicking technique.”  There is not a single word on the decisive advantages of using quicker and more tactically surprising short passes, elements of disguise or improvisation. Also, no information can be found on how to improve control of the ball, techniques and methods for effective finishing of attacks, and constructive dribbling or heading.

In an embarrassing contrast, a similar module, produced by the Brazilians for SA coaches, allocates twenty out of eighty pages of information to the Ball Skill Factor. It provides complete structures of exercises for learning and developing ball skills (by no means is the Brazilian module the most complete solution for the specifics of SA players).

These illogical and harmful discrepancies, on the content of coach education, provided to local coaches, was the subject of a submission, in Parliament, to the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation on 3 August 2010. The purpose of the process was to enable members of Parliament to identify challenges that impact negatively on the development of local coaches.

Content irrelevancies and errors contained in the coaches’ education modules impair the abilities of local coaches far beyond the basics. Essential aspects of the dominant role of the “football brain”, in modern tactics and overall performance, multi-level football specific conditioning, and principles of individual, group and regional specificity, are ignored, with damaging consequences. When Michael Ness, the German expatriate and SAFA’s Director of Coaching was asked about the serious deficiencies in the coaching modules, his reply was that he already has acknowledged the problem and, as he put it, “at least the content of our modules is much better than those of CAF’s”.

It is frightening to realise that all the local coaches who were initially given a foundation of the wrong and/or baseless coaching knowledge, are now proceeding with their level 2 and 3 qualifications. To re-build their basic knowledge from scratch will be a huge challenge.

The process should start with the de-training of those who were indoctrinated with packages of irrelevancies and errors. The information gathered at various coaches’ workshops reflect the following wrong beliefs need to be re-taught.

  • Fitness and Tactics are not the most important factors of performance as is wrongly indicated. Technique is the fundamental factor. It determines the outcome of every play situation when effectively supported by Tactics, Fitness and Performance Psychology.
  • Winning football is not the result of collective tactics only. Remarkable/outstanding individuality, harmoniously integrated into the collective actions is actually the key to current successful game concepts.
  • It is incorrect to assume that having the ball in the opponents’ box, as quickly as possible, by executing fast actions with the ball always being sent forward, is the best form of attack in modern football. This simplistic approach, as indicated by match statistics, backfires because against quality and experienced opponents, who apply close and high pressure marking throughout the attacking areas, ball possession is usually lost before the attacks are completed.     
  • Possession football is an optional style component in modern football. Wrong! Intelligent ball possession is indispensable in today’s advanced styles.
  • Efficient possession is determined exclusively by quality passing of the ball in the midfield. Incorrect. The most effective possession includes, not only precise and well-timed passing, but also effective dribbling, intricate and disguised movement and functional mobility, involving ALL the in-field players
  • The size, power and aggressiveness of players in the team are essential. Not so. The best play dynamics recorded in winning the 2010 World Cup and 2010 World Club Championship show that small and slight-frame players have a superior work- rate, reactivity and skills. Defenders maintain a height advantage when  the ball is played in the air.
  • It is not the case anymore that in the composition of the line-up, a mixture of skilful players and physical and ‘hard-working’ players provides an optimal balance. Skilful players, with different levels of creativity and improvisation, are needed throughout the line-up for in-field players. Systematic youth development ensures that all in-field players are now capable of performing attacking and defensive responsibilities according to their roles in the game plan. The play-making function, as is the ‘ball winning’ responsibility, are shared equally or proportionally – according to their various roles – by all in-field players.
  • Experience refutes the conviction that performance can be maximized even when players’ genetic expressions, development and cultural environment or football traditions differ. Optimal performances can only be delivered by teams where players (Africans, Whites, Asians, etc.) reflect close similarities of genetic predispositions, development background, and cultural and sports environment influences. The same applies for coaches.
  • Modern fitness concepts require that endurance, speed, power, etc. be trained individually and separately from work done on technique and tactics. On the contrary: The latest evidence proves that all aspects of fitness can be optimized when trained concurrently with ball technique (aerobic/anaerobic ball work, functional resistance training, etc.), play combinations or individual and group tactics.
  • To improve performance, training should include both general exercise and specific work. This is misleading. The effects of general exercise, such as intensive non-specific gym work and cross-training, do not transfer to football performance. Only football specific training does.                    

 

Surely there are other false assumptions and abnormalities evident in coaching manuals and the content of coaching courses, as well as articles, talk shows and TV programmes that could be refuted easily by the new scientific findings.

For those coaches or aspirant coaches who would like to see examples of how SA-specific coaching and other advanced training concepts work  – with successful results – the opportunity exist to visit, at work, some of the progressive local experts.

 

In Pietermaritzburg, Thabo Dladla, an academic with invaluable experience (Sports School of Excellence, SAFA’s Youth Programmes, etc.) has established an under-14 development concept that has reached new heights in improving the players’ ability. His team recently participated in an international tournament in Norway, where they made an unforgettable impression.

 

In Johannesburg, Prof. Louis Jeevanantham has introduced “state-of-the-art”, and new training methods, at Midas Football Academy. These methods have resulted in very young players displaying unique qualities and confidence in their game. The 12-14 age-group, coached by Dale Jeevanantham, is currently operating at a technical level three years above that of comparable groups. Of the group of 12 players, the coaches at the Academy believe that a minimum of 8 will play overseas, with the other four playing professional soccer locally.

