There is a reason that players like Pele, Messi, Maradona, Cruyff and Best stand out when anyone is discussing football, and that is because they could and can do things other players can’t. All have or had an innate ability to see passes others didn’t and what is more make them. Most of their skills were honed not through rigorous training programs when they were kids, but through simply playing with friends on the the streets or in a park. These may be special cases but the principals are the same. The more a young player plays the more he will develop as a player.
There are several football clubs who are admired around the world for the structure they give their players when they sign them, for example Ajax Amsterdam. Here the club has every team play a set formation and style, so every player learns and knows his role in that team. It has produced many great players over the years and brought the club success domestically, but it has been a long time since the club has been able to lift a trophy outside of the Netherlands.
This is an area where many have concerns in relation to the FFA’s new National Premier League program, where it is stated that clubs are required to adopt the National Curriculum. It has not yet been made clear how far this ‘adopting’ must go, but it runs the risk of homogenising football in this country and stifling natural flair. This has already been witnessed in some areas where players exhibiting the individual skill to beat an opponent have been chastised by the coach for not turning and playing a simple pass.
Football is meant to be exciting and no fan would ever want to see every team playing a similar style and formation. The game is after all a battle. A battle of tactics between the two coaches as to who can unlock the other’s defences and score. A battle between the players individually and as a team. You want to perform better than your opposite number and often it will be moment of intuition that will see you end up the victor rather than something out of a coaching manual.
There are some sports where technique is everything, along with fitness and strength, such as rowing, along with other sports where equipment is a key component. Football has a structure yes, but it is the freedom within that structure that makes the game so special. That must be allowed to continue to exist just as Coaches must be allowed to prepare their teams the way they see fit, and not forced to do it the way some book tells them. Dictatorships have won very little in football and football has often been used to rebel against such regimes, long may that continue.
There is no doubt attention needs to be giving to coaching standards but the style of play should not be dictated to from the games ruling body, and let us hope that this is not what is intended.