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NO 50 | OCTOBER 2011
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Celebrating the 50th
n March 1997, AFC Ajax, Manchester United FC, Juventus and Borussia
Dortmund were successfully negotiating the quarter-finals of the UEFA
Champions League. The last two would, as we know, later contest the final,
with the Germans winning the title in Munich. That same month, the UEFA
Technician newsletter for coaches was launched, with the aim of informing
practising coaches about UEFA events, highlighting issues relating to the
coaching profession, recognising winning performances and recording
the thoughts of our top technicians. After 14 years of words and images,
we have reached the 50th issue. So, as people often do when a milestone
is reached, we reflect for a moment on what has been a highly successful period for European football.
During this time, we have paid tribute to Ottmar Hitzfeld, Sir Alex Ferguson, Vicente Del Bosque, Carlo Ancelotti, José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, who have each won the UEFA Champions League not just once, but
twice – a remarkable achievement. Meanwhile, we have saluted Aimé Jacquet, Marcello Lippi and Vicente Del Bosque for lifting the FIFA World Cup:
three European successes in the last four editions is something to be proud of. EURO
accolades have gone to the wonderfully enthusiastic Roger Lemerre (France), the
irrepressible Otto Rehhagel (Greece) and the revered Luis Aragonés (Spain).
Sadly, there have also been tributes to departed colleagues, such as Dutch
coaching guru Rinus Michels, Italy’s world champion Enzo Bearzot, England’s
gentleman of football Sir Bobby Robson, the elegant Giacinto Facchetti of
Inter, the thoughtful René Hussy of Switzerland, and the highly respected
boss of Italy’s coaching school, Guido Vantaggiato.
All aspects of UEFA’s technical programme have been recorded, from
top-level events such as the Elite Club Coaches Forum and the UEFA
National Coaches Conference to the UEFA Grassroots Workshop and the
UEFA Study Group Scheme. Of particular interest was the implementation
of UEFA’s Coaching Convention, which started with six members in 1998
and had incorporated all 53 associations by 2008 – with 43 authorised to deliver UEFA
Pro diplomas. In this context, the role of the coach education director was highlighted.
This is the person responsible for developing the next generation of coaches, supporting
frontline technicians and leading a team of staff coaches. The technical director, on the
other hand, is the one responsible for leading all technical activities at the association
or club (coaching, age-limit teams, women’s football, grassroots, etc.). The UEFA
Technician has enthusiastically supported the specialist activities of both. Their work
is rarely publicised, but their impact on the future of the game is immense.
The use of interviews, editorials and event reports has provided a vehicle for
sharing the wisdom of elite coaches and bringing important issues into the public
domain. Among the many profound statements made by coaching colleagues, some
resonate. For example, Arsène Wenger’s: “You must love the game and want to share
with the players a certain way of life, a way of seeing the game.” Or Sir Alex Ferguson’s:
“The drive, the hunger, the passion must be inside you, because the players need to
recognise that you care.” And when we refer to hot topics, we need look no further than
issue No. 1, when the proposal to have weekend fixtures and double-headers for national
team matches was first communicated, following our post-EURO ‘96 conference.
The Technician newsletter has covered 14 years of glorious European football as seen
through the eyes of the technician and has reported on all aspects of UEFA’s technical
development programme. Decision-makers, administrators, referees, doctors, commentators and fans, as well as coaches, have all contributed to the game’s progress during this
time, but ultimately it is the players who have provided the spectacle and we take this
opportunity to thank them, from Zidane and Co. of the late 90s to current stars such
as Rooney, Ronaldo, Messi and Xavi, for all the moments of football magic they have
brought us. Even after 50 editions, the truth remains: when players shine, coaches glow.
Andy Roxburgh,
UEFA Technical Director
Pep Guardiola,
winner of two
UEFA Champions
League titles
In this issue
The Technician interview:
André Villas-Boas
Twelve years on
Promoting the profession
in Prague
Latest developments
Summer successes
The Technician
By Andy Roxburgh, UEFA Technical Director
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ndré Villas-Boas started to study coaching in his
teens and after a short spell in the British Virgin Islands as national coach he became the assistant coach
of José Mourinho at FC Porto. He followed his Portuguese
colleague to Chelsea FC and then to FC Internazionale.
At the beginning of the 2009/10 season, the young
coach left José Mourinho’s backroom team to take over
at Académica de Coimbra in the Portuguese top division
and quickly lifted them from the bottom of the league
into a safe position, finishing 11th. Good results and an
attractive style of play resulted in him being offered the
post of FC Porto’s head coach. In one season (2010/11),
André Villas-Boas gives instructions during the
Manchester United v Chelsea Premier League
match at Old Trafford in September
they won four titles: the Portuguese Cup and Super Cup,
the league title and the UEFA Europa League – the latter
making him the youngest manager, at 33 years old,
to win a European competition.
Before the celebrations had died down, he was on
his way to Chelsea FC in the English Premier League
and one of the biggest, most challenging coaching jobs
in European club football – further evidence of his
meteoric rise to prominence. He is a highly intelligent,
articulate and gifted technician – he is …
André Villas-Boas
(Chelsea FC)
How did you develop as a coach?
