In an interview with UEFA's head of football education services Frank Ludolph at the second UEFA Fitness for Football seminar in Istanbul, Turkey national team coach Fatih Terim told participants he aims to "work in harmony" with his medical staff to keep players fit.
Terim will now combine his functions as coach of Galatasaray AŞ with that of guiding his country after taking on the role for a third time earlier this month. However, the six-time Süper Lig winner told the audience made up of representatives from 17 of UEFA's 54 member associations that while the nature of the work at club and national may be different, his manner in handling fitness issues is set in stone.
"Fitness is a must in football and its importance increases day-by-day," he explained. "My goal is for everyone to work in harmony – in synergy – before, during and after the game. The medical department is a bridge between myself and the players. We prepare training schedules together, look at the minimum risk of injury and maximising performance, including recovery. My medical department works in situations throughout the season, and we co-ordinate and plan short-term and long-term goals. We do all that together."
Terim's modus operandum has brought him and his clubs success, including a UEFA Cup triumph with Galatasaray in 1999/2000, and also fits snugly into the philosophy the UEFA Fitness Working Group is promoting. The driving force behind the seminars, the group had already conveyed exactly that message to delegates in Turkey, just as they had done in Oslo in the maiden pilot seminar last spring and will do so again in a third and final seminar next year.
Terim's emphasis on internal communication was one of the key themes of the seminar, while his focus on not only utilisng specialist knowledge but bringing fitness and medical experts into his working environment to collaborate closely with him was also part of the core message.
"I've preferred to work with specialists throughout my career," explained Terim. "I want feedback on how we monitor situations. We collate this, analyse it and put it into a database, and – as a unit – we decide on how to move forward based on these variables. The medical team are part of my staff."
Terim was just one of a number of high-profile speakers at the seminar, where delegates were initially given an overview of the Fitness for Football philosophy, which highlights the need for football-specific training to help players best express their qualities, before they embarked on a theoretical and practical exploration of the theme.
Professor Jan Ekstrand, first vice-chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, and former Real Madrid CF team doctor Luis Serratosa looked at injury prevention across the football spectrum from elite level to youths, while German Football Association (DFB) fitness coach Darcy Norman co-operated with UEFA fitness working group member Dr Paul Balsom in practical sessions at a nearby third-division stadium where participants could witness football-specific conditioning in action.
Having taken on board feedback following the initial seminar, the seminar concept team also heavily encouraged participants to contribute their thoughts and ideas. Four member associations – Serbia, Israel, Hungary and Malta – were invited to present their strategies for long-term player development within their countries before the final-day sessions looking back on the four days in Turkey and pinpointing the direction of future work in the area.
"It went very well. We have improved from the first one, and I think we learned something here which will be of benefit for the third one," said Andreas Morisbak, a UEFA technical instructor and UEFA fitness working group member, who suggested that putting an end to the perception that the issue can be resolved with a ready-made quick fix may be the seminar's legacy.
"Perhaps too often people want a lesson book of what to do exactly, but for this topic, there isn't one. There are some principles you have to accept and see them through. But you then have to make priorities, and work on them a lot. A learning process is long. The problem for most of us is to set out a plan and stick to it for long enough. Some of the participants want the lesson book, but I hope we changed that way of thinking in the seminar."
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