Monday 22 November 2021, 16:00

Talent Development workshop looks at ways of supporting all MAs to reach full potential

  • Technical experts want to support MAs reach full potential

  • Long-term planning and stability seen as essential

  • Discussions were based on FIFA report on the global talent development system

High performance specialists and FIFA regional technical consultants from around the world have met in Portugal to look at ways of supporting member associations (MAs) raise the standard of their national teams and ensure that every talented player is given a chance.

One of the key messages to emerge from the workshop was population and financial resources do not necessarily determine success in national team football – something which is especially relevant to more than 130 MAs which have never qualified for a senior men's World Cup. However, to be successful, MAs will have to implement and follow a long-term talent development plan and be aware that success will not happen overnight.

"Talent development is long term commitment, it is about investing in youth and building proper environment for young players to thrive and to reach the professional level and pinnacle of the game," said Patricia González, Group Leader of the FIFA Talent Development Programme.

Ulf Schott, the FIFA’s Head of High Performance Programme, emphasised that a plan would need the backing of all stakeholders to be successful. “The plan itself is not rocket science but you need to have everyone on board and agreeing to it,” he said. “The whole country has to get behind it.”

The workshop, staged at the Federação Portuguesa de Futebol’s City of Football on the outskirts of Lisbon, was part of FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger’s project to improve competitive balance globally by supporting MAs reach their full potential. This in turn is at the heart of FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s Vision 2020-23 to have 50 national teams and 50 clubs worldwide capable of competing highest level.

High performance specialists and technical consultants in Portugal

To get the ball rolling, FIFA published a ground-breaking study earlier this year on the global talent development ecosystem which included a dedicated country report for each of the 205 FIFA member associations (MAs) that took part.

The report offered insights into a number of key areas of talent development, namely talent identification, training, playing opportunities, and the transition from youth to senior level. Discussions in Lisbon focused on how to implement the next stage which is to set out individual road maps for each of the participating MAs.

Of the many issues raised, one of the most significant was that many countries lose talents in the transition from the youth to professional levels, even in South America which is traditionally one of the most successful confederations.

"We have the talent there and also the fact that a lot of children play football helps to develop the footballers, but it is difficult to find a complete programme for the training and education of talents in any of the countries," said Daniel Bañales, a Regional Technical Consultant (RTC) from Uruguay.

Meanwhile, despite the wide publicity given to the issue of fixture congestion, the problem in most regions was a lack of competitive football, especially among the younger age groups.

“Providing age-appropriate competition for each age group, quality competition for a longer period of time, would be a huge benefit in our region,” said Tony Readings, an RTC for Oceania.

The high turnover of MA technical directors is a cause for concern at present. In the last year, 106 MAs – more than half of FIFA’s members - have changed their TD, and this causes potential difficulties in designing, developing and implementing a long-term development plan and leads to a lack of stability within the organisation.

Some of the MAs, such as Denmark, United States, Mexico and Thailand have already begun to act on the report’s recommendations, and these were held up as role models for other MAs.

Thailand was cited as an example of how a strong, stable and well-supported TD could have a positive impact.

"Having a TD who wants the analysis, embraces the analysis and knows the report is going to be powerful for him, that is a great message for us to use with other countries," said Kelly Cross, a FIFA High Performance Specialist (HPS) who worked on the country's report. Thailand were also delighted to receive outside advice, as were the United States.

"The US were just hungry for ideas, for information and they are really focused on being the best they can be," said Ged Roddy, a HPS who worked on the U.S. country report. "I think they are a great example of a really proactive governing body and probably a role model that others could look at."