Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The English and the Brazilians

We put to bed the story of the grueling 2 weeks at the cold remote Staffordshire countryside at Burton-upon-Trent, England, for a training course that became a lifetime experience meant to change some of our lives forever. I intend comparing my experiences of the sunny and warm beaches of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, almost 12 years to the day prior.

Brazil smells football, no matter where you are and you feel it in the air. It sounds like an exaggeration until one lands there. Eighteen participants from around the world attended. England was a little reserved and many have different interests away from the game. There was double the attendance.

Let me leave the Copa Cabana beaches and its tails and shenanigans before I lose the trend. It took over 5 weeks to deliver an Advanced Diploma on Brazilian for Foreign Coaches and Trainers. The length of time visibly favoured the completeness of things that were looked at, compared to the English scenario.

The International License emphasised how to coach while the Advanced Diploma was more of what to coach. Both dissected the details and fundamentals in different styles. The latest coaching techniques included dealing with the individual, the unit and the team through simple technical practices, small-sided games, functional training and phases of play.

How one handled a training session and thoroughly works his objective out the organization, presents the topic, identified the coaching points, stopped the sessions and corrected the mistakes were key to successfully complete the International License. The eye for detail was paramount.

Some of the challenges one likely faces is changing normal coaching behaviour while trying to stay in line with new ways and means. This proved vital and visits to Aston Villa Football Club and Academy cemented the ideality of the FA’s approach to the Future Game.

Villa, also teams like Stoke City, Birmingham and Crystal Palace, have their own philosophies as institutions while their coaches want the game played in a certain way as individuals. Some clubs become fortunate to share their vision with the coaches they hire, making it easy for junior development to merge with senior team expectation.

As the world’s most interesting and watched league, the quest to be best is obvious in the way the FA presents the course and the details are enshrined in the philosophy as given in the books, ‘The Future Game’ of both youth football and the elite football coaches.

Much emphasise is also placed in how the English want to be better everytime, though it may be tough to see this through given the modest record of their youth and senior teams in major tournament, but that is exactly what the whole new concept seeks to address.

That success will depend on how much compliant the custodians of the game are on their own prescription and the acceptance levels of possible new leadership as the buttons get passed from generation to generation.

Of interest is how the association learns from other successful football powers like Spain, Holland and Germany. Research and investigations going on amongst these superpowers inspires everyone who works the game as their way of life. Visits have been made to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax among others, just to pin down the details of success.

The whole process obviously does not mutate overnight to be a carbon copy of the other association as it is affected by the manpower and quality of material at their disposal. Anyway, there is much going on that can be said but the course opens one’s eyes in understanding what the world sees when looking at the English game and how one can improve themselves as a coach to improve team performance.

The vital points were promoting learning of players and improving performance by critical analysis of one’s training sessions and finding better means and ways to improve oneself as a coach by utilising the resources at one’s disposal.

The downside was the short-time given to deliver an assessment session and trying to incorporate all one has to in basically less than 25 minutes. This challenged the thought process tremendously causing panics and lapses in concentration at vital moments.

The coolest thing was introducing an aspect only available for the UEFA A License; the assessment DVD. Everyone’s session was recorded live with full audio on a disc that was made available to the candidates less than a minute after completing their sessions. It cannot get better than that.

Besides, it afforded us the full membership to the FA Licensed Football Coaches' Club. I can tell you that it is not many of us who belong to that elite group and I forgive you for jealousing me. As a member, the entitlements include but are not limited to discounts to courses and purchased materials, access to magazines as well as websites that that have useful resourses.  

On the other hand, this is what Brazilians had in their pot. With the luxury of double the time, basic technique training and physical tests were the starting points. This went on to planning on a larger scale. The planning included long term periodisation and scheduling extending to over 4 years all the way down to putting the session under a microscope.

Much emphasis was placed on tactics, match analysis and utilising data and information. What data to collecting and maximum use of that information took a large chunk of the time.

As an example, what one looked for when teams were playing and trying to identify the problems and then finding the solution the players needed could have been done by a better man than the coach who had won the Fifa World Cup in 1994, Carlos Alberto Parreira. The Brazil scout who had collected data for the national team for over 20 years became the cornerstone as the resource person to support the theories.

They believed in dividing the pitch into thirds along into channels labeled strong to weak depending on the amount of traffic and across into the common attacking, midfield and defending zones. The matches get divided the same way; 0-30 minutes, 30-60 and 60-90 minutes. Of much interest are the events happening in these field and time zones and to exploit them or create issues for opponents to deal with.

You can see how comprehensive a deal these two put together can be. I have no doubt in my mind how both can be different at any time and have additions of each other at different levels.

Actually, the Advanced Diploma was holistic and complete to the point that one had to do a degree with the Brazilian universities to get more. The FA complied as much as material as possible for the available time and for a certain level of coaching. There is a further 2 or 3 steps over extended periods of time for which the participants can enroll and be appraised. Mathematically, the time will equal or exceed the other version and with the evolution of the game and technology, many more aspects would be covered.

As you can guess, the umpteenth world champions made assessment on both theory presentations and longer practical coaching. Other facts and factors can be purely subjective. With the gap between the best and the worst teams narrowing, it will interest many that a single minute detail decides the champions and the rest. Just one touch or lack of.

One day England will take their rightful place as the owners of the global game that has been fairly dominated by Brazil until now. I would not mind revisiting Rio de Janeiro, but the institute initiated by former Fifa President, Joao Havelange, ran and operated by the able Professors Neto Esphezim, Carlos Alberto Perreira, Julio Ceaser Leal, Sebastao Araujo and Paifa Lula among other think tanks, may not be the same I attended.

If it was a CBF baby, like the St George’s Football Centre, one would be assured that time after time and game after game the system and the walls would remain standing, until the cows come home.