KEIR RADNEDGE in DUBAI: Anyone seeking answers to the question of how to raise the game of the national team might usefully have listened to FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke here.
Put simply, his recipe is “youth structure,” a message supported by the worldwide tuition and support programmes run by the international federation in cooperation with its regional confederations.
Valcke also stressed the importance for ambitious nations of bringing their best young players up through the domestic game and holding on to them.
He told youth coaches from throughout the Middle East that their work was essential for the long-term health and development of the game in a region brought into football focus by the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
He was speaking at the opening of a FIFA Regional Coaching Workshop. Running until next Saturday, the workshop is a feature of the legacy programme developed around the current Under-17 World Cup finals in the UAE.
Valcke said: “This is an important region for FIFA because near here in 2022 we will have the most important FIFA event, the World Cup, in Qatar. Right up until then football will be centre stage in the Middle East and that’s why this youth coaching work is so important.
“There is no football without young players. Football is about youth and there is no strong national team if there is not a strong youth structure. Germany and Spain are successful because most players are playing [in clubs] at home, not abroad.
“From my own country of France at least 75pc of the national team are playing outside of France. In Germany, of the 23 players who came to the World Cup in South Africa, only one was not playing his club football at the time in Germany.
“This culture of players playing at home is so important. That’s why it’s also important to make sure we have the structures in place in football in the Middle East to give all the youth a chance to play.”
Valcke insisted that the image as FIFA as portrayed in the media ignored the heart of its mission.
He said: “People think that FIFA is just about politics but it’s not about bad stories. We are really all about football. We think football. We work for football and over the last 10 years we have developed initiatives which ensure that football itself is always the most important thing for us.
“For example, in the next budget for 2015 to 2019 we will increase the level of finance for development to make sure we are always putting more money into development this work.”
Valke, who has been representing FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the opening phase of the World U-17 event, was welcomed formally to the UAE by Yousuf Al Serkal, president of the host football assocation and also by Asian federation coaching overseer Islam Akhmetov.
The coaching workshop runs until next Saturday and is a feature of the legacy programme developed around the Under-17 finals.
Participants are 33 coaches of age group national teams from the Middle East with a brief to study topics including “the characteristics of football players, the methodology for coaching young talents, goalkeeping and physical training.”