 

Another example of advanced coaching mentality is that used by Zipho Dlangalala. Working with an innovated coaching methodology at Sundowns FC, he contributed to the promotion of 16 young players to professional clubs (Atletico Madrid, Mamelodi Sundowns, Amazulu, Celtic, etc.) as well as to the youth national U-17, U-20, U-23 teams, and SAFA’s Development Team. His knowledge and experience could assist other coaches in their quest for success.

 

In conclusion, until the issue of adequate coach education is resolved and proper programmes are in put in place, let’s not blame local coaches for their failures or shortcomings. They, under the circumstances, are innocent.

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Pre-Season thoughts

Ok so three weeks into training and looking forward to our second season and by the looks of things we are fielding U13,U15,U17 and serious consideration of U19s. The league kicks off Saturday 23rd February so in full swing on adminstarative funtions for readiness.

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A twelve-point plan to save South African Football

In the absence of any meaningful plan emanating from the bastion of power entrusted with the governance of South African football, we offer a humble attempt at such a plan.

The public is anxiously waiting for the football authorities to act as opposed to react, but nothing has been forthcoming till now so we thought that we would write up such a plan.

The plan that unfolds below has been written in point-form for convenience, but it must be recognised that the different aspects of the plan are interrelated and impact on one another, so the document must be read with this important consideration in mind.

1) Good Corporate Governance

The controlling bodies of football in South Africa draw their money from sponsorships. Sponsors look for primarily two things. They want to be associated with a successful brand, which South African football is not, and they want to know that the money that they put into football is being used for its intended purposes.

Many years ago, a newspaper reported that at the SAFA AGM a Financial Report was not tabled. This failure was defended by an official who stated that it was not necessary to report on all matters of expenditure incurred by SAFA.

Racism aside on the part of big business, questions will be asked of an organisation that currently stands at R91 million in the red. Questions will be asked about the accounting practices used by an organisation that allows itself to be in such a situation. Big business will not put money into an organisation that is unable to confirm and demonstrate that it has clean corporate governance.

The controlling authorities of football in South Africa need to win back the confidence of sponsors for without their financial muscle, we will be unable to deal with the many challenges that face us before 2010.

South African Breweries recently gave South African cricket R60 million. If we anticipate proportional sponsorship, based on the popularity and participation rates in football when compared with cricket, then SAB will have to give South African football R360 million. Let’s see what happens!

2) Develop a unitary philosophy of football

The development of a unitary philosophy of football is a prerequisite for the development of a South Africa style-identity. The process unfolds in the following way.

By developing a unitary philosophy of football I mean that everyone involved in football in the country must have a set belief-system about the way we want football to be played in our country. From this belief system will emanate a style-identity. Let me illustrate this point by way of an example.

Let us assume that we believe that our game should be characterised by skill and that we want a short-passing game with dynamic movement and individual creativity within the team pattern.

In order to achieve this objective we have got to get everyone involved in football to agree that this is the way we want our teams to play. From the six-year-olds through the youth teams up to the professional teams and finally the national teams, all our footballers will consequently be playing in the same style. This means that our country will have a single style and it will be easy for players to slot in at various levels within their own teams or the national teams’ structure.

We cannot allow deviation from this objective, once it has been identified. Individual team coaches of the professional teams must be told that they must place the needs of the nation above those of their individual clubs. This is what Brazil does and it cannot be a bad example to be following. After all, Brazil has won the World Cup five times and they currently have the most creative players on the planet, all because they insist that nothing will be allowed to contaminate and dilute the way they play the beautiful game.

Football is called the beautiful game because of the elements of beauty that are evident from the performances of the most creative players on earth. This is an aspect that has to be emphasised. The winning formula in the world is beauty constructed by creativity and this culminates in decisive finishing. This viewpoint is confirmed by the four semi-finalists in the European Champions League: Barcelona, Arsenal, Villareal and AC Milan, all extremely creative and attractive teams. They proved that you can be creative, attractive, and successful.

3) Establish a research unit

The current crop of French players is a product of youth systems operational in France. The Ivory coast has eight players in its team who graduated from the academy at Aisec Mimosa. The Australian team has progressed to the level that it has because of the combination of science and football. The USA put in place a plan twenty years ago that would ensure that it became a force in world football. The USA, a non-football playing nation, is currently ranked tenth in the world.

Without a research unit we will continue to flounder in the dark, and we will be forced into ad hoc responses every time a crisis looms.

Research is the life-blood of all successful organisations irrespective of where they are located in the social arrangement. Big business does research, farmers rely on research, the food industry does research, most sports codes do research and this is done in order to ensure that they remain competitive. The better the research the better the product and because they are producing better products, they remain competitive in the global structure.

Research exposes new developments, it facilitates the identification of weaknesses and strengths, it allows planning, it gives one control, it facilitates prediction, and it allows one to monitor, evaluate and design intervention programmes. Without research we will fail not only now but in the years to come.

Research will enable us to put in place a long-term plan that is open for review depending on its successes or failures.

 

4) Talent identification

We have got to set up a nation-wide system of talent identification. The criteria for talent identification will comply with our philosophy of football. What this means is that we, as a football community, will establish the criteria for talent identification and football people across the country will be responsible for the identification of suitable talent.

