It is well known that the primary assets of any football club are the players. They are the capital assets of the club, the goods they can exchange to get other assets. Football clubs, as opposed to most other institutions, have the enormous capacity of searching for and building up these assets, turning them into cherished sums of money that accrue in the form of capital. A club with good players is very liable to be closer to achieving success at sports – and is also likely to get a larger amount of offers from companies willing to jump onto the bandwagon of
this success. There are several lines of reasoning and deductions that can be derived from this. I believe what a club is paying for when it purchases a high-performance player is, generally speaking, the player’s track record and current sports performance. However, when considered from a more specific point of view, the player’s sporting technique, in other words, his coordination skill applied to this sport, is of superlative value. While technical quality is one of the various resources available to a player during the competition, it is worth noting he will be more highly valued and sought after the more closely associated he is to defining results. For over half a century Argentina and Brazil have been exporting this technical expertise, not only with the sale of players who have already made a name for themselves. There are countless operations involving 14 and 15 year-olds, which, for different and most convenient reasons, do not attain the media repercussions of contracts involving older and more experienced players. It is worth remembering that when Messi signed his first contract with the Barcelona F.C., he was only 13 years of age. When it is declared and recognised that so-and-so is an extraordinary player, I believe a large part of the praise is the recognition of his technical capacity. However, fans are fully aware of
the fact that this player has other conditions that are equally excellent. I believe supporters still marvel at the beauty of the technique displayed by some players when invited to take part in the wonderful display of football.
What other quality could cut deeper into the heart and sensitivity of fandom? Sporting technique is far from plentiful nowadays. The reasons for this are varied and I shall not stop to analyse them in depth. I would like to mention, though, that for our children today, football as a game is simply one of so many options on the extensive menu provided by the leisure activities industry. It should not be forgotten that sports techniques are a capacity born and developed by exercising, and the time during childhood not devoted to practising sport, at an age when there is still time to instil this skill, can never be recovered. At the age of 30 a person can learn and even improve their sports techniques. There is no doubt of this. It is just that by that time the age for becoming a professional football player has gone for good. Football technique takes a great deal of dedication. Years, days, hour upon hour. And the more hours devoted to it, the more probabilities they will have of acquiring greater technical expertise. The truth is, nothing is acquired by mere spontaneity. The inherited culture and values of a society, the singularity of each history created in the heart of the family, and the game as the motivating force in the learning process, are elements to some extent responsible for the attainment of a technique for excellence consecrated as a virtue in elite players.
The social environment, culture and values Living in a country like Argentina where football, statistically speaking, clearly outstrips any other sports discipline, even to the extent of relegating other equally interesting expressions and activities of cultural life to a position of scant or relative consumption, in addition to the
historical value allocated to the distinctive technique of our own identity in our football-loving culture, it easy to understand why the attraction and almost inevitable choice of a child will practically always tend towards this sport. Against the background of this social framework characterised by the strong influence exercised by football, the number of children who practise this sport is categorically overwhelming. The same thing happens in Brazil. Wherever you go you will always see people playing football. How can it be held, then, that the technical quality eventually acquired is not closely related to the number of children that practise this sport, and to the social value attributed to this skill? When a child is born in Argentina. what other sport could he play?
The family environment, the source of the passion for football It is not just any child that devotes all his free time to playing football. Football or anything else, for that matter. One rarely comes across a boy who does not like football. The great majority of boys practise this sport. But it is not just any boy who plays all day every day. And here is where the main difference begins. When we discover one of these special cases, we immediately wish to inquire into what drives him to practise in that way, silently, relentlessly, and yes, I would say, unboundedly.
This internal strength, often foreign to the child’s own will, is known as passion. It is this passion that has taken hold of this boy in the form of an unconscious yearning. Football is now his sole aim and also the very purpose of his existence, for there is no longer any feeling of exhaustion, or any time of day that could be viewed as a constraint. We would not be mistaken in saying that it is in the singularity of the family event where this
passion for football is sparked. For often clinging so passionately to this sport is what actually saves this child. Education in playing With the influences created in the child’s social and family environment, the game is another of the features that contribute decisively to practising and developing the technique. I believe any educational endeavour seeking to be successful should include playing as a teaching tool. Playing is the setting par excellence in which a child unknowingly exercises this skill. To him playing is simply playing. I once heard a teacher say: when a child is a child he has to play. His world is centred on playing. If, for instance, a trainer is in charge of a group of 8-year olds who want to be football players, and during one of the classes he gets them to run for 20 minutes to train them, it is because he believes he is gaining time in this way. The boys will no doubt do it because they, in turn, believe this is the way to become better football players. And, the truth is, these boys will be doing no harm to their health because of the physical duress, even though the training may feel hard. What could be detrimental to them, though, is the time wasted doing things that have no value at all at that age. Absolutely none. Not even value for the future. What can never be recovered is the time wasted that could have been devoted to developing their coordination skills, which are intimately linked to technique.
Nothing could be truer than this teaching
Prof. Roberto A. Rodrigo
Football Coach – Technical Director
Buenos Aires, December 27th, 2008.
All rights reserved.
Translated by Elizabeth Birks