In my search for an answer to the question” What makes countries successful in football”, I started in the first article with the conclusion that the the way football is organized makes a big difference.
The successful countries have a thriving club structure and do not rely on the school system to develop the sport.
In succesful countries, small or large, there is always a stream of talents that comes through and is able to compete at the highest level. They have developed all the instruments required for top level football. In football that means technical ability, physical strength, tactical insight and the motivation and passion to become the best.
I believe that everywhere in the world there is potential football talent. Boys or girls born with natural talent for sport in general.
The importance and popularity of a particular sport will determine which way the talented individual will go.
In a football mad country like Argentina it is most likely that the most natural gifted persons will go towards the number one sport, football. In the USA these natural gifted people probably chose between other bigger sports like American football, basketball or baseball.
The environment is a big factor not only in which direction a player will go but also how well a player can develop himself.
In Uruguay the baby football league gives children the chance to play regular games from age 6. The teams play at young age already many competitive games. The baby football league is by everyone regarded as the base of their succes.
The games also have a social function. It has become a place for the parents to meet while they they watch their children play. This all contributes to the fact that the football is a place to be.
In Belgium I experienced the same. From age 5 the players can join the amateur clubs. These clubs are often a social meeting point where football is the common focal point. The Belgium FA organizes a full program for all ages almost every weekend. At a young age the games are 5 against 5 to stimulate the involvement and to have a lot of contact with the ball. Later they play 7 against 7 before they move to 11 against 11. If players are on the field a lot and play football they will automatically develop their skills. If the environment is also full of knowledge, feedback and advice, the development of the players will accelerate.
In many Asian football mad countries the potential talent is not so fortunate. There are no regular leagues, certainly not at young age, and because of that the potential talents have a late start in their development proces. If this is delayed by 6-8 years it is impossible to catch up even for a big country with a lot more potential talent.
This explains why well organized countries with a good development program like Belgium (12 million inhabitants), Uruguay (3,5 million) and even Iceland (350.000) are outperforming big countries with less organized programs or no program at all.
It is a natural law that nature and nurture are going hand in hand.
A big country with a good youth development program will always deliver more talent than a small one. But a small country with a full football pyramid from age 5-19 that is able to organize regular competitions for all ages and also is able to let the players play with and against their own level will out perform the big countries who don’t have the same organization.