We are convinced that we have not tapped into a large pool of talent that is out there in the country. This belief is reinforced by a TV programme, Idols. In spite of these developed countries having huge networks costing millions of dollars, to identify singing talent, hundreds of talented singers still slip through the net. Imagine how many talented football players remain undetected in a country such as ours that does not have an organized scouting system in place.

The system does not have to cost the earth. It can be done at schools, in local communities and in the designated SAFA Districts. Such talent will have to be assessed by the experts, placed with clubs and moved into development programmes.

 

5) Development

Without development we will continually find ourselves in the situation that we are in now. As has been stated in the previous section, talent will be identified and then moved into development programmes.

We must abandon the idea of football academies for now. They can form part of our long-term programme, but they are too costly and because of this we will not be able to cover the entire country.

We, Ted Dumitru and I, have designed a system that can tap into the talent across the country at a fraction of the cost of one football academy. We need to set this system in motion as soon as possible, run by suitably qualified coaches with the necessary resources.

Again we emphasize that the model that we have drawn up to cover the entire country will cost a fraction of one football academy. At this point we cannot invest all our resources in one project that will cater for a fraction of the talent available in the country while excluding hundreds of potentially talented players.

 

6) Negative impact of foreign players

It is unquestionable that foreign players, some of inferior quality, are having a negative impact on the game. For two reasons, but there may be more. 1) They are not of high enough quality and therefore reduce the standard of the local game, and 2) they keep local players out of the first team. There should be fast tracking of young players. Many of our junior internationals are not regulars at their PSL teams. A rule should come into being which says that each PSL team should field at least five (5) SA qualified players under the age of twenty-three (23). The number of foreigners should be restricted in the Premier leagues and no foreigners should be allowed in the MVELA league. Italy once barred foreigners from playing in Serie B.

We must remember that we are taking actions that are in the national interest and such an action fits in this consideration.

 

7) Strengthen local leagues

We can strengthen local leagues by a number of interventions but we will concentrate on only two. The one intervention ties in with the national philosophy of football, which we will discuss briefly, as we have said quite a bit above.

If we concentrate on the tried and trusted formula, which is the winning formula, of attractive football, then we will be strengthening our local football by focussing on the dominant trend in world football. This trend is natural to our players who have had their natural instincts suppressed by ignorant coaches. This harm must be undone and players must be allowed to express themselves once more.

The second intervention is related to one mentioned above, i.e. sponsorship. A number of young players ply their trade in the lower leagues of foreign countries where standards are questionable. These players must be brought back to South Africa to play in one of the two professional leagues. This can only be done if the clubs are able to pay salaries that are competitive, and clubs can only do this if they receive generous sponsorship. Big business must be brought on board and told about the role that they are required to play in the national interest.

8) Bring back crowds

People will not continue paying for a product from which they no longer derive satisfaction. This is the case with our football. People are staying away from the grounds because they are not getting the product that they want. The product that they want is South African football as they know it, and not the hybrid that is currently being paraded on our fields. Why did people go to the grounds in their thousands in the old days when Chris “Rollaway” Ndlovu, Masterpieces Moripe, Teenage Dladla, Age Ntsolengoe, Jomo Sono, Shaka Ngcobo, Shane McGregor, Hennie Joubert, Dharam Mohan, Sugaray Xulu, Basil Steenkamp, Bernard Hartze and Rashid Khan played? When hundreds of others like them played? It is because they were exposed to the beauty of South African football, which has been killed by cautious coaches who know no better.

If we give the public what they want then they will come back to the grounds. If we continue dishing out the sterile, cautious, uncreative, boring stuff that is currently being served up, people will stay at home because at home they have the freedom to swop channels on their TV’s.

In the interim we have got to embark on a programme to win back the fans. This is not the responsibility of the professional league or SAFA but they can assist in the process. Football should become a family outing where the whole family comes to spend the afternoon watching their favourite team.

9)Produce material

Coaching and training material of various descriptions must be produced and made available to the football public. Such material can take the form of written, audio- and visual material. A television slot must be obtained for the regular broadcasting of coaching and training material that is of an educational nature. A web-site must be set-up and maintained so as to publish the most up-to-date material that is available. No sector of the football community must be excluded from this onslaught. From the most junior players, their parents and coaches, to the most senior professional players, all must be included. We must seek the method that reaches the greatest number of people and use it.

 

10) Produce coaches

We must get as many coaches qualified over as short a period as possible trained in our philosophy of football. If they are trained in our philosophy of football, they will know how to produce the types of players that we are looking for, able to play in our style.

We must look at achieving a ratio of one coach to twenty-five players, throughout the playing structure, from the six-year-olds to the professional ranks.

Each association affiliated to SAFA through its district must have, as a start, one qualified coach and each school must have at least one qualified coach. This number must be increased very rapidly, so that by the beginning of the new year, i.e. 2007, we attain our goal of having one coach for every group of twenty-five players.

11) Form an alliance with the media

For this plan to work, all forms of media must be involved from the very beginning. They must be taken on board at the inception of the plan so as to first understand what it is that we are doing and then they must provide the advocacy voice of SAFA. Through the media it will be possible to reach out to the whole nation to inform them that we do have a plan and then to inform them about what the plan is. The media will also be responsible for educating the public on the initiative that has been introduced by explaining the rationale for the approach that we have chosen and then explaining the benefits of such a system.

