author: Ted Dumitru
source: Mail & Guardian
date: 7 August 2009
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few days at the headquarters of FC Juventus in Italy and FC Barcelona in Spain.
For some time now my mission has been to search for successful solutions and new developments in the world of football performance that could influence the course of the game in the future. It has been more than a mission -- it has become a passion.
Visiting Juventus and Barcelona was driven by the fact that these two clubs have already introduced unique concepts and solutions potent enough to change or even revolutionise many aspects of football performance. In Barcelona as well as in Juventus, there is this relatively new trend of superior knowledge generated through academic channels, which now required in the performance spectrum of the world's top clubs.
The difference is that, there is a non-compromising ideology about the style identity of FC Barcelona. Arguably the best club in the world today, it has the strictest policy to ensure that the winning features of the most attractive style seen to date remain intact and completely protected from any contrasting influences.
Listening to Barcelona's director of football, Raul Sanllehi, one would agree that many of the unprecedented records and successes of the club are the direct result of innovative and distinct components of its exquisite game mentality. Sanllehi said that by accepting the axiom that ultimately it is the ball that does the work, technique must be perfect. On one of the walls at their offices I saw a slogan that read: "Without the ball, you are stuffed."
It is only when ball-skills are perfect that the most intricate and surprising tactical moves can be applied - in most cases with deadly efficiency. It establishes a superiority in the game to which the opposition - with either an athletic, dynamic, or over-physical approach - will succumb. This was the case in last season’s spectacular victories against Chelsea, Lyon, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester United and such.
Any progressive mind in football would regard Barcelona's technically unique game features as the football of the future. I would even say that, at the moment, what many would perceive to be "modern football" is outclassed and defeated by Barcelona's football of the future. This is wrongly labelled as "attacking football" - it is just optimised football.
Some football journalists and commentators still entertain the idiotic thought that some players and teams take too many passes, too many touches, too much time on the ball or dribble too much. Such ignorant and retrograde statements would provoke nasty reactions at Barcelona.
Any level of coach at the club would convince you that, to outplay and frustrate the opposition, it is imperative that all forms and numbers of passes, dribbling and sustained possession of the ball are available to all the players. They make the decision when there is a need for a one-touch pass or multiple dribbling, passes and ball touches.
I was not surprised when Txiki Begiristain, a former outstanding player and now the technical secretary of the team, told me that the coach, Pep Guardiola, who is generally regarded as a low-profile coaching personality, has, in fact, graduated from the University of Barcelona with an academic coaching diploma, including specialisation in several sport-science subjects. What the team is displaying on the field could be achieved only with advanced coaching knowledge.
One of the leading factors that contributes to maximising performance at the club is the fortunate mixture of Latin American and African talent, which is predisposed to sublime ball touches and disguise, as well as sustained mobility and creativity.
A generator of abundant talent is a school - La Masia - with more than 500 young players between the ages of 12 and 17. Several other academies are established around the world. This excellent programme has made world history by delivering 13 young players to the current squad. The respect for high performance is also illustrated in the quantity and impeccable quality of training grounds, equipment and other support facilities.
Still influenced by the low-risk and simplistic football that dominates, the global audience has only partially embraced the "football of the future" concept as displayed by Barcelona. It will take time, more knowledge and more objectivity from the media.
It should be clear to everybody involved in local football that any progress in today's demanding and sophisticated business of the competitive game imposes advanced solutions. To implement such solutions, the need for expertise based on scientific knowledge is required.
read the full and original article here
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Sunday, 9 August 2009
author: Ted Dumitru