It was in Japan that I renewed my friendship with Dell. We were not on speaking terms for almost three years...well in order to break the ice, he gave me a slap! hahahaha
THE Japan FA yesterday shared their recipe for success with Malaysia - a combination of hard work, high-quality coaches at grassroots level and a sound development programme which offers a schoolboy up to 600 competitive matches by the time he finishes high school.
The six-man FAM delegate were given a low-down on how the rising sons of Asia have evolved into a footballing force after launching their youth development system in 1980.
FAM assistant secretary Yap Nyim Keong, head of academies Datuk Paduka Ahmad Basri Akil, director-general of education Datuk Shukor Abdullah and FAM director of coaching Ronald Smith, FAM council member Dell Akbar Khan and national Under-19 coach B. Sathianathan were briefed by three JFA personnel.
The three are JFA director of coaching Kohzo Tashima, head coach of the regional development JFA youth system, Tetsuaki Tsukuda and chief staff of planning department at J-League Takehiko Sano. The study group also took the opportunity to visit the Japan organising committee for the 2002 World Cup Korea-Japan (JAWOC). They were hosted by JAWOC deputy general secretary Hiroshi Ushijima.
These are the steps taken by JFA to improve their standards.
* They send coaches to Europe for 10 days or two weeks to training camps for training centre coaches. For example, they will spend several days in Holland, France, Germany and England to update their knowledge;
* There is no youth league but the schools play among themselves in a very competitive environment via several tournaments lined up for them throughout the year;
* Altogether, there are nine regional training centres and 47 prefecture training centres and district training centres all over Japan.
* In many prefectures and districts they already have one group of about 30 players in each age group for Under-12 right up to Under-18;
* The aim of the training centre system which began in 1980 were:
i) to identify the most talented players in the country in each age group and to mould them into creative players;
ii) to practise the consistent, systematic coaching based on the coaching guide which is used by all football coaches in Japan (from professionals right up to school teachers;
iii) to raise the standard and the ability of the coaches and to introduce and to spread information to each region;
* There are three age categories - Under-17, Under-14 and Under-12 and there are four categories of training from district training centre which is held several times a month and followed by approximately once a month at the 47 prefecture training centres and several times a year at the nine regional training centres culminating with five days a year at the national training centre in Shizuoka.
* They choose the 16 best players from each region from all categories. So there are 144 players from each age category.
* The Japan school system are made up of three levels - primary (age six-12), junior high school (13-15) and high school (16-18). The players in each category play up to 80-100 matches a year and by the time they leave school they will have played 600 matches.
WHAT THEY OBSERVED
RONALD SMITH (FAM director of coaching)
I gained some accurate information on developments behind the scene from the people who matter most - the coaches at grassroots level. (Tetsuaki) Tsukuda is not only a member of the JFA technical comittee but also the head coach of the nine regions under the JFA youth system. Interestingly, (Kohzo) Tashima, who is the JFA director of coaching, coaches the national Under-15 side as well. I wouldn't know of such arrangements if I hadn't come here. This, inevitably, gives them the credibility as they get to practise what they preach. They are well-informed young coaches who are up-to-date in their knowledge of modern soccer. Not someone out of touch who keeps harping on what they did 10 years ago. Tashima and Tsukuda are doing two jobs at the same time. Not only are they involved in coaching youngsters, they are also heavily involved in producing a new generation of high-quality coaches. These young coaches participate actively in developing football by giving input to the JFA coaching structure. We found out just how much schoolboys in Japan play football. Tsukuda told us most schoolboys in Japan play up to a 100 matches a year, most of us were startled by the figure. But this reinforces in my mind what needs to be done to find a way to enable our youngsters to play soccer competitively for a longer period. Once the system is in place, the next step is to identify talent. People might say playing 100 games could be detrimental to a schoolboy's overall progress but just take a look at the current Japanese Olympic side. They are the flagship of the system. It's a matter of either you overdo it or you give them just enough matches to improve. But in our case, we should push the players to play as many matches as possible.
DATUK AHMAD BASRI AKIL (FAM head of academies)
WHAT we gathered was that we need cooperation from all quarters. We need the large participation of the public, the parents, the teachers, coaches, schools, institutes of higher learning and the relevant authorities. Secondly, we must put our heart and soul into implementing the policies. JFA even have a mission statement to push everybody towards the same direction to set long-term targets. They are already talking beyond the 2002 World Cup. To me, the study tour is not a waste of time. We used to beat Japan in the 70s when we were more concerned with the threat posed by South Korea. Now Japan have attained a certain measure of success. So we need to find out for ourselves the reason for the recipe behind the success. And despite the success, Japan face difficulties in financing the development projects. In that sense, we are luckier as Malaysia have the financial muscle and the resources. The issue here is whether we can go ahead with the implementation on a full scale.
DATUK SHUKOR ABDULLAH (Director general of education)
Ron Smith (left) and the late Dr Shukor (second from left) and Ahmad Basri (right)...in the background behind the lady is Zainal Abidin Rawop
WE will definitely look into organising more competitive matches among schoolboys. Frankly, I believe interest in soccer among today's generation has dwindled resulting in a smaller base of players at school level. We are extending the annual Malaysian School Sports Council (MSSM) calendar to allow the players to play competitive soccer for a longer period. For example, Fourth Formers can play several short tournaments in August. Last year, we launched a championship among premier schools. Next year, we are coming up with an inter-school league to create wider interest in soccer. This competitive environment will definitely improve our standard. At the moment, we are also contemplating having one officer at the education district office to coordinate all soccer activities at district level.
DELL AKBAR KHAN (FAM council member)
THE fact that the J-League imposed certain conditions for aspiring clubs to become members indirectly force them to put greater emphasis on youth development. For example, a J-League team structure must consist of a first team, a reserve team, a young team (Under-18), a junior youth team (Under-16) and a Under-12 side. So these teams must operate under a unified system for fostering players in order to produce as many calibre players as possible. We bemoan the lack of facilities but I believe one way to compensate for the lack of football fields in KL is by letting two or three schools share one pitch.
Of course the trip was an eye-opener for me...