The media also has a monitoring and evaluation role to play. They must monitor every aspect of the plan and then evaluate it at different stages in it progress, in order to report on successes and failures. The public must support what we are doing and they must also be kept informed, and this can only be done through the media.

12) Arrange a national convention

A two-day national convention must be called in order to outline the blueprint of the plan that SAFA has adopted.

This national convention must involve all the role-players in football, such as the Ministry of Sport, The Parliamentary Sports Portfolio Committee, SASCOC, the PSL, SAFA, coaches of all the professional teams, coaches qualified by SAFA, referees, the media, sponsors, medical staff, schools, etc.

It is important that everybody who has an impact on football is present at this convention as this will be a national initiative that will succeed only if the whole nation is geared for its implementation and is committed to its success.

By:

Louis Jeevanantham and Ted Dumitru

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Accidents of history or genetic advantage?

NAME

COUNTRY

LANGUAGE

CLUB

1. Samuel E’to Cameroon French Anzhi
2. Didier Drogba Ivory Coast French Chelsea
3. Yaya Toure Ivory Coast French ManCity
4. Kolo Toure Ivory Coast French ManCity
5. Seydou Keita Mali French Barcelona
6 Alex Song Cameroon French Arsenal
7. Solomon Kalou Ivory Coast French Chelsea
8. Gervinho Ivory Coast French Arsenal
9. Emanuel Adebayor Togo French Spurs
10. Demba Ba Senegal French Newcastle
11. Papiss Cisse Senegal French Newcastle
12. Didier Ya Konan Ivory Coast French Hannover
13. Tiote Ivory Coast French Newcastle
14. Moussa Sow Senegal French Lille
15. Souleymane Diawara Senegal French Marseille
16. Adel Taraabt Morocco French QPR
17. Alain Traore Burkina Faso French Auxerre
18. Kanna Biyik Cameroon French Rennes
19. Mohammed Sissoko Mali   PSG
20. Emmanuel Eboue Cameroon French Galatasary
21. Marouane Chamakh Morocco French Arsenal
22. Bakary Kone Burkina Faso French Lyon
23. Eric Mouloungui Gabon French Nice
24. Pierre-Emerick Aubamey Gabon French St.Etienne
25. Abdoul Camara Guinea French Sochaux
26. Modibo Maiga Mali French Sochaux
27. Younes Belhanda Morocco French Montpellier
28. Aymen Abdennour Tunisia French Toulouse
29. Jamel Saihi Tunisia French Montpellier
30 Arthur Boka Ivory Coast French Stuttgart
31. Houssine Kharja Morocco French Fiorentina
32. Mehdi Benatia Morocco French Udinese
33. Papa Diakhate Senegal French Granada
34. Stephane Sessegnon Benin French Sunderland
35. Cedric Makiadi DR Congo French Freiburg

(We are grateful to Sudesh Singh for having done the necessary research to find the information contained in the above table).

 

This investigation emanated from a question that was posed to South Africa’s pre-eminent football technician, Ted Dumitru, at a coaching clinic which he conducted. He was asked by one of the participants why the majority of football players from Africa, playing at the top clubs in Europe, come from French-speaking countries, hence this response.

 

All the above-named players are regulars with their respective clubs teams and they are also regulars with their respective national teams.

 

The single most obviously glaring piece of information that jumps out at the reader is the fact that all the above-named players come from countries that are French-speaking.

 

The second factor is that they all hail from West African Countries. By virtue of the fact that they all hail from the same geographic region in Africa results in a commonality of genotype. By this we mean that they all have similarities in the sets of genes that have been inherited over millennia. A consequence of this similarity of genotype is that these players are all similarly physiologically endowed. This means that they have very similar physiological structures. This may be the first explanation. The players from West African countries are more suitably endowed than other African players because they have the physical characteristics that are able to cope with the rigorous demands of the European game. This is one possible answer, but not sufficiently convincing, because on the other hand, the best team in the world is Barcelona, and they have the smallest players in terms of stature, in European football, but they are giants on the pitch. There has to be another answer.

 

Let us stick with the argument about environmental influence on physiology for a while longer. It is a scientific fact that people who come from different environments have different physiological and physical characteristics. As we are dealing with Africa, we will limit our analysis to the continent.

 

The best middle- and long-distance runners in the world come from the EastAfricanHighlands (Ethiopia and Kenya) and the Atlas Mountains region (Morocco and Algeria). If you look at the stature of people from the East African region and those from the West African region, the difference is obvious. East Africans are slight in stature, with small torso and long legs, while West African are muscular and huge.

Because East Africans live at high altitudes, the oxygen content of the air is lower than that at coastal regions. As a consequence, their bodies have adapted to the rarefied atmosphere and are able to process and utilize the limited supply of oxygen more efficiently. That is why people from this region hold all the world records from 800m to the marathon.

The West Africans have explosive power. Every record holder in recent times, (when Black people were allowed to compete at the highest levels in athletics) in explosive events such as the 100m, 200m and so forth, was held by a person whose roots are to be traced back to West Africa. Every Black American sprinter has ancestors in West Africa. Usain Bolt and the other great Jamaican sprinters share similar ancestry.