I was influenced a lot by many different people throughout my career. Also, I think I have to acknowledge the luck
factor which led to some valuable opportunities, such as
getting to a club like FC Porto at an early age – a club that
has a background of nurturing players and coaches. I was
then able to put into practice my ideas and all the small
things I had learned on coaching courses in Scotland,
England and Portugal. The Scottish courses were particularly important because I was able to express myself and
to exchange ideas in an open, respectful way. It was good
for me to live in this culture and to accumulate all these
experiences. I also respect the fact that being an assistant to José was significant – his success helped me to
progress as a coach. I was able, for instance, to get into a
Portuguese first division club like Académica right away.
There, I had great facilities and the freedom to work. I am
a firm believer in the beauty of our game and I like to
implement that conviction with the teams that I manage.
I am very positive and attack-minded and I think we, as
coaches, have an important role to play in that sense. I
know this philosophy goes a bit against current thinking in
society – everyone is taking less risk due to the financial
situation and it is a mentality which is seen in the game
too: fear, holding a position and trying to avoid criticism.
I prefer to be positive, to take the initiative and to create as
many chances as we can. I experienced a good mixture as
I was developing as a coach and I am a bit of everything
I learnt along the way.
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A media conference ahead
of the UEFA Europa League
final between Porto and Braga
What were the main reasons for your quick rise
to prominence?
Circumstance played a part. At Académica the players
who had previously been successful were not on form
and were bottom of the league. My arrival was seen as an
emotional stimulation and the players responded. I definitely benefited from living through this process – it was a
leadership task linked to their state of mind. The players
wanted to transcend themselves, to recapture the emotions of the year before, when they had been successful.
So it was very much about human and emotional aspects
of the job – trying to get the players to express their qualities, because it is the players that take you to success more
than the other way around. They had an emotional block
and the minute we got the first result we went on a run that
took us off the bottom of the league. Once the players got
over this period, they started enjoying it more and started
absorbing my ideas.
Then I went to FC Porto and faced a similar situation.
The club had won the championship three seasons in a
row and then had lost out to Benfica. There was a desire to
win the title back. We used a lot of what Jesualdo [Ferreira]
had left us, but added some of our own ideas and a new
club leadership was born. It was a big change for the
players – not to be in any way critical of the previous setup – and soon we reignited their motivation to regain the
My age was never an issue because I started coaching
when I was very young. It is something that has always
generated debate, but I have no problem with it because
the players always accepted the position of the manager
and they seemed to enjoy the relationship with someone of
their generation. The players, of course, are always testing
the manager to find out what his weaknesses are. In the first
two or three weeks when you implement your ideas, they
test your leadership and your competence. It also depends
on the way you come across, and if you are able to sustain
yourself through this period it can build the basis that can
take you forward. The disruption will come and that is a
normal part of the game because of the frustrations that
players live with. We have to remember that players are
often under tremendous pressure. The testing, if you cope,
will strengthen your leadership position.
The game is so unpredictable, but the variables are influenced by the team that wants it more. You need, of course,
to have confidence and belief in what you do. The players
must be by your side, but ultimately it is the players’ talent
that normally solves the match situations. We won the
Europa League, but in the first three games our goalkeeper
saved us by dealing with some 1 v 1 situations early in each
match. In my opinion, the more access you have to top players, the more likely you are to be successful as a coach.
What do you emphasise in your training?
This is difficult. The way you train does not necessarily
reflect the way you play. It is not your methodology that
takes you to success. It is your players’ talent, your ability
to motivate and human skills that make the difference. You
can be a coach who is very detailed in his preparation, but
might miss something in the game itself. On the other
hand, you might delegate a lot of the training, yet be able
to get results by stimulating the players to perform at their
peak. In my mind, you can be successful in football with
different types of methodology. What makes sense for me
is that you must convince your players that your methods
will lead them to success. I believe in using difficult situations in my training, utilising equal numbers or even overloading, and this helps the players to solve demanding
problems in the game. Of course, if you give your team
the numerical advantage, it helps to produce fluency in
the play and confidence. So there are different ways of
seeing things and more than one route to the top. Normally, I develop my training from small to big spaces,
from drills into open play. Of course, when we
have midweek games, the emphasis is on recovery, but with some tactical input. However, I
repeat there are different approaches. The Italians, for example, have good physical preparation, and then you get coaches such as José
who incorporate everything: the psychological,
tactical and physical aspects. No matter the
style, you need to sell your method to your
Empics Sport
In a managerial/leadership sense,
how would you describe yourself?
Because of my age and my lack of a professional playing background, I could never
be dictatorial. I therefore let the players have
a certain amount of input into the decisions
regarding the way we play and the way the
team is run. Also, when we talk about the
well-being of a group, I encourage the players to participate in the decisions affecting
their professional life. For example, at Porto I
would discuss with the players the starting time
of the training or the need for rest days. I try to be
an open-minded leader and to respect people.
You must build a two-way relationship, even on
decision-making about arrangements or actions
in the game. Naturally, as the coach I make the
final decisions though and if I have to upset a
couple of people, then so be it.
Do you see today’s top-level football in
a positive light?
This is not an easy one to answer. In some
leagues the gap between the top team and those
that don’t challenge for the title is getting wider
and wider, and that is a worry. Money is beginning
to play a decisive part – the richer the league, the
more competitive, the more equality there is. The
Premier League in England comes into this category,
but that does not seem to be the case in Spain where,
in recent years, the top two have been detached.
