technique is apt for style

The effects of the conservative and rigid European football mentality have evidently retarded the progress of the African game.

This is particularly notable in nations where there is no established national playing identity. South Africa is such an example.

To play in Europe for "big money" is an irresistible temptation and a huge majority of both African coaches and players would do everything to copy European models of football mainly French, English, German and Portuguese.

The chorus of youth coaches in Africa declare their commitment to no-frills no-tricks basic only technique, strict organisation and high work rate backed up by speed and aggression. This approach would make the players marketable in Europe.

Occasionally some youngsters such as Macauley Chrisantus from Nigeria raise to match the exquisite ability of young Brazilians and Argentinians. Surely, it is not enough from the extraordinary potential of Africa.

Circumstances are such that few have any faith that the current coaching concept and game mentality that persists in many African nations is likely to produce the brand of football that consistently reflects the superlative abilities of inventive African players any time soon.

Instead, if the distorted belief of some coaches and journalists - that even if "ugly" football overrides and devalues skill it still can win competitions - continues, Africa will go backwards.

Experts are of the unanimous opinion that the first and most imperative change in approach must be in the way technique is perceived. If the game mentality of African players (and supporters) recognise the actual magnitude and importance of superior technique as the determinant factor in the ultimate achievement of results, performance standards and entertainment, then we are on the right track.

However, one of the most difficult obstacles in replacing the influence of rigid and non-risk, conservative football in most African countries is the leadership of football administration.

The majority of officials in charge of technical aspects do not have the necessary expertise or the footballing insight because they have neither played nor coached football of a high standard.

They need to be pro-active, enabling change and improvement in the sphere of technical development but with their irrelevant background progress is accidental.

The search for and promotion of indigenous African experts is the critical element in the development of new football trends that can maximise the vast talent on the continent and eventually lead to dominance in international competitions.

In contrast with the few top nations, such as Argentina, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy and Holland - where the progressive football mentality would support quality changes in coaching, if necessary - other countries need to make urgent amends to their whole approach to coaching. With technique being the absolute priority in the latest trend in modern football, the quality and content of coaching must be elevated to a level where ball skills are maximised, a level that is at the same standard, or higher, than what is displayed by the likes of Messi, C Ronaldo, Fabregas, Robinho, etc.

In England, the process of revamping the content of coaching and its structure from "root to branches" proposes, as a first step, radical changes in coaching at youth level - the primary notion being that development of young talent must start earlier.

"Anybody emerging from the 5-10 age group has to be comfortable on the ball."

This is the conclusion of Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's development director and has been fully endorsed by Carlos Alberto, who has extensive knowledge in the field of players' development.

Finally, the point was reached where no one in the game would question the fact that the basics of technique must be developed before the age of 11-12. Anything missing from this objective will undoubtedly hinder the fulfilment of talent.

Carlos Alberto insists: "The aims of coaching youth must be to train from early age to control and keep control of the ball in tight spaces, to develop the intelligence to make the best decisions when to dribble, pass or attempt to score and when to slow or rise tempo.

"It is not wise to tell the kids to win but teach them the skill that will help them to become winners. Most of the time the very young ones should be playing with a ball. Give a ball to each kid, tell him or her to go home and look after the ball and sleep with it even! Let them have as much fun as possible by playing informal small games".

In the next development stage, the youngsters are introduced to extensive training designed to develop perfect technique, aimed at maximising their playing ability. Gradual exposure from the age of 14-15 to competitive challenges becomes as important as the core of technique.

The challenge to those clubs and national teams, particularly in Europe and Africa, that strive to excel by playing inspiring football is to abort the style based primarily on pace and intensity.

Fabio Capello, as the new England manager, admitted that one of his toughest tasks will be "to overcome the 'up and at them' or as some call it the 'blood and thunder' style".

To change it to a style founded on superb skill, ability to control play and pace, improvisation, flair and entertainment is an immensely complex challenge.

The players who can make such a contrasting difference must come from excellently run coaching programmes of the highest technical expertise. A start has been made.

As intermediate solutions, the English have added technique coaches to youth academies and centres of excellence, while in Holland the same concept was introduced in the majority of professional clubs. In Germany, training is enriched with things like creative dancing, ballet and yoga, all for the purpose of elevating players' agility and execution of technique.

Coaching syllabuses are reviewed to make room for useful information regarding the benefits of Under-5 talent discovery criteria, 5-a-side as "the" game for children.

lWatch out for the final part next week.