This is the one explanation relevant for our investigation: West Africans have the body type suitable for European football. While it is part of the answer, it is not the whole answer. We want to argue that the explanation lies in a more interesting phenomenon, which we will now proceed to discuss.

 

The Legacy of French Colonization

By Louis Jeevanantham and Ted Dumitru

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Address to Bafana Bafana 09 January 2006

Prof. Louis Jeevanantham:

1) Opening remarks: In order to establish yourself as a star on the world

stage you must perform for your country in international matches. The

international community doesn’t remember performances of players

at club level. Think of Pele and Maradona. Both of these great players

are remembered for their performances for Brazil and Argentina

respectively.

2) Factors in performance: skill, speed, stamina, strength, suppleness,

system (describe each individually). Which of these is the most

important? Think of Ronaldinho. He has been named World Player of

the Year, European Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the year

(Explain). Which factors confirm that skill is the most important factor?

Ronaldinho’s achievements and Brazil which includes players such as

Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Adriano, Kaka and Rubinho, five highly skilful

players.

3) Basic skills: The basic skills of football are passing and receiving. If

your team strategy is based on retention of possession of the ball and

you do not master these skills then you cannot implement your strategy

successfully. In order to succeed in this approach you must be able

to receive the ball perfectly, pass perfectly and this must be combined

with constant movement.

4) Crossing: I watched the game between Barcelona and Espanyol

on Saturday night. For the entire duration of the game the ball was

crossed once. We have been led to believe that crossing is the most

effective way to get the ball in behind the defence, but Barcelona has

shown us that this is not necessary. If you do not have good headers

of the ball and if you do not have enough players in the eighteen yard

area by crossing you are actually giving away possession of the ball.

You are converting possession into a fifty-fifty situation and more often

than not you are playing into the hands of the opposition because they

have tall defenders and a goalkeeper to defend against your single

forward. After having stretched the defence into wide positions the ball

must be recycled into the danger area in front of goal. I am not saying

that you must never cross the ball. There is a situation when a ball

played across the back of the defence is very effective. This is when

there is space between the defence and the penalty spot (Explain)

5) The Barcelona Model: When Barcelona plays with Ronaldinho and

Messi they use players in wide positions on the wrong side (Explain).

The fullback is the only player in defensive positions who cannot be

covered (Explain). If you attack him along the line you are forcing

yourself into a crossing situation. Barcelona uses Ronaldinho and

Messi to take on the fullback on the inside. This approach has a

number of advantages. It places Ronaldinho and Messi in a situation

where they are on their strong foot when striking for goal. It also brings

the ball into the danger area for defenders where 98% of all goals

are scored from. A further advantage is that it destabilises central

defenders because they are now expected to defend in ways with

which they are not familiar. They are used to dealing with aerial ball

pumped into the area. Now they are being taken on on the ground

and they don’t like to defend in this way. Another thing that Barcelona

does is that they seldom get their front players to back track against

the opposition (Explain). This creates problems for the opposition for

if the fullbacks overlap, they can’t get back in time to defend against

front players who have remained in advanced positions. This creates

confusion for the defenders because they don’t know if they must

stay back to mark the attacking players or support their own attacks.

A further tactical move that Barcelona employs is what I refer to as

“breaking shape.” They move their front players to positions around

the ball away from their usual places. Defenders are afraid to follow

because they have been coached to maintain shape and Barcelona

then creates numerical advantage in this way. If the defender follows

the attacker, space for an overlap for Barcelona is created.

6) The point: You must start to be analytical in your understanding of the

game and try to work out for yourself what is going on. Your game can

only benefit as a result.

Posted in From the Desk of the Prof, History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Importing Failure

The Mania of Importing Failure

 

Outside the minuscule group of successful nations, mainly Spain, Brazil, Germany, Holland, France and few more, the rest of the football world incredibly still believe that by copying the mentality, practice and experiences of those leading nations they also, one day, will enjoy international glory.

Africa, Asia, Oceania, North America and many, many countries from Europe and South America – that will make approx., 95% of the football world – are living with the illusion that the answer to ultimate success in the game can only be worthy and reliable if it comes from those ‘advanced’ models.

Importing football philosophies, training methods, coaches and coaching courses, trainers, players and even administrators from Germany, Holland, France, England, Brazil or Spain have become a global mania.

There are two worlds in football today – one, very small, is of those who lead and the rest is of those who follow.

Astounding resources are invested by the ‘rest of the world’ in acquiring ‘advanced expertise’ from the very few well established football cultures that are at the top.

Playing football ‘like Barcelona’ or ‘like the Germans’ or Dutch, French, Brazilians, etc., is the unrealistically uncompromising ambition of scoreless of Football Associations, clubs, youth academies, coaches, players, supporters and media from the ‘rest of the world’.

With the help from obscure and dishonest ‘experts’ who can only survive in the game by supporting and exploiting the importation of foreign technology in their respective countries, the myth of football performance prosperity of the ‘rest of the world’ is still flourishing.

Few play principles that govern game concepts like the aspect of ball possession could be of universal acceptance but in application it reflects a team, nation or region specific identity; meaning it varies in diversity. This explains the difference between the older Dutch concept of ‘total football’ and the current more sophisticated, creative and successful type of ‘liberated’ football played by Barcelona that also employs ball possession as a dominant play attribute. The perception that Barcelona and Spain ‘copied’ the whole Dutch approach is incorrect. They share the ball possession principle but differ significantly in its application.