Also, there is so much pressure to succeed, and I
am with Louis van Gaal when he says that it is much
more difficult to defend an attacking philosophy. It is
definitely easier to produce a cautious, defensive organisation with a compact block than to promote
creativity, talent and attacking fluency. Those who are
positive will clash with the “contain and counter” teams
and it will not be easy to triumph. You need good players and good decision-making to overcome defensive
structures, and it is difficult to nurture the talents that
you need in order to cope with the demands at the top
level. Because of Barcelona’s success, there seem
to be more coaches willing to take the positive path. But
when they are faced with pressure, they can find themselves in a difficult situation.
What qualities do you look for in a player?
If it was easy to find the perfect player, we wouldn’t
make as many mistakes. Maybe Messi, Xavi and Iniesta,
at the moment, fit this term. They represent the defence
of a culture – they were bred by the club and they now
serve that club to the maximum extent. To find that situation at another club or to move them to another environment… they wouldn’t be the same players. When I look
for a player, I look for technical skills because we seek
fluency in our game. The player also needs to be able to
express himself on the ball. In addition, he needs the
right attitude, tactical awareness and to be quick in every
way. To find this perfect player is very difficult, so you look
for players who can serve you well in your team, and then
positional requirements become a factor. Taking a general
view, I look for players who are technically gifted and psychologically strong. I am a firm believer in the human aspect of the game and therefore the personal qualities are
extremely important.
Empics Sport
What is the toughest part of being a top coach?
I suffer most as a coach when everyone is available
and I have to select the lineup at the end of a week when
everyone has given their total commitment. It is a basic
part of the manager’s job, but when you have to leave
players out for the sake of the team, it is tough. Nothing
you can say to them can convince them that they haven’t
done something wrong. This selection process, being
ruthless, takes the human element out of you, and it is
something that makes you sensitive to players’ feelings.
You just need to talk to them and move on, because next
week they can be selected and be decisive for you.
The other issue relates to outside judgements and
expectations. You are expected to be successful instantly,
and the process and the circumstances are not taken
into account. Tolerance and patience are less obvious today and maybe social frustrations play a part in this.
How important is technology for today’s front-line
The most important thing is to be comfortable with
what you have. If you are happier with extreme, aggressive analysis, then that is OK. As assistant to José, I wanted
to give him as much detail as I could. But when I went
into management, I decided that this was only a part of
the equation, and not the decisive part. When you have a
role to play, you think that your contribution will be crucial.
I am happy today with my scouts providing me with the
things which I think are important, and basically, I want to
know the main tactical strengths and weaknesses of the
opponent. In the end, it is the strategic part of the game
which plays a decisive part and you have to predict what
you think the opponent will do. Some coaches are obsessed by their computers and the data they receive. I
am not that way because, as I said, I favour the emotional, human aspect of the game and the cultivation of
André Villas-Boas congratulates goalscorer David Luiz
as he comes off the pitch during their UEFA Champions League
match against Bayer Leverkusen
the players’ talent. Sometimes players can’t express their
quality because they are restricted by rigid systems.
Do you have a certain way of approaching team
Normally, my team meetings last around 20 minutes,
including videos. We address our team in relation to the
opponents, in and out of possession, the opponents’
qualities and finally have a short video on our set plays.
In midweek, I will occasionally get them together to
discuss what we are doing well and what we are not doing
so well. I try as much
as possible to put this
feedback into training sessions, in order
to avoid putting them
into a meeting room
too often.
a manager, you have to produce results immediately, to get
the players to perform right away. What Pep [Guardiola]
has done tremendously well is to redefine the notions of
time and space, while maintaining ball speed and other
quick elements of the play.
As someone who was interested in journalism,
how do you see the role of the coach in relation to
the media?
I try to be open and explain what we are trying to do.
Coaches such as Sir Alex and Arsène have brought a lot
of respect to the profession through their
achievements and
longevity, and this
helps. At Porto, I tried
to treat everyone the
same and I did this by
holding open press
conferences. In England, I have had to
adapt a bit to the accepted requirements
and arrangements.
We each have our job
to do and our relationship is gradually
What, for you,
are the main tactical trends at the top
level of the game?
No doubt, speed
of the game, speed of
decision-making and
speed of the counterattack are common
features in the Champions League, yet
What aspect of
somehow I don’t think
today’s football disthis is related to FC
turbs you most?
Barcelona. They are
We are still living
an exception.
off the financial boWhat they have
nanza that has taken
done is to slow the
place around football
game down in certain
during the last ten
situations, and thereyears, and maybe this
fore slow down the
situation will stabilise.
Appearance money
Because of their skill
could become more
level, they are able
important in stimulatto live with the presing the desire to play,
sure without rushing
and love of the game
and they make the
could return to pole
decisions when they
position, and that in
are ready. Of course,
turn would help us to
they can play quickly
nurture the passion.
like other top teams
The things I don’t like
when necessary, but Sharing a few words with Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the
are negative, outside
they have a gift for Manchester United v Chelsea game
influences having an
time and space. They
impact on the game.
have redefined the way of playing, creating more time Remember, football, ultimately belongs to the players
for team-mates and raising decision-making to a higher and the public.
level. At the moment, the game is going through an obsessive period regarding speed – the game is reflecting
What aspect of today’s football excites you
society with everything being done in a hurry. Everything most?
is frenetic in life, so everybody expects the game to be the
What excites me most is how winning and losing afsame. In England, football is fuelled by the emotions of fects my daily life and my relationships with my players.
the people. The fans want you to be quick, to accelerate As I said, I am a firm believer in encouraging players to
the action, and possession and patience are not appre- exploit their talent and I want to promote a better game
ciated as much. It is a cultural thing. When you become for people to enjoy – it is a wonderful challenge.
