The UEFA Champions League knockout stages are notable for a fascinating mix of coaches – from talented youngsters to experienced, battle-hardened veterans. This blend is highlighted in the latest edition of the official UEFA coaching newsletter, UEFA•technician.
In his column, UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh speaks of the coaches as an interesting combination of mature statesmen, those in coaching's golden age and a younger generation of high-fliers.
Half of the 16 coaches are over 50 years of age, while the others, excepting Valencia CF's 39-year-old Unai Emery, are in their forties. José Mourinho (Real Madrid CF) and Josep Guardiola (FC Barcelona) stand proud among the latter group, while Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC) and Louis van Gaal (FC Bayern München) represent the longer-standing set.
Roxburgh emphasises that while the coaching elite will always need new blood, fresh ideas and new energy – because football must continue to develop – there are coaches who mature like vintage wines, and who demonstrate that wisdom and experience are essential for success at football's higher levels. Longevity, he says, should be celebrated, and Sir Alex Ferguson is one outstanding example of a survivor – and a winner.
Japanese coach Takeshi Okada – the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Coach of the Year in 2010 after taking Japan to the FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa – gives a fascinating interview. He talks about coping with pressures from media and public alike, the support of his family, and the need to have interests outside football in order to switch off. Okada also discusses the blissful moments of triumph or satisfaction as a key positive element of his job, as well as the universal popularity of the UEFA Champions League.
The work being undertaken by UEFA in the technical field comes under the spotlight. The UEFA Coaching Convention (or UEFA Convention on the Mutual Recognition of Coaching Qualifications) now involves all of UEFA's 53 member associations at Pro, A or B level, and is helping to raise the standard of coaching across the continent. In addition, the innovative UEFA Study Group Scheme sees national associations share expertise and technical know-how in areas such as grassroots women's football, elite youth development and coach education.
During the summer of 2011, and with the UEFA Executive Committee's backing, a student exchange programme will begin on the coach education front. The project aims to give Pro licence students opportunities for international knowledge exchange and also direct access to UEFA tutors and content as part of their education. The UEFA•technician explains the background to this programme.
Emulating the fruitfulness of youth development schemes such as that operated by Barcelona is not easy. Another UEFA•technician article illustrates that there is no quick-fix route, yet the role model offered by the Spanish club – which supplied all three nominees for the recent FIFA Ballon d'Or award – presents a challenge to other clubs wishing to invest in the nurturing of young players.
The newsletter also examines developments and trends in the European national-team and club competitions – will the single striker role remain predominant? Will effective counterattacking remain the key to breaking down opposing defences? Is Spain's possession play a way forward for the future? UEFA EURO 2012, as the article says, will certainly also underline the crucial importance of national-team football in terms of a country's national and footballing identity.
Finally, tribute is paid to Enzo Bearzot, the man who led Italy to the 1982 World Cup title – a coaches' coach and a true gentleman.
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