The ‘exporters’ of ‘advanced football’, they also play a major role in the ‘rest of the world’ illusionary expectations. Strong influences, especially of Eurocentric origin, persistently reinforce the ‘benefits’ of world’s dominating football societies for the ‘rest of the world’. Surely, this propaganda hides the interests of the football leading nations in acquiring or maintaining their zones of influence (political, economic and cultural) in other parts of the world or their interest in exporting unemployed coaches, discovery and recruiting of talented players and then moulding them in the European concept of play.

There is a global network of commercialized coaching and coaching courses, training, psychology, nutrition and other aspects of performance football which is targeting a naïve market of technicians in the ‘rest of the world’ for selling ‘modern recipes for success’. There is a high volume of speciality books, DVDs, conferences and workshops where the training methods, play systems and winning solutions used, for example, by the Dutch, English or German clubs or their youth academies are extensively marketed.

Sadly, even sport science knowledge related to a specific football context produced by European sources that does not recognize local players’ bio-social and environmental conditions has been validated and dogmatically applied in Africa. Asia and other regions.

It is incomprehensive that, as an example, African and Asian players have the predispositions to generate superior performance in relation to ball skill, tactical diversity, mobility, creativity, work rate and attractiveness and yet are being forced to adapt to play concepts like the German, Dutch, English or French which inherit many limitations especially when considered to address characteristics of African players and the Continent’s game environment and unique cultures.

Despite major flaws and incompatibility with other game environments and the trend of technically sophisticated football, the ‘advanced’ models of youth academies from England, Holland and France are still instituted and duplicated in many football underdeveloped countries. SA is one of the victims of this paradox.

The grossly idiotic refusal to accept that football mentalities, play systems, training methods and youth programmes DO NOT EXCELL OUTSIDE OF THE CULTURE THAT CREATED THEM is the main reason for indifferent performance or mediocrity in all countries that are dependent of importing technical solutions. Not one single example contradicts this axiom and experts like the Australian sport scientist Wayne Goldsmith provide piles of evidence on this matter.

The effects of  a simple, basic drill or tactic generate different forms of stimulations, reactions and adaptations to African, Europeans, South Americans and so on.

Coaching that doesn’t show complete respect for the principle of recognizing players’ biological, social and cultural profile is empirical.

Foreign coaches’ who insist in introducing their style of play and tactical system to SA or any African players are faced with an unassailable task. The contrast between such coaching concepts and the nature and background of the players usually result in scrappy and inconsistent performances. Even when some local success is achieved by some clubs – Pirates, Ajax or Chiefs – players’ potential remains unfulfilled and international results do not satisfy. By the way, some of the foreign coaches and instructors who have been assigned to teach local coaches are indeed well qualified and experienced. Their problem is that the expertise they offer does not include as prerogative the unique nature of Africans. That’s where the predicament begins.

Those who hire foreign coaches in SA football quickly motivate their decisions by telling the ignorant followers and media that the qualification and experience of those coaches is badly needed to reach international standards and success. After decades of such promises the situation has not improved as per expectations. To make the matters worse the local coaches, at CAF and other courses, are taught principles and methods of coaching from the same foreign sources and mentality where the foreign coaches are coming from!

Very rare are cases of limited success where a foreign coach had previously worked with African players and learned about their attributes and weaknesses before coming to Africa. Still the local potential remained unfulfilled.

In general, the decline of standards and poor performances of African football were clearly exposed at the 2010 WC and recent U17 FIFA Youth Tournament. It’s not surprising then that South American young talent is now in high demand internationally overtaking Africa in this respect by large margins.

What is denied and abnormal is the fact that THE PROCESS OF MAXIMIZING PLAYERS’ POTENTIAL AND PERFORMANCE IS CULTURALY SPECIFIC. Any mismatch within this principle, even at the scale of detail, impedes optimal results. Yes, marginal improvements and accidental good results can be achieved with imported solutions but never, ever world class maximized winning results. This is what millions of football followers are not aware of because they are not told about it.

At one of the recent youth coaching clinic in Johannesburg a group of Dutch coaches gave a stern warning to the youngsters, local coaches and parents about the way the game should be played by children here. According to the Dutch coaches any SA youngster who wants to become a professional player and play in Europe must ‘not use tricks with the ball, must not pass with the outside of the foot or heel, must not run with the ball and take risks’ among other ‘don’ts’.

Ironically, all these things that a SA youngster ‘must not do’ in the game are successfully done by the likes of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and many of the new generation of international stars. How is it then possible for SA or African football to match the best in the world in such alienated and retrograde coaching mentality?

SA and African players in general are genetically SKILFUL and both genetically and culturally CREATIVE.