PA Archive/PA Images
Twelve years on
hat do Sir Alex Ferguson and Gérard Houllier have
in common? Before you set search engines in motion, it’s only fair to say that no amount of trawling through
football trivia is likely to help you on this one. The answer
is that Sir Alex and Gérard were in Nyon on 1 September
1999, as UEFA Champions League finalist and UEFA technical observer respectively, for the first ever UEFA Elite Club
Coaches Forum. Twelve years later, they were back at the
same venue in the same capacities for the 13th edition of
this annual get-together, which has become an important
event in the UEFA calendar. As it happens, they were the
only ‘survivors’ of the 1999 gathering, even though the
likes of Fabio Capello, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Louis van Gaal,
Otto Rehhagel and John Toshack could easily have been
on the 2011 squad list, had most of them not switched
to national team rather than club football.
The inaugural meeting was recorded in the tenth issue
of The Technician. “The coaches talked about subjects
ranging from overall philosophy to the nuts and bolts of
UEFA Champions League football,” we were informed on
the back page. It’s interesting to note that, a dozen years
ago, the elite coaches were already discussing ways of
maintaining the entertainment value of the competition
and how to “safeguard the future of the game by promoting
player development”. The Technician underscored the significance of the concern caused by clubs who “had the financial resources to buy rather than manufacture”. Sir Alex was
quoted as warning “it is important not to let the Bosman
ruling affect the challenge of developing young talent. Team
spirit is created by people who have been at the club
for a long time, and the young players are the soul
of the team.” The relevance of his comment has not
been buried by the sands of time.
On a similar theme, it might also be worth recalling that, in 1999, the top coaches were already
expressing concerns that talented youngsters were
being persuaded to gravitate towards the financially
powerful clubs, only to find themselves in situations
which put the brakes on their development. Twelve
years ago, the coaches called for an age limit to be
imposed before which players should be legally deterred from leaving their native country.
In that inaugural meeting, the call for a review of
the yellow-card-and-suspension system in UEFA’s
club competitions was, if you like, the first goal the
elite coaches scored. Since then, many of their proposals have been taken on board and implemented
UEFA Champions League finalists
at Wembley in May, Sir Alex Ferguson and
Pep Guardiola both attended the forum in Nyon
by UEFA. A year later, for instance, the coaches proposed
that a uniform match ball should be used at all UEFA Champions League games. Done. At the same time, they asked
UEFA to bring down the final curtain on joint press conferences attended by the head coaches of both teams. Done.
A year later, they proposed that doping controls should be
intensified with a view to demonstrating that football is a
clean game. Done. At the same meeting, the coaches
proposed that pitches used for UEFA Champions League
games should all be of the same dimensions. Done. Later,
and of major significance, they proposed the Friday/Tuesday
schedule for international double-headers in order to allow players to return to their clubs a day earlier. Done.
And so the story has continued over the last decade.
Evolution and trends, however, are more difficult to change
than competition regulations. It’s interesting to note that, in
September 2000, when the elite coaches reviewed their
own role in the game, they commented that “the job now
entails more man-management problems” and remarked
“the job is more difficult because the powerbase has moved
from collective team-game concepts towards individualism,
resulting in many players becoming less willing to work for
the team and less receptive to orders and advice”. Over a
decade ago, they expressed concerns that “the coach is all
too often regarded as a shorter-term employee – more so
than his players, prompting the players to question the
coach before questioning themselves”.
Sir Alex and Gérard apart, there were massive changes
on the star-studded team sheet when the elite coaches met
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in Nyon for their 13th forum – but many of their
professional concerns remained the same. On the
‘less receptive to orders’ front, the technicians
commented that coaching methods had needed
to change in response to the evolution of the game
and its environment. “Twenty years ago,” explained UEFA’s technical director, Andy Roxburgh,
who has led the annual forum since its inception,
“it was easier for coaches to say ‘do it this way’
– and that was it. Today, in response to players’
profiles, their fame, their money and their greater
freedom, the coach needs to be far better in terms
of communication. You have to be able to convince
players, the media and the board that what you are
doing is the right thing.” As Arsène Wenger added,
“in the modern game the manager must convince
rather than dictate”. Views on the evolution of
the coaching environment were encapsulated by
the head coach of SV Werder Bremen, Thomas
Schaaf: “The coach’s responsibility now involves
a lot more areas than it did some years ago. It
means that we have to deal with issues that are
not directly related to football or the field of play.
