Sunday, 6 July 2014

Its not just the South Americans who have small balls

Apparently the reason why the South American countries in general have excellent technical ball skills is futsal and the use of a smaller ball with less bounce.

It has appeared in many World Cup articles that many of the South American's played futsal first with the 'magic' ball that helps train a good first touch, close control and quick feet.

Futsal is a great game and I presume it came about mainly because of the lack of good eleven aside grass pitches. A small sided game that could be played on any small hard surface with a ball to suit. As it is generally 5v5 the players get more touches, make decision making, passes, dribbles, shots and tackles.
It is a great example of how a perceived weakness- lack of eleven a-side grass pitches- can become a strength - lots more people playing with a ball that helps develop skill.

It does not matter how much money you chuck at something, the most simple ideas that everyone has access too are often the best. Anytime, any place, anywhere football.

In the days of street football in this country, predominantly a working class game, few people could afford a proper leather football but luckily there was a much smaller alternative available to the masses of children footballers playing up and down the land -the humble tennis ball.

Unlike the futsal ball is was not designed for the game but purely used because it was affordable. It had incredible bounce and was difficult to control because of its size. That is why it was such a great tool in improving technique and touch.

Bobby Charlton, very much a member of the establishment and someone who would not be in favour of rocking the boat said of the 1966 world cup.

"The World Cup in 1966 was not won on the playing fields of England, it was won on the streets."

A game organised, played and controlled by children using a ball they adopted from another sport.
This is as far from the adult game as you can get.

At the top level in youth football you need some structure and qualified coaches.
For all the money spent on the new complex at Burton, in terms of fun, accessibility, and development there is an awful lot to be said for the jumpers for goalposts, no substitutes, next goal wins, game that was the children's game.

“It wasn’t ideal but, looking back, those games with the tennis ball really helped develop my ball skills. The size of the tennis ball meant that I had to concentrate when it was at my feet. When shooting, I had to hit it just right, otherwise I might not make contact at all. As a consequence, my foot to eye coordination improved immeasurably and my general ball technique came on in leaps and bounds. When I came to play for the school with a proper leather football, I found making contact with the ‘sweet spot’ relatively easy.”

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Importance of childhood play - Tommy Smith - ex Liverpool & England

Tommy Smith, the great Liverpool football legend, in his excellent autobiography – ‘Anfield Iron’, talks a great deal about his childhood and how important it was in his development as both man and footballer and the need for rules.
“I am sure those games instilled in me and my pals a sense of responsibility and a notion that one had to adhere to rules in life if you were not to spoil things for other people.
We had no referee to apply the rules of the game. When a goal was scored we restarted the game with a kick off from what passed as a centre spot. When a foul was committed, a free kick was taken and no one took umbrage.

We seemed to accept that if anyone did not play by the rules of football, the game would be spoiled for everyone.
Those games played without supervision taught us that you can’t go about doing just what you wanted because there are others to think of. Of course it was not a conscious thought at the time, but these kick-abouts on the bomb site taught us the rules of society and prepared us for life.”

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Which is more difficult a volley in the World Cup Final or a volley in a kids kick about down the park?

If Messi/Ronaldo/Neymar were on the edge of the penalty area and the ball bounced up nicely they would volley it high into the roof of the net without a second thought as they don't have to retrieve the ball from a thicket of nettles and their only focus is to score a goal.
It is a lot more complicated down the park with a pile of coats or jumpers for goalposts.
If you kicked into the imaginary net where Messi/Ronaldo/Neymar had scored, some players would have said the ball would have gone over the bar or around the post or both!
So you first had to bring the volley both in and down a bit.
Those in the know would also give the keeper hope and the perfect goal was not hit too hard so that the keeper still had a 30% chance to get his finger tips to it and decide that goalkeeping was fun and would stay in goal for the remainder of the game and not take your precious position out on the pitch. It also meant the ball would not go too far a distance to be retrieved.
If you blasted the ball and you had no nets, the beaten keeper - hands on hips, would extract some revenge by looking at where the ball had landed, some 100 yards away and then look at you and spit out;

“You can get that!”

You always had to give him hope so that he would not trudge off disconsolate with his ball.
This was an incredible skill to master – technique, psychology, and diplomacy, all in one volley.

Now that's talent!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Free v Free

Free v Free
With the World Cup in progress in Brazil it is a fitting time to reflect on why football is such a popular game. Although football is now a billion pound industry awash with money, the real reason why it is the world game is that it is so very easy to organise and play and it is free.
All you need is some players, something for a ball and makeshift goals. What you see will see at the World Cup final is essentially the same as what is also played in a backstreet in Ghana.

The NCFA are running a children's football week from 19th -27th July celebrating football in its simplest form.
We are running various FREE football events and encouraging everyone to take part whether it be 1v1 balloon football in the bedroom or a 2v3 World Cup in the garden. Everyone can get involved in some way or other.

The theme this year is Football & Peace during the centenary year of the most important football game ever played during the Christmas truce in 1914 when despite butchering each other only hours before, given the opportunity reverted to childhood and played a game of football that they played as children, two teams, jackets for goalposts and a ball. The same game that is played worldwide by children in the playgrounds, streets, parks and waste ground.

Sadly many children in this country have been priced out of playing the game as joining a club can be expensive and then there is no guarantee that they will get a game. With the huge rise in traffic and the fear of stranger danger, street football and even kick about's in the park are becoming rarer.
The majority of football for children is now organised by adults and normally there is a cost involved.

With the advent of the Premier League whole swathes of the population have been priced out of watching football live and sadly that is being mirrored by the struggle of many parents to pay for their children to even play.

It is somewhat ironic that children in some of the most desperate places on the planet have access to free play and free football while the more affluent a country becomes the less access there is to play.

Free play, on their own terms, is the right of every child and the National Children's Football Alliance would like to make a plea to the government, FA, Premier League and any organisation that can make a difference to do more in making sure more children have access to free football.

Everyone can do something. A parent can take their children down the park for a kick about and ask other parents to bring their children and meet say once a fortnight. It is in everyone's power to do something.
What can you do?