Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Neglecting development of the youth means that there will be a heavy price to pay in the future and this malice is not just limited to states but at national level too we face a problem. Blaming the states seem to be taking the easy way out for neglecting what has surely got to be the national body’s pwn weakness in carrying out tasks that were readily documented with all the post mortems, seminars and workshops held over the years.

In order to gain success, the key is to be cleverer than the opposition: in terms of discovering and polishing the skills of the players at the right age, and exposing them correctly. That is in addition of being more tactically astute during each and every match.
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Scouting is a big part of this process, but a good scouting system will not instantly reap dividends or appease impatient fans. One key advantage of having a system to develop talent internally is you can set up the right types of developmental experiences for your high-potential people, and test the extent to which individuals can demonstrate these leadership qualities.

That was what the idea was in developing the National Under 20 team in 2005. Managed by the FAM Deputy President and coached by K. Rajagobal, these were players that were earmarked for the future. The team played some 65 matches in a year, and were given exposure with stints at Slovakia, Australia, Manchester United and Brazil. And in 2007, it took much persuasion from another Deputy President and NSC for the Under 20 team to be fielded in the Premier League as a team, something that is still being practiced.

What impressed me most about this team was their level of fitness as the team was sent to Human Performance Centre, School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences Edith Cown University Perth to undergo fitness testing under the watchful eyes of Prof. Rob Newton in October 2005. The results of the tests were impressive and I quote the report:

Overall the fitness levels of the squad are very good. Endurance, speed and agility were excellent. However, strength levels were quite low. Specifically for the different areas of fitness:

Endurance: Endurance levels appear to be excellent across the squad.

Speed: This area is excellent and compares very favourably to other squads we have
tested and to previously published data.

Agility: Agility (or the ability to change direction) seems to be very good in most players and consistent in both directions, with players having both good planned and reactive agility scores.

Strength: Strength levels are quite low in the squad.

Power: Overall jumping ability and power (explosiveness) is slightly below average.

Following Arsene Wenger's logic, and the precedents set elsewhere, the 22 age ratio is the make-or-break age. If you are not featuring by that age, your future at a top club looks grim. Before that age, and players may suddenly come on in leaps and bounds. It's rare for 17/18-year-olds to be ready for first team football - they are the exceptions, not the norm. Wayne Rooney was two years younger than Steven Gerrard when he broke through; it doesn't make Gerrard inferior.

The Government needs to invest in grass roots level, and I can give a number of reasons for them to do so. For investing at grassroots means providing employment for qualified coaches, good facilities which include the playing fields and equipment.

Those in authority also need to promote the idea of small sided games. As coaches, the main focus of the coaching courses is small sided games (i.e. six-a-side, seven-a-side). Thus, if qualified coaches are employed in youth football they can impart their knowledge on the club they are working with.

I hope that this makes some sense to those who are responsible.