Against the backdrop of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, FIFA held a regional course for youth coaches between 20 and 27 June in Istanbul. Above all, the goal was to exchange views with European coaches and pass on the latest methods, which the participants could then implement in their own teams. Coaches and technical directors from nine different nations in addition to hosts Turkey took part in the seminar, which was the first of its kind.
"We made a point of organising this seminar during the World Cup because it was necessary for participants to feel the event and football in general, and to understand how FIFA works," said Jean-Marie Conz, Senior manager for the FIFA Technical department and former coach and player at Swiss side Young Boys, as well as the organiser of the course.
The accent was placed equally on practice and theory during the event, with activities including FIFA U-20 World Cup match analyses at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, technical exercises, fitness exercises and case studies. "Lots of coaches have trouble structuring a training session," said FIFA instructor Piet Hamberg – a former technical director at Liverpool's youth academy – who oversaw the seminar along with Conz. "With that in mind, we taught them different methodologies, on big and small pitches and with two or four goals etc. The second issue we identified is the difficulty of finding solutions in training for a problem that becomes apparent during a match. We worked on that as well."
'Observe and keep the best'
The group worked on the practical side of coaching on pitches provided by Galatasaray, and with the help of youth players from Buyuksehir Belediyespor. "The main question for me was to find out how to produce top-quality players of the future," said Lithuania U-17 coach Rokas Garastas, the youngest participant at the seminar. "We're learning methodologies that we'll have to adapt to our own countries. Because everyone is different, you have to observe and keep the best for your own individual culture."
When it came to the theoretical component, the organisers decided to broaden their scope beyond purely technical issues to demonstrate the wider impact that football development can have. Manuel Navarro was thus invited to speak about referees and Mario Bizinni addressed the medical aspect, while Tino Brantschen, Mixu Paatelainen and Muhsin Ertugral of the FIFA Technical Study Group also gave talks. "This seminar was very thorough because it didn't just deal with the technical side of football but also looked at its social role," commented Guven Erdil of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF). "We were given a clear vision of football for the future."
Meanwhile, the highlight for the coaches – who hailed from Cyprus, Estonia, the Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, FYR Macedonia, Malta and Turkey – was the chance to learn practical lessons on the training pitch. "We held two sessions relating to matches here in Istanbul and we split everyone into groups," explained Conz. "One group had to identify the mistakes made by the teams and demonstrate them to us on the pitch the following day. The other group had to observe the four teams and summarise what they learned. We repeated the exercise two days later and it was very pleasing to note how much progress was made. We enjoyed fantastic interaction with these top-level coaches, and that's the heart of football."
The participants themselves echoed that sentiment, with Garastas full of praise for the organisers. "They explained everything to us with passion and that's exactly what we needed because we're passionate as well," he said, while Necat Gurpinar, in charge of development at the TFF, added: "We appreciated the experience of Jean-Marie Conz and Piet Hamberg as well as their communication methods because they really approach things like coaches, and as a result everyone understood them."
'That's what's essential'
The group were also given a privileged opportunity to observe and analyse a France team training session up close. "The French were kind enough to open their doors to us," said Conz. "Everyone enjoyed that because you're no longer in the realm of theory when you're seeing how things happen in reality on a pitch."
Afterwards, both the organisers and participants seemed to come away pleased with the week's activities. "This course also showed us that FIFA has a human approach, and that it's not just about winning – respect, fair play and team spirit are just as important," said Gurpinar. "Everywhere you looked, there were technical directors and coaches of national teams, people who work at the highest level and former players," added Erdil. "There was a lot of interaction, understanding and respect between everyone."
As for Garastas, he was thrilled by the experience, and especially how it will benefit him in the future. "I've already started putting everything together to adapt it to my own country," he enthused. "I can't wait to apply everything I've learned here." Clearly there was much for the organisers to be satisfied with, and the insightful Hamberg summed the event up perfectly in retrospect. "We wanted the participants to leave thinking 'I'm a slightly better coach after this seminar,'" said the Dutchman. "We worked on the theory and practice of training sessions and we saw huge progress made in the space of just a few days, with a lot of information passed on. That's what's essential."