Wide Of the Mark?

February 4, 2015 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

They say that winning changes everything and that would appear to be very much the case with SBS football pundit Craig Foster.

Foster’s heated debate on SBS’s the World Game when current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was the national junior coach is one of Australian television’s most famous on air stoushes. In it he was demanding the coach resign following his team’s failure to qualify for the Youth World Cup.

Now in a column on The World Game website following the Socceroos Asian Cup victory he stated “the last year should also put to rest the debate on results, at both senior and youth level. Yes, we love to win, but all our national youth teams are learning to play and the benefits of this will be long lasting. Like the Socceroos, the short-term pain will see long-term gain. Every coach must be accountable for the performances and development of the team, but the fixation on only results should be behind us, thank god.” Talk about a 360 degree turnaround.

Foster then credits the National Curriculum for the success at the Asian Cup. He believes that it was the curriculum that convinced Ange Postecoglou to play a 4-3-3 system. According to Foster, “we just won the Asian Cup with the Curriculum. High pressing, winning ball back as quickly as possible, effective possession of the ball (meaning playing forward where possible), the 1-4-3-3 system of play. It’s all there. Hopefully, arguments are now at an end and we can move on to improving the national plan with everyone on board. There is a massive amount of work to do. Without complete integration from top to bottom, we beat ourselves before we begin.”

The formation had more to do with Ange Postecoglou’s mush talked about “Vision,” the way the coach likes to see the game played and has shown that initially at South Melbourne, then at Brisbane Roar. Postecoglou, was struggling though to find the players capable of playing the way he wanted at international level, and that is what he was learning through all of the friendlies in the past year; although he had many of us worried. In fact if you look at the squad that Postecoglou picked very few of the players in that squad would have had any dealings with the national Curriculum. Of the younger players Luongo was in England playing with Tottenham and was missed by clubs in Australia. Tomi Juric was developing his game in Croatia before coming back to Australia and signing with Adelaide United, while Jason Davidson was in Japan and then Portugal.

A curriculum should exist purely to teach the rudimentary skills such as trapping,passing and heading a ball. Beyond that it will in fact hold Australian football back. Sadly no one wants to look at examples around the world to learn this lesson.

In 1978 Brazil appointed Claudio Coutinho as coach. He was a theorist of football. He was multilingual, and had studied the history and tactics of football. He deliberately tried to copy the Dutch system following their destruction of Brazil at the World Cup in 1974. He soon found out that football is about more than theory in a manual. Brazil ended fourth in the World Cup losing to Poland while Argentina who stuck to their own style and principles lifted the World Cup. In the ’80’s Brazil reverted to their natural style, but focussed on working on their defence.

England are a nation who have not seen success on a football field for close on 50 years. They too are bemoaning the structural coaching system that they adopted, as the system has failed to produce anyone close to the skills of a Glenn Hoddle or Paul Gascoigne. That natural flair and skill has been coached out of players, or if not they have been rejected as having a discipline problem, not doing what the coach has instructed.

The same is happening in Australia and via the National Youth League and NTC systems, “natural” footballers creativity has been crushed. Seriously would we be extolling the performances of Luongo, Juric or Davidson if they had come through the Australian Curriculum?

Mr Foster is playing politics when he says the Curriculum is the reason for Postecoglou and the team’s success. Is he trying to deflect some of the glory from Postecoglou? Maybe, but ultimately all he has done is damage his credibility.

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