Shamefully, some journalists and football administrators were very happy with the ‘contribution of Dutch and other foreign coaches to the development of youth and coaching in SA’

What it is sinister and difficult to understand is FIFA’ silence on the harmful effects of contrasting coaching influences adopted from European powers and UEFA globalized coaching philosophy by so many football nations. Historically FIFA used to strongly oppose the copying or imitating playing concepts and coaching mentalities. In one of the FIFA’s technical book there is a very powerful and relevant statement that says:

‘Imitating a style or coaching ideas even if is done successfully by foreign coaches is rejected by most players on the basis of past experiences. This conclusion demands courage and patience to develop one’s own specific style. Officials and coaches should expect improved performance when contemplating one’s own strengths. A compatriot’s commitment to implement this in a team serves as a basis for this important target. Only he/she can be familiar with his players’ character, speaks their language and share the same background. Native coaches should know how to adapt inborn qualities such as talent for skill, temperament, constitution, etc., to the elements of technique, tactics and fitness. Thereby teams should be rising themselves above the stereotype notion of “general European football”. Human conduct as well as reactions and forms of expression conditioned by mentality are reflected in the teams’ style of play and organization on the field of play’.

Why this invaluable piece of knowledge is not persuaded by FIFA anymore? Isn’t obvious that the global spreading of contrasting and irrelevant playing concepts and coaching mentalities are hampering the progress of the game?

Spectacular advancement on several sciences’ fields makes the development and application of nationally or regionally specific approaches to youth development and high performance football not only possible but also extremely necessary and urgent.

With a fraction of the money uselessly spent on acquiring foreign technical expertise SA can benefit immensely from locally defined solutions. Let’s remember that in 1994 the Esselen Sport School of Excellence introduced a youth coaching concept that was regarded by FIFA and many other leading international experts as unique and one of the best in the world. Beside the knowledge accumulated from other few local programmes run by SA technicians with relevant qualification, new ideas and innovations would make that experience and results many times better today.

A plethora of locally researched and experimented high performance training methods adds answers to the pressing need of developing a specific system of coaching knowledge and practice that is fully competent to address the uniqueness of SA football. Rejecting or ignoring it becomes unpatriotic, isn’t………………………… ……………………………….. ………………………………………………………. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

 

The Mania of Importing Failure

 

Outside the minuscule group of successful nations, mainly Spain, Brazil, Germany, Holland, France and few more, the rest of the football world incredibly still believe that by copying the mentality, practice and experiences of those leading nations they also, one day, will enjoy international glory.

Africa, Asia, Oceania, North America and many, many countries from Europe and South America – that will make approx., 95% of the football world – are living with the illusion that the answer to ultimate success in the game can only be worthy and reliable if it comes from those ‘advanced’ models.

Importing football philosophies, training methods, coaches and coaching courses, trainers, players and even administrators from Germany, Holland, France, England, Brazil or Spain have become a global mania.

There are two worlds in football today – one, very small, is of those who lead and the rest is of those who follow.

Astounding resources are invested by the ‘rest of the world’ in acquiring ‘advanced expertise’ from the very few well established football cultures that are at the top.

Playing football ‘like Barcelona’ or ‘like the Germans’ or Dutch, French, Brazilians, etc., is the unrealistically uncompromising ambition of scoreless of Football Associations, clubs, youth academies, coaches, players, supporters and media from the ‘rest of the world’.

With the help from obscure and dishonest ‘experts’ who can only survive in the game by supporting and exploiting the importation of foreign technology in their respective countries, the myth of football performance prosperity of the ‘rest of the world’ is still flourishing.

Few play principles that govern game concepts like the aspect of ball possession could be of universal acceptance but in application it reflects a team, nation or region specific identity; meaning it varies in diversity. This explains the difference between the older Dutch concept of ‘total football’ and the current more sophisticated, creative and successful type of ‘liberated’ football played by Barcelona that also employs ball possession as a dominant play attribute. The perception that Barcelona and Spain ‘copied’ the whole Dutch approach is incorrect. They share the ball possession principle but differ significantly in its application.

The ‘exporters’ of ‘advanced football’, they also play a major role in the ‘rest of the world’ illusionary expectations. Strong influences, especially of Eurocentric origin, persistently reinforce the ‘benefits’ of world’s dominating football societies for the ‘rest of the world’. Surely, this propaganda hides the interests of the football leading nations in acquiring or maintaining their zones of influence (political, economic and cultural) in other parts of the world or their interest in exporting unemployed coaches, discovery and recruiting of talented players and then moulding them in the European concept of play.

There is a global network of commercialized coaching and coaching courses, training, psychology, nutrition and other aspects of performance football which is targeting a naïve market of technicians in the ‘rest of the world’ for selling ‘modern recipes for success’. There is a high volume of speciality books, DVDs, conferences and workshops where the training methods, play systems and winning solutions used, for example, by the Dutch, English or German clubs or their youth academies are extensively marketed.

Sadly, even sport science knowledge related to a specific football context produced by European sources that does not recognize local players’ bio-social and environmental conditions has been validated and dogmatically applied in Africa. Asia and other regions.

It is incomprehensive that, as an example, African and Asian players have the predispositions to generate superior performance in relation to ball skill, tactical diversity, mobility, creativity, work rate and attractiveness and yet are being forced to adapt to play concepts like the German, Dutch, English or French which inherit many limitations especially when considered to address characteristics of African players and the Continent’s game environment and unique cultures.

Despite major flaws and incompatibility with other game environments and the trend of technically sophisticated football, the ‘advanced’ models of youth academies from England, Holland and France are still instituted and duplicated in many football underdeveloped countries. SA is one of the victims of this paradox.

