UEFA chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu urged delegates to put forward their own ideas and pool their knowledge as he welcomed them to the second pilot UEFA Fitness for Football Seminar.
After the success of the maiden seminar in Oslo in March which involved representatives from 19 countries, a further 17 of UEFA's 54 member associations gathered in Istanbul to share their experiences and know-how with colleagues from across central and south-eastern Europe, as well as a clutch of experts in the field of football-specific fitness.
"In everything that we do, we use the core values of UEFA. There are 11 of them of which 'football first' is the first and most important element. We base all our programmes on that principle," explained Lupescu, before encouraging the participants to be pro-active. "Don't be shy; you should be the ones to challenge us. Put forward your ideas. We want you to be interactive and put questions to our experts."
The former Romanian international laid bare the aims of the four-day seminar, namely to nurture dialogue between coach educators and fitness experts on football-specific themes, which – when followed with a third gathering grouping UEFA's Russian-speaking member associations next year – will serve as the basis for the UEFA Jira Panel to draw conclusions on coach education and football-specific fitness within the European game.
Delegates heard from guest speakers such as the freshly-appointed Turkey coach Fatih Terim and former Real Madrid CF team doctor Luis Serratosa, as well as the German national team's fitness coach Darcy Norman. They also had the opportunity to air their views and compare notes with their colleagues, who come from a range of backgrounds, from fitness coaches to scientists to technical experts.
"That was one of the things that we learned from the first seminar," stated Paul Balsom, one of the UEFA fitness working group members leading the seminar and performance manager of the Swedish national team since 1998, as he solicited answers from each participating member association on the 11-question Fitness for Football survey they had received prior to arriving in Turkey. "One of the things that came out of the feedback was that there wasn't enough interaction between us and you. It's not about an expert standing here, and talking to you. It's about all of us talking together."
They had also been given a paper on fitness education entitled 'Fitness for Football – Reflection on Philosophy', the main tenets of which was discussed at length during the seminar. Andreas Morisbak, who was the Norwegian Football Association's technical director for 32 years, pinpointed the need for football-specific fitness in helping players exploit their talent to the maximum.
"The better physically prepared we are, the better we can use our skill," he explained. "If you're exhausted after ten minutes, you know what happens to the skill level. We need fitness to be able to use our skills throughout the 90 minutes. Fitness for football is one thing, fitness is another. It's not about endurance in general, it's about football endurance. It's not about speed in general, it's about football speed. That's the key thing."
With practical as well as theoretical sessions, participants saw aspects of the philosophy discussed put into practice on the pitch. They will also hear from Professor Jan Ekstrand, first vice-chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, and Luis Serratosa on injury prevention at all levels of football, another important facet in the development of football-specific fitness.
"We want best quality in each and every step of the training process," Sigmund Apold-Aasen, a member of the UEFA fitness working group and director of physiology at the Norwegian Centre of Football Excellence, told the seminar. "What is the right training for you now?: That is the question we should ask. How can we find training methods that lower the risk factors and improve performance?"
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