It is now more then one and a half years since I left the Netherlands to work abroad. First I went to Indonesia to become the technical director of the Indonesian FA. This was a different role in football compared to head coach. I am always interested to gain more knowledge and better insights in the secret of successful teams or organizations. In my new role I was automatically forced to look deeper in to these successes and what was the basis for it.
In my search I looked at countries like Germany, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and the South American powerhouses like Brazil, Argentina and lately Chile. And also the opposite, how is it possible that big and ambitious countries like England, America and the Asian countries where football is highly popular cannot make the last step to the worlds elite.
Small countries like Belgium and Chile for instance produce enough top players to win championships or go to number one in the FIFA ranking. Why can England and for instance Japan or South Korea not make the last step at this moment?
If you look at successful teams you look at teams with talented players. Good players who have all the skills required to compete in todays top-level football.
Todays game demands a lot from players. They have to possess a good technique and insight of the game. They also need to have the power and the stamina to win games and competitions. And above all they have to be team players. No small task in this competitive environment.
In successful countries there seems to be a constant stream of players good enough to fulfill all the requirements. How come? And why have other football-mad countries no such stream of ever-developing talents?
Leaving my country brought me new experiences which opened my eyes towards the broader picture of football worldwide. In Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia there is not the same strong organization in football, there are far less facilities and fewer help from authorities to help to improve the football standard. There is also far less knowledge and simple understanding of what is needed to become successful. The potential talent has no chance to develop itself in the same way as talented players in Europe and South America can. There is simply no staircase for them to obtain all the skills required for top level.
In such an environment you always see opportunists grabbing a piece of the football pie. They create their own empires with their own methods. This creates a fragmented football-landscape without a clear identity or philosophy that is needed to create a common strategy to develop young players for the future.
In countries that rely on youth development through the school system, like England and Japan, the same happens. In the schools football is obviously not a priority. They never select the best coaches or invest in scouting. In this situation the best players or not playing with the best players and are not competing against the best players. Potential top players who are in the wrong school will never have the chance to reach their full potential.
It is now fully clear to me that countries with a strong club and league structure are the countries who are successful at the present. Next time I will give my thoughts on why countries are successful and what todays requirements are to be successful.