The grossly idiotic refusal to accept that football mentalities, play systems, training methods and youth programmes DO NOT EXCELL OUTSIDE OF THE CULTURE THAT CREATED THEM is the main reason for indifferent performance or mediocrity in all countries that are dependent of importing technical solutions. Not one single example contradicts this axiom and experts like the Australian sport scientist Wayne Goldsmith provide piles of evidence on this matter.

The effects of  a simple, basic drill or tactic generate different forms of stimulations, reactions and adaptations to African, Europeans, South Americans and so on.

Coaching that doesn’t show complete respect for the principle of recognizing players’ biological, social and cultural profile is empirical.

Foreign coaches’ who insist in introducing their style of play and tactical system to SA or any African players are faced with an unassailable task. The contrast between such coaching concepts and the nature and background of the players usually result in scrappy and inconsistent performances. Even when some local success is achieved by some clubs – Pirates, Ajax or Chiefs – players’ potential remains unfulfilled and international results do not satisfy. By the way, some of the foreign coaches and instructors who have been assigned to teach local coaches are indeed well qualified and experienced. Their problem is that the expertise they offer does not include as prerogative the unique nature of Africans. That’s where the predicament begins.

Those who hire foreign coaches in SA football quickly motivate their decisions by telling the ignorant followers and media that the qualification and experience of those coaches is badly needed to reach international standards and success. After decades of such promises the situation has not improved as per expectations. To make the matters worse the local coaches, at CAF and other courses, are taught principles and methods of coaching from the same foreign sources and mentality where the foreign coaches are coming from!

Very rare are cases of limited success where a foreign coach had previously worked with African players and learned about their attributes and weaknesses before coming to Africa. Still the local potential remained unfulfilled.

In general, the decline of standards and poor performances of African football were clearly exposed at the 2010 WC and recent U17 FIFA Youth Tournament. It’s not surprising then that South American young talent is now in high demand internationally overtaking Africa in this respect by large margins.

What is denied and abnormal is the fact that THE PROCESS OF MAXIMIZING PLAYERS’ POTENTIAL AND PERFORMANCE IS CULTURALY SPECIFIC. Any mismatch within this principle, even at the scale of detail, impedes optimal results. Yes, marginal improvements and accidental good results can be achieved with imported solutions but never, ever world class maximized winning results. This is what millions of football followers are not aware of because they are not told about it.

At one of the recent youth coaching clinic in Johannesburg a group of Dutch coaches gave a stern warning to the youngsters, local coaches and parents about the way the game should be played by children here. According to the Dutch coaches any SA youngster who wants to become a professional player and play in Europe must ‘not use tricks with the ball, must not pass with the outside of the foot or heel, must not run with the ball and take risks’ among other ‘don’ts’.

Ironically, all these things that a SA youngster ‘must not do’ in the game are successfully done by the likes of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and many of the new generation of international stars. How is it then possible for SA or African football to match the best in the world in such alienated and retrograde coaching mentality?

SA and African players in general are genetically SKILFUL and both genetically and culturally CREATIVE.

Shamefully, some journalists and football administrators were very happy with the ‘contribution of Dutch and other foreign coaches to the development of youth and coaching in SA’

What it is sinister and difficult to understand is FIFA’ silence on the harmful effects of contrasting coaching influences adopted from European powers and UEFA globalized coaching philosophy by so many football nations. Historically FIFA used to strongly oppose the copying or imitating playing concepts and coaching mentalities. In one of the FIFA’s technical book there is a very powerful and relevant statement that says:

‘Imitating a style or coaching ideas even if is done successfully by foreign coaches is rejected by most players on the basis of past experiences. This conclusion demands courage and patience to develop one’s own specific style. Officials and coaches should expect improved performance when contemplating one’s own strengths. A compatriot’s commitment to implement this in a team serves as a basis for this important target. Only he/she can be familiar with his players’ character, speaks their language and share the same background. Native coaches should know how to adapt inborn qualities such as talent for skill, temperament, constitution, etc., to the elements of technique, tactics and fitness. Thereby teams should be rising themselves above the stereotype notion of “general European football”. Human conduct as well as reactions and forms of expression conditioned by mentality are reflected in the teams’ style of play and organization on the field of play’.

Why this invaluable piece of knowledge is not persuaded by FIFA anymore? Isn’t obvious that the global spreading of contrasting and irrelevant playing concepts and coaching mentalities are hampering the progress of the game?

Spectacular advancement on several sciences’ fields makes the development and application of nationally or regionally specific approaches to youth development and high performance football not only possible but also extremely necessary and urgent.

With a fraction of the money uselessly spent on acquiring foreign technical expertise SA can benefit immensely from locally defined solutions. Let’s remember that in 1994 the Esselen Sport School of Excellence introduced a youth coaching concept that was regarded by FIFA and many other leading international experts as unique and one of the best in the world. Beside the knowledge accumulated from other few local programmes run by SA technicians with relevant qualification, new ideas and innovations would make that experience and results many times better today.

A plethora of locally researched and experimented high performance training methods adds answers to the pressing need of developing a specific system of coaching knowledge and practice that is fully competent to address the uniqueness of SA football. Rejecting or ignoring it becomes unpatriotic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in From the Desk of the Prof | Tagged , , | Leave a comment