Monday, July 28, 2014

Barcelona’s Tiki Taka program to benefit Zimbabwean football?

Barcelona coaches came to Zimbabwe to run a two-day coaching clinic or seminar starting today in Harare, courtesy of Castle Lager, the league sponsors. The timely intervention to the deteriorating league game is a two day event expected to equip the Premier League coaches and other mentors from around the country.

Attending the clinic will be one thing, while implementation is another. The Zimbabwean Castle Lager Premier League match between Dynamos and Caps United yesterday proved a little better than their appalling clash in the NetOne sponsored One Wallet. Despite immaturity in decision-making and tactical awareness, the players from both teams played direct football, launching the ball forward. This clinic may help.

This eyesore of a game has some positives as it gets the ball into the penalty box very quickly and early enough before the opponents settle and shut the door. To complement the numerous raids, the strikers take these opportunities with decisive feet and score goals.
What makes it more interesting is that the shooting is taken quickly on sight. There is no time to control and think twice. This catches the goalkeepers unawares. This instinctive and predatory behaviour requires execution of technique under excessive pressure, therefore perfecting high-level skills.
With a slower version of the South African game, the Zimbabweans find the ABSA Premier League a free scoring assignment. These players benefit two things by playing the high-tempo kick and run game. It teaches them to defend efficiently by reducing time and space for the opponents and dispatching the ball quickly.
The other valuable lesson comes at the other end of the field, where the strikers learn to pounce on the less suspecting defenders and score before the goalkeepers have positioned themselves. They learn to deal with the ball very decisively and quickly under pressure and finish well. Doing these things in competitive matches prepares the individuals to be quick and versatile.
The problem is that the midfield creativity is eliminated. This launching and shelling game, the defenders work excessively, causing the central and defensive midfielders to withdraw to assist in the defending. You may associate this with the great central defenders that league has been producing lately.
By-passing the centre of the park makes these matches very ugly and uninspiring. It is this kind of football that characterised Division One matches when I coached in that country. The reasons for playing that way included the very bad bumpy surfaces we played in and the poor refereeing as the hometown decisions were the order of the day. The strategies required to clonk the ball away from the 18-yard box and send in into the other 18-yard area to avoid bizarre penalty calls.
That negative side in the top league emanates from the promotion and relegation mechanism. With just 16 teams in the top league, Zimbabwe has a massive 32 team Division One divided into four regions. The league demotes four teams and promotes four. That is the source of their problems.
The league relegates reasonably experienced teams while extremely diluting the game with mediocre quality from lower leagues. That league requires an additional two teams to make it an 18-team league. The country needs to restructure the game completely, ask the sponsors to double the funds for the Premier League to carry Division One football under its wings.
The PSL would need only two streams of the First Division where the winners go up and the bottom two PSL teams facing the chop. The national association currently administer the four Division One leagues and they promised the winners top-flight football. The Castle Lager Premier League only prepared to accept two teams and relegate two, but that did not pass.
The status quo will not last long. One hopes that the Barcelona coaching seminar will bring in the sense of Tiki Taka to that country’s game. It will never wipe away the blasting of the balls, but the prospect of the combination of the two styles will win Zimbabwean clubs the Africa Champions League and the Warriors the AFCON.
What do you think?