It sometimes means that we are short of time to
perform all the tasks that we are now expected to
do.” These opinions were expressed during a
session on the second morning in which the tasks
Back row, from left to right: Rémi Garde (Olympique Lyonnais), Roland Nilsson (FC København), Ralf Rangnick
(FC Schalke 04), Thorsten Fink (FC Basel 1893), Thomas Schaaf (SV Werder Bremen), Andy Roxburgh
Middle row: Gianni Infantino, Massimiliano Allegri (AC Milan), Jorge Jesus (SL Benfica), Roy Hodgson
(West Bromwich Albion/UEFA technical observer), Felix Magath (VfL Wolfsburg), Rudi Garcia (LOSC Lille Métropole),
Frank de Boer (AFC Ajax), Unai Emery (Valencia CF), Vítor Pereira (FC Porto), Giorgio Marchetti
Front row: Didier Deschamps (Olympique de Marseille), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC), Sir Alex Ferguson
(Manchester United FC), Michel Platini, Josep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), André Villas-Boas (Chelsea FC),
Gérard Houllier (UEFA technical observer)
and demands facing today’s coaches were
discussed, along with the profile of the top
coach now required to deal with them.
But the 2011 Elite Club Coaches Forum
had all the traditional diversity which makes
it a fascinating two-day event. UEFA’s readiness to listen to the coaches’ opinions was
reflected by the presence throughout of the
UEFA president, Michel Platini, and the
general secretary, Gianni Infantino, along
with competitions director Giorgio Marchetti.
They heard some lively debate, with last
season’s UEFA Champions League finalists
Sir Alex Ferguson and ‘Pep’ Guardiola playing prominent roles in discussions with their
coaching colleagues, covering topics ranging from tactics and management to competition regulations.
However, one of the novelties in relation to previous editions of the forum was
a session related to players’ health and the
risks and implications of injuries. To provoke
discussion, Prof. Jan Ekstrand, vice-chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, offered the coaches data derived from UEFA’s
ongoing injury research project, which has
been built on the solid foundations of a
decade of information-gathering among the continent’s
leading clubs. The coaches were reminded that each club
receives two detailed reports per season, in which UEFA
presents data that permits comparisons with other teams in
terms of ‘medical performance’. The discussion point here
was the degree of cooperation and the synergies between
representatives of the coaching and medical professions
within the dressing room. By way of provocation, information
was provided on club coaches who had won a hatful of
trophies with injury rates well below the competition average,
in contrast to other coaches who had not won any trophies
during periods when injury rates were dramatically higher.
Although the participants had profiles that were high
enough to fill the lobby at UEFA’s HQ with cameras and
reporters, the opinions expressed in the meeting room
were treated with traditional discretion. Nevertheless, an
interesting exercise is to examine your own responses to
some of the issues the elite coaches addressed.
For example, would you be in favour of granting automatic UEFA Champions League access to the winner
of the UEFA Europa League? The question is currently an
academic one, as FC Porto secured a place in the Champions League on sporting merit last season. But it’s an interesting debating point all the same.
When two or more teams finish level on points in the
group phase of a UEFA club competition, are the criteria
used to separate them (initially applied on a head-to-head
basis to the teams concerned) the most appropriate? Or
is it time for a review?
Could – or should – more be done to achieve greater
uniformity in the standard of playing surfaces in UEFA competitions?
The elite coaches always relish the chance to ‘talk football’ at the annual forum – and the 2011 edition was no
exception. Trends were discussed at length – including the
stark contrasts between the last two UEFA Champions League
winners, FC Barcelona and FC Internazionale Milano, with
the Catalan club averaging 68% of the ball with their possession-based playing style, compared with Inter’s 45% in
the 2009/10 campaign – and only 32% in the final against
FC Bayern München. In terms of passes attempted during
a game, Barça’s 2010/11 average was 791, whereas
Inter’s in 2009/10 was 409. The question for debate is
which of the two playing styles constitutes a better route
towards success. Answers on a postcard…
But, for the coaches, the real beauty of the annual forum is the chance to get together, share experiences and
exchange ideas. As Gérard Houllier remarked, “being a top
coach can be a lonely existence, so meeting like this in Nyon
is like going on a refresher course. It gives you new ideas
and makes you reflect on a lot of issues.” The added bonus
is that UEFA also benefits greatly from listening to their views
and receiving their feedback on a wide range of footballing
and organisational topics.
Promoting the
profession in Prague
n his welcome message to more than a hundred coach
education and technical directors from UEFA’s 53 member associations, FIFA and three other confederations
who met in Prague in September, UEFA’s general secretary, Gianni Infantino, commented on the new Coaching
Convention Directives which, as he put it, “mark another
milestone in UEFA’s continuous efforts to further improve
the game through coach education”. He went on to emphasise that the new guidelines constitute an important
basis “but the high-quality implementation of national
coach education programmes is crucial”. The avowed aim
of the 9th UEFA Workshop for Coach Education in the
Czech capital was therefore to identify best practices and
consider future developments in the coaching profession.
The brief was far-reaching – as illustrated by the sheer
diversity of the three-day workshop in Prague. In his keynote
presentation, UEFA’s technical director, Andy Roxburgh,
outlined UEFA’s three-pronged programme which supports
the educators, the frontline coaches and the students who
are working towards UEFA-endorsed coaching licences
while, at the same time, attempting to promote and protect
the coaching profession and help to raise standards on a
pan-European basis. This entails a process of constant
self-appraisal within UEFA on the basis of feedback from
coach education specialists at the national associations.
The event in Prague offered the ideal scenario.
