“A great team will beat a team of champions”. It is an often used phrase in football, but clichéd or not, it is an adage that has been proved correct on countless occasions. It is equally true off the pitch, where collaboration and sharing of knowledge can both empower and contribute to the greater good.
As the world governing body, FIFA are constantly looking at ways to stimulate growth of the game in every corner of the globe. One key area identified for assistance is that of the Technical Director. The Technical Director is a crucial, though sometimes undervalued, element for success of any association. And it is here, even in this specialised field, where teamwork and group effort can pay large dividends.
The Technical Director is in charge of defining and leading the national technical development programmes, and developing long-term strategies in this regard for all aspects of the game, be it grassroots, women’s football, coach education or youth football, and to bring them together in synergy according to the development pyramid. The employment of a Technical Director is compulsory for each Member Association, and FIFA devotes special attention to ensure that their status is always recognised to the appropriate level. With that in mind FIFA are seeking to build an even closer relationship with Technical Directors across the Member Associations through a variety of methods.
The first stage in this process was recent pilot courses held in Malawi and India, conducted by a group of FIFA experts involving invited representatives from those regions. Among the key planned outcomes were gaining an understanding of the many challenges faced by Technical Directors and identifying areas for improvement, particularly in the area of strategy and planning.
The course was split into the following components. Firstly, there were presentations from each participant identifying challenges and support needed. There were also practical sessions with the analysis of the fundamental qualities a Technical Director should have (matches, team training, coach education), and lastly a workshop on the project cycle approach where participants developed a strategy incorporating all relevant elements, including stakeholders, planning, budget and implementation to name a few. Bi-lateral meetings to discuss individually the activities of each Technical Director concluded the courses.
The main teaching tool was a FIFA Handbook for Technical Directors. Though the document is still a draft, the workshops provided a good forum in which to test content and format.
The south-east African nation of Malawi hosted the very first course between 25-29 January. Recently appointed South Africa Technical Director Neil Tovey praised the course and benefits of collaboration. “I learnt a lot this week, especially since I am new in the position,” said the former long-serving Bafana Bafana defender. “The course had a very practical approach, with information from a variety of different backgrounds (both European and African).”
The second course was held in India between 8-12 February focussing on the same objectives and outcomes. “It was a very productive course with the full involvement of the participants, said India Technical Director Scott O’Donell. “Since the state associations play an important part in India, I was also very happy to have the Technical Officers of five of these organisations present.”
There was further praise from fellow South Asian nations, among them Maldives’ Technical Director Mohamed Shiyaz who said: “The course was well structured with a good methodological approach. There was a consistent learning process, with the project cycle as focal point.”
FIFA's Head of Education and Technical Development, Jürg Nepfer added: “The Technical Director in a Member Association is a key person for defining and leading the national technical development programmes, therefore preparing the football of the future.”
The recent courses in Malawi and India are just the start of a process for closer support from the world governing body to its Member Associations. The recent pilot phase and Handbook will be reviewed with the ultimate aim of adapting the most comprehensive approach to achieve an ongoing learning and self-development framework.
A workshop with potential instructors will be take place next month, with roll-out of the programme to commence at the beginning of April, with 10–12 courses over the year.