New Zealand goalkeeping stocks received a boost recently with FIFA Instructor Alexander Vencel in Auckland to lend his expertise to current goalkeepers and goalkeeping coaches alike.
The former Czechoslovakia and Slovakia international visited Auckland to conduct a FIFA Goalkeeping Coaching Course on behalf of New Zealand Football.
The three-day gathering was held at the OFC Academy at Mt Smart Stadium and was attended by 18 representatives from all of New Zealand's seven federations.
Among the attendees were current New Zealand No1 Jenny Bindon, who has since jetted off to London for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, and former All Whites shotstopper James Bannatyne.
Vencel enjoyed an impressive international career between the sticks, representing Czechoslovakia twice, before going on to make 19 appearance for Slovakia between 1994 and 1998.
Now 45, Vencel is charged with implementing FIFA's new goalkeeping programme across the world. "In the past, there was nothing for the goalkeepers," said Vencel. "The problem is that we don't have enough coaches and nobody knows how to train them properly.
"They just get sent off alone to do their own thing at training - that is not the way to produce good goalkeepers. It's a very specialised position and the goalkeeper has a very important role in modern football."
The Slovakian says there is as much talent in the Pacific as anywhere else, with the major challenge being to harness that potential through technical programmes and quality coaching.
"I think Oceania is somewhere near the starting point," said Vencel, who delivered the newly-established FIFA Goalkeeping Course to representatives of all eleven Oceania Member Associations in Auckland last June.
"But if we only have the starting point and nothing else has happened ten years later then there will still be the same issues. That's why the good work that the [OFC] technical department is doing is so important. There are a lot of ideas and programmes for the future and they will be a big help for coaches throughout the Pacific Islands.
"I think we will soon have a new generation of coaches in Oceania and, from this point on, we can start to hope that many good goalkeepers will be produced.
"For me, there is no doubt that Oceania can produce world-class goalkeepers. Maybe it will not be tomorrow but it will happen eventually. Why not? The guys from this region are naturally strong and quick, all that needs to be worked on is the technique and the mental preparation."