Discussion among the participants focused on proposing
formulas for building on the impact made by the UEFA Coaching Convention over the last decade in terms of enhancing
quality and, in the view of many national association representatives, helping to eliminate protectionist tendencies.
In response to questions about what more could be done by
UEFA in the area of technical development, the coach educators came up with a wide range of proposals such as:
specialised youth coaching events, such as workshops,
maybe attached to the final tournaments of UEFA’s
age-limit competitions;
exchange schemes for Pro-licence students;
wider distribution of DVD material from Under-17
and Under-19 competitions (qualifying rounds as
well as final tournaments) to allow youth coaches
throughout Europe to draw comparisons and better
prepare teams to compete at international level;
even greater support by UEFA for national coaching
courses, including assistance in the education of
student coaches in the use of technology.
Some national associations also emphasised the need
to advance on a common front in the specific sphere of
the training of fitness coaches. In Prague, there was a
unanimous call for UEFA to support development in this
area by adding a specific fitness coach branch to the existing core of UEFA-endorsed licences. Andreas Morisbak
of Norway presented the results of a survey conducted by
a working group. “It is a complex issue with a number of
sub-topics,” he reported. “There is enormous diversity of
cultures and expertise within the general field of fitness
coaching, but UEFA’s commitment is obviously to cater for
the specifics of football rather than for sport in general.”
The survey revealed that the ‘fitness’ component in existing
coaching courses comprises, on average, 60% theory and
40% practical work. Six national associations, he reported,
operate fitness-coach courses based on 75 to 120 hours of
tuition, while in Spain, to quote another example, fitness
qualifications are currently based on five-year courses.
The participants in Prague were also brought up to
speed on the advances being made in the goalkeeping
sector. Former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Packie
Bonner reflected on the rapid evolution of the goalkeeper’s
role over the last 15 years or so as a preamble to presenting plans for the imminent introduction of a UEFAendorsed diploma for goalkeeping coaches. “I think that
one of the interesting areas,” he commented, “is that
the vast increase in terms of media exposure and the
The coach education directors in Prague
analysis of errors have made goalkeeping a high-stress
occupation. Mental strength has become an essential commodity and goalkeeping coaches have to be equipped
to provide psychological support as well as technical assistance.”
Packie has been heading a UEFA working group which,
after researching the current situation across Europe, has
designed a pilot course and four goalkeeper-coach seminars incorporated into UEFA Study Group Scheme events to
be staged during the current season – the first in Belgium,
followed by events in the Republic of Ireland, Sweden
and the Netherlands. The initial concept is for the UEFAendorsed goalkeeper-coach qualification to be injected at
UEFA A-licence level with, existing goalkeeping studies
aside, access also granted to students with at least five
years of playing experience – or three years at elite level.
The full course is designed to have a duration of at last
a full season, with education based on 30% theory, 30%
practice and 40% work experience derived from visits to
clubs, where the on-site work will be combined with
guidance from a coach-education mentor.
The trend towards coach-education processes aimed at
developing specific competences was underlined in Prague
by the Dutch association’s coach education manager,
Nico Romeijn, who presented a session dedicated to
UEFA’s Elite Youth A licence, a category which has been
developed over the last decade. He outlined a specialised
course based on 14 residential meetings totalling 135
hours, 32 hours of club visits, 6 hours of match visits,
100 hours of on-site work experience, 120 hours spent
on specific assignments and tasks related to problems
that the coaches are most likely to encounter, and 10
hours of final assessment, bringing the overall total to
403. The focus is on three main areas: coaching games,
leading training and the management of teams and individual players.
“At this level, it’s important to be totally aware of the
profile that professional players are expected to have,”
Nico said. “You also have to stress the importance of
communication and leadership qualities and trace the age
groupings in which tuition and guidance in specific competences are required. The coach educator needs to help
students to assess the importance of analysing their own
performances. But balance is important. You want to encourage students to reflect on their learning process – yet
not to become excessively self-analytical.”
The venue for the workshop provided a cue for the
hosts to present an overview of their responses to situations common to many of the national associations which
needed to go through ‘reinvention’ processes after the
political fragmentations of the 1990s. The Czech FA’s
technical director, Dušan Fitzel, ran through the difficulties
encountered during the transition from university-driven
coaching qualifications to football-specific licences in
line with UEFA’s Coaching Convention, followed by the
new impetus provided by the government when a decision
was taken to promote football facilities. Regional coaching centres have provided a launching pad for development projects based on a five-tier coach education
structure ranging from grassroots qualifications to the UEFA
Pro licence.
The advances in coach education also laid foundations for a new national footballing philosophy which focuses on player development rather than results, a shift
towards constructive football (as opposed to a defendand-counter philosophy) and emphasis on the positive
values of creativity, enjoyment and passion for the game.
Implementation of this philosophy is being based on
promoting get-togethers of coaches and coach educators
at matches, raising awareness among the coaching
profession of the differences between domestic and international football, and establishing a network of ‘ambassadors’ in the form of ex-national team players who
work on the training pitch and live with the country’s agelimit teams.
