A Footballing Journey: To the End of the World and Back
Global Football Training takes a first-hand glance at academies and coaching at legendary clubs, sleeping giants and talent-producing machines.
Football is a true global sport. No other sport can fill stadiums all over the world, and the British Isles have their fair share of legendary clubs, passionate fans and oil-rich owners. With the Premier League being the flagship of British football, Global Football Training´s world tour could not look beyond Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea – as well as minnows Bristol City.
“These clubs have turned out some talented footballers. Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling and Jack Rodwell are just a few names on a long list of players to make it onto the international stage, and Global Football Training cannot pass up a chance to see why,” says Kenn Schmidt, CEO of Global Football Training.
Money, infrastructure and unique philosophies
Leading Premier League clubs have the funds and infrastructure to build world class academies – both in terms of producing gifted footballers and educating young individuals. But Bristol City has a vision to compete with the elite: players are developed through the mind-set of outscoring opponents.
Attack-oriented football is an inherent part of Bristol City. And the club´s academy has proved to be a valuable asset to other clubs – more than 50 academy players have made it to the top of English football. A noteworthy achievement by a small club; however, similar approaches dominate academies on the European continent.
Standard Liege and KRC Genk have created great academies, but the real treat in Belgium was to experience the coaching setup at a private academy – the players are NOT allowed to wear boots.
This organisation has built seven academies all over the world and talented players are aplenty. Whether or not all these gifted players will burst onto the international stage waits to be seen, but:
“The players are blessed with unique technical capabilities and have fantastic ball control as they play barefoot. Thus, the skills that they possess are unreal for players at that age, and more clubs could benefit from adopting this approach. In my view, it is phenomenal,” explains Kenn Schmidt.
Passion, passion and more passion – and a wealth of skill
Barcelona and Real Madrid are dominant forces in Spain, and La Masia is a talent-producing machine. “But I experienced something special at Real Sociedad and Athletic Club in Bilbao,” explains Kenn Schmidt and continues:
“Working with a smaller player base means that these clubs have put new coaching techniques and player development strategies in place to turn local talent into international footballers – as seen with Xabi Alonso, Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente.”
“These clubs have a unique vision on developing footballers: to groom local talent with the ability to strengthen their La Liga teams. Athletic Club is only allowed to use Basque players, but the team sheet at Real Sociedad is also dominated by players with a strong regional commitment.”
Athletic Club is a proud club with a passionate fan base and kids turn up every day to cheer their team on – and the players show their appreciation.
But Athletic Club has more to offer and the strategy on developing goalkeepers is unrivalled. Working with 10-15 goalkeepers from the age of eight, Luis Llopis – the club´s goalkeeping coach – approaches coaching in a new way and it works; goalkeepers at Athletic Club are among the best in Spain.
Not much new in Africa
Most successful academies in Africa are run by private organisations such as Right to Dream. Right to Dream is a project launched to develop footballers and educate young individuals, and the setup is more or less perfect.
“Global Football Training went to Africa hoping to experience a new approach to coaching; sadly, this did not happen. Apart from a few tweaks, most academies take the same approach to coaching and player development – and neglect the chance to think outside the box,” says Kenn Schmidt.
South America: talent all over
No one can doubt the ability to produce world class footballers in South American as history tells the complete story. Passion for football is widespread and local clubs in Montevideo and Buenos Aires boast state-of-the-art facilities.
Uruguay has a population of 3.5M football mad men, women and children, and kids grow up dreaming of making it into the big leagues. And the country´s coaching setup is designed to nurture talented youngsters. Focus is on producing technically gifted players that experience first team football when their skill level permits it, regardless of their age. And the philosophy is also evident in clubs with smaller budgets.
Thus, spotting talent is as important as developing talent, but leading clubs in Argentina and Uruguay master both.
In contrast, Brazil relies heavily on the sheer number of talented players. Domestic coaching courses are non-existent; the nature of the country´s culture, a large player base and skilled scouts contribute to the success of Brazilian football.
The ´South American way´ is a stark contrast to the development at Aspire Academy in Dubai. Aspire Academy is in possession of amazing facilities and has a goal of producing three international players per age group – a target that the academy is struggling to reach.
“Aspire Academy does struggle with a small player base, but also lack the ability to develop players that are ready for first team football. However, most countries would struggle to produce as much home-grown talent as the South American powerhouses,” says Kenn Schmidt.
Until next time
Global Football Training is on the road again and back in the U.S. – stay tuned for more news and an in-depth look at football in the U.S.