One of the major debating points
at the event in Prague was how best
to improve protection and support for
practising coaches. Current footballing and labour legislation varies widely
from country to country, with the result
that degrees of protection also differ
substantially. Many of the participants
found inspiration in a session directed
by Howard Wilkinson, chairman of
England’s League Managers Association, which has grown in leaps and
bounds since it was founded on a
shoestring budget in 1992 with the
aim of allowing a representative and
collective voice to be heard, protecting
coaches’ rights and privileges and offering a wide range of support services not only on professional but also
on personal levels, such as in health
and welfare. The organisation currently
offers support services to the coaching
profession on 11 fronts and during
last season alone provided 158 members with the sort of legal back-up
which would be welcomed by coaches
in countries where, as the dialogue at
the workshop in Prague revealed, the
coaching profession is still short of
protection and respect.
Dušan Fitzel, technical
director of the Czech
Football Association
Latest developments
hat-trick of national team
victories, hard on the heels
of FC Barcelona’s triumph in
the UEFA Champions League
final, enhanced the status of
the current world and European champions as trendsetters
in international football. UEFA’s
technical reports on the UEFA
Champions League and the
final tournaments played at
Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 levels in the men’s and
women’s game not only provide a permanent record of the
competitions but also offer a
series of reflections and talking
points which can be useful to
practising coaches at all levels
of the game.
Spain’s successes in 2011
have thrown Ginés Meléndez
into the limelight. He was a
member of UEFA’s technical
team at the Under-17 final
tournament in Serbia, performed the same role for FIFA at the U-17 World Cup in
Mexico and led Spain’s Under-19 team to victory at the
European finals in Romania – where a final blaze of glory
put an end to a coaching career that has translated 15
UEFA and FIFA finals into an impressive collection of gold
and silver medals. After Romania, Ginés took over as the
sports director responsible for coordinating all of Spain’s
age-limit teams.
“There’s a tradition that benchmarks are set by the
teams that win the European Championship or the World
Cup,” he says. “So, inevitably, a team that wins both in a
short space of time becomes a point of reference for the
rest. I think the tournaments played in 2011 have confirmed
that there’s a marked trend towards the style which Spain
adopted some years ago. Of the teams I was able to see,
I’d say that 90% now play in a 4-2-3-1 formation and the
most successful teams from outside Europe also opt for
this structure. I acknowledge that the numbers can have
shades of meaning but, basically, the teams I saw in Mexico
mainly played 4-2-3-1. Germany played a fantastic campaign and could easily have been world champions. France
also gave a very good account of themselves but the
European teams also had to cope with climatic conditions which didn’t exactly work in their favour. There is now
In the technical area during the 2010 European Under-17
Championship final between Spain and England
complete uniformity in playing with a zonal back four – in
Europe and elsewhere. At the U-17 World Cup, even the
African teams played with a flat back four.”
“In midfield,” he adds, “teams are generally coached
to operate with one or two central screening midfielders
and I think that the choice between the two variations is
usually influenced by the quality of the player who is selected for what we might call the No10 role in the central
area behind the main striker. I would say that Spanish
teams have maybe encouraged coaches to think about the
best ways to use the wide areas, because I can see that
more and more teams are focusing on a facet of the
game that we have worked on for many years – the relationships between full-backs and wingers.”
The evolution of wing play is among the most frequently
raised issues in this year’s round of UEFA technical reports.
Spanish teams have been among the frontrunners in terms
of implementing the ‘Messi syndrome’ launched when
FC Barcelona opted to field – in the days before he switched
to his current central role – the left-footed Argentinian
genius on the right wing. This particular trend was underscored at the Under-21 final in Aarhus when Spain and
Switzerland fielded left-footers (Juan Mata and Xherdan
Shaqiri respectively) on their right flanks while right-footers
(Iker Muniain and Innocent Emeghara) operated as leftwingers.
The tendency contributed to a significant change in
attacking patterns. The technical reports on the final tournaments of the men’s Under-17 and Under-19 competitions highlight that none of the open-play goals in the
30 matches played at the two events were headers. At the
Under-17 finals, two free-kicks deflected off defenders’
heads gave Germany a 2-0 semi-final win against the
Danes, while the only other headed goals were the result of
corners. At the Under-19 finals, 1,380 minutes of football
failed to provide a headed goal.
Among possible explanations, a lack of quality crosses
is the most plausible. But the shortage of crosses could be
traced back to the type of players deployed in wide positions in the middle-to-front line of three in the 4-2-3-1
structure. It was also noticeable in both tournaments that,
when crosses were supplied from advanced wide areas,
they tended to be whipped in low rather than lofted. The
proliferation of the ‘Messi syndrome’, with wingers equipped
to cut inside rather than head for the corner flag, has
accentuated the trend towards attacks based on Spanishstyle combination play with the result that the Under-19
report features a provocative question aimed at fuelling
discussions: is aerial ability heading for extinction? How
much of a priority on the training ground, asks the Under17 report, is the development of heading ability among
young attackers?
The Spanish influence has also become visible in the
women’s game, where the Under-17 team coached by
Jorge Vilda took the European title for a second successive
year thanks to the spectacular added-time goal which
earned them a 1-0 victory over France in the final played
in Nyon. In this case, Spanish success is all the more remarkable since the country has fewer than 25,000 registered female players.
“The explanation,” Ginés Meléndez comments, “is that
Ignacio Quereda has built the senior national team on the
same foundations as the men’s teams, and he has been
helped by Angel Vilda, an enormously experienced coach,
whose son Jorge is clever, ambitious and hardworking. They
have built on the same structures as the men’s teams, the
same concepts and the same principles of 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1
formations. What they have achieved is nothing short of
a miracle – and it’s a credit to the coaching philosophy
implanted within the national association.”
When asked to summarise Spain’s successful philosophy, Ginés says “the four pillars are: the quality of coach
education, the structures put in place by the national association for football at youth levels, the fantastic work done
Spain’s Paco Alcácer shoots
at goal undeterred by his
Czech opponent Jakub Brabec
in the European Under-19
Championship final
by the clubs in their youth
teams and the improvements
in facilities. But this is something that requires time. We
have adhered to a well-defined playing style over a
period of years and we’ve
had coaches who have remained faithful to that philosophy. Teodoro Nieto laid
the foundations; then came
Iñaki Sáez and, more recently,
Fernando Hierro as sports
director. They all maintained
the same concepts in terms
of organisation and, most
importantly in my opinion, coach education. I am convinced that the quality of our coach education has been
one of the main factors.
“These days, the young players who report for duty
with the national teams,” Ginés explains, “have already
received an excellent football
education at their clubs. They
have very clear ideas of the
basic concepts that underpin
Spanish football – and that’s
because they have top-quality
coaches who educate them
in the youth leagues. In the
national teams, we have them
for limited periods of time and
we tend to focus on teambuilding rather than training
and education. We therefore
build on the work that’s already been done at the club
Ginés is maybe understating the difficulties inherent in
converting good work at club
level into successful national
teams. “The key factor,” he
explains, “is that there is a
well-defined method of working at the national association which has been in place
for many years and is being
improved and fine-tuned all
the time. Those who join the
coaching staff know that they
have to adapt to a certain
Ginés Meléndez celebrates
Spain’s victory in the
European Under-19
Championship earlier this year
way of working. This means that, even if there are changes
of personnel, the work goes on almost automatically in
the same way. Also, we mustn’t overlook the importance of
the way Spanish youth football is structured, with regional
championships and inter-regional final tournaments in
February and March, when we look at the players and try
to select the right ones for our national teams.”
Ginés insists that the quality of coach education is a
vital prerequisite for advancement. “You can see that in
other European teams,” he comments. “National associations who have been prepared to invest resources in the
development of coach educators are also making great
strides in the development of players and teams. The traditional top countries like Spain don’t expect to win by big
scores any more. The work that UEFA has done in promoting and supporting coach education has allowed a lot of
national associations to get into top gear and make spectacular advances.”
He illustrates that thesis by referring to his first-hand
experience at the European Under-19 finals: “With due
respect to the others, I thought the two best teams reached
the final: the Czech Republic and ourselves. But Serbia,
who played the Czechs in the semi-final, also made a very
good impression. The same applies to Belgium, who played
some very good football. They had the misfortune of playing most of two games with ten – and of playing us twice
in 24 hours. But their concept of collective play was excellent and Marc van Geersom had coached and organised them extremely well.”
Ginés was also impressed with the decision by the Republic of Ireland to appoint Dutchman Wim Koevermans
as high-performance director at the FAI. “In Romania, the
Irish illustrated how much they have progressed since they
recruited Wim to supervise their development projects. They
were strong on collective virtues and were very well organised. Reaching the semi-finals was a great reward for them
and they had the bad luck of meeting us on a very good
day.” Spain’s 5-0 victory earned them a game against the
Czechs in the final and a 3-2 extra-time win to mark Ginés’s
last match in a coaching capacity and round off a fascinating season in UEFA’s youth development competitions.
Getty Images
Pep, Patrice,
André and Albert
Spain, European
Under-21 champions
n the last issue of the UEFA·Technician, we saluted the
coaches who had stepped onto the international podium during the month of May, culminating in the
UEFA Champions League. During the three months
that followed the memorable final at Wembley, five
more UEFA competitions were decided. In addition,
credit is due to Steffen Freund, whose German Under17 team came from 3-1 down to beat Brazil 4-3 and
take the bronze medal at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in
Mexico, to Ilido Vale, who led Portugal’s Under-20 side
to a silver medal during the World Cup in Colombia,
where they lost the final 3-2 to Brazil in extra time, and
to Thomas Dennerby and Bruno Bini, who were on the
benches when Sweden took on France in the third-place
match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany,
where Thomas’s Swedish team won 2-1 to take the
bronze medal.
On the European front, congratulations are due to the
technicians who, in chronological order, stepped on to
the podium to receive the following medals this summer:
European Women’s Under-19 Championship
in Italy
Germany v Norway 8-1
Gold: Maren Meinert
Silver: Jarl Torske
European Under-21 Championship
in Denmark
Spain v Switzerland 2-0
Gold: Luis Milla
Silver: Pierluigi Tami
European Women’s Under-17 Championship
in Nyon, Switzerland
Spain v France 1-0
Gold: Jorge Vilda
Silver: Francisco Rubio
European Under-19 Championship
in Romania
Spain v Czech Republic 3-2 (after extra time)
Gold: Ginés Meléndez
Silver: Jaroslav Hřebík
UEFA Super Cup
in Monaco
FC Barcelona v FC Porto 2-0
Gold: Josep Guardiola
Silver: Vítor Pereira
Editorial Group
Andy Roxburgh, Graham Turner
André Vieli, Dominique Maurer
Layout, Print
CO Créations, Artgraphic Cavin SA
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