Quality Of Coaching Has Evolved
South African football coaching is on an upward trajectory and that’s plain for everyone to see. The standard of our football has improved this season and, at the rate things are going, the future of our game looks bright.
For a long time, our players have been subjected to average coaching that has done more harm than good in how we play our game. A number of no-name brand coaches have come and gone, leaving our game worse off than it was before their arrival. In the past, it didn’t matter what you may or may not have achieved, as long as you were from Europe with an accent and a few connections, you’d get a good, well-paying job ahead of deserving coaches who were either deemed not good enough or not ready to take over the reins. It took the emergence of some of the brightest and youngest football brains to change the status quo and, now more than ever, the trust and belief in our very own has improved immensely.
While the coaching merry-go-round has subsided a bit, at least in the Absa Premiership, more and more young coaches continue to make a mark with a few of our foreign coaches making an impression. You need to look no further than what Free State Stars’ Luc Eymael has achieved since trekking down South at every club he has coached so far. His impact was evident at Polokwane City and the club’s reluctance to lose him bears testimony to that. His short-lived stay at Bloemfontein Celtic, thanks to his protracted contractual dispute with City, wasn’t one of the team’s worst coaching experiences at all.
In fact, despite the challenges of not being able to sit on the bench, the Belgian’s quality and influence showed. He went on to transform a relegation-threatened Ea Lla Koto into a force challenging for honours in just a season, a remarkable feat that equals that of Milutin Sredojevic at Orlando Pirates. Micho has taken took a team that had a disastrous season and turned it into a championship-challenging side with little to no changes at all. There are a number of other examples that we’ve seen so far but, due to space constraints as well as fear for digression, let’s stick to the original angle of this column.
They say you train the way you play and the invention and creativity that has been displayed by some of our teams prove that there is a lot of work being put in behind the scenes. Set-pieces variation, passing, combination play and overall team structure have improved. Our players are getting better by the day and that speaks to the high quality and level of coaching that they receive from their coaches. Gone are the days of pre-match team talks where players are told to “go out there and enjoy the game” and think you will get away with it. Gone are the days where teams win games and they don’t even know how the win was achieved. From the coaches to the players, you hear the game plan and you can even see it from their approach. That is all because there’s a holistic approach to training, coaching, and preparation for the game. Every player now knows his role on the field and there’s no confusion.
Our teams are more structured, tactically discipline, playing attractive, entertaining and effective football, a combination that was almost lost to a number of our teams. We no longer watch teams playing with fear to lose. We see more arrogance and confidence from our teams when in possession, with even centre-backs initiating attacks, rather than the kick-and-hope approach. We seldom see our defenders clearing the lines with every kick they make. There are more patient build-ups and purposeful play. There’s more direction in the game and it is also great to see that teams change formations a number of times during the game. The transition from one formation to the next is so seamless, sometimes unnoticed, because it has been worked on at training. The evolution of coaching keeps everyone on their toes, coaches and those who can’t cope will be left behind. There’s simply no room for fly-by-nights!
This high level of coaching puts the responsibility back on each and every player’s shoulders to own their game and performances. Players now know going to training doesn’t just mean two hours of running and fooling around, it means intense physical, tactical, theoretical and practical work. After all, these are full-time professional footballers and the more time they spend on their craft, the better the investment they put into the game. It is by no fluke that supporters are coming back to the stadiums, albeit not for everyone. Now it is up to every team to ensure that they catch up with the modern trends of the game or risk being left behind. The quality of coaching has evolved and the evidence is there for everyone to see, although there will always be room for improvement.
It is because of this significant improvement that Soccer Laduma has started to do more analytical features where we pinpoint finer details of certain games, for the benefit of our readers. It is this level of thinking and knowledge that will take not only coaching but the supporters, media and everyone involved in the game, to the next level. Where we can debate and analyse the game much better.
It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that we uplift our readers through these informative and analytical pieces. Some of you have warmed up to the idea of having these features on a regular basis and your continued feedback is of much importance to us. We’d like to see the day when our readers who are great supporters of the game can be able to analyse the game. Imagine a stadium full of supporters who are taking notes and analysing the game as it happens! The more we know about this game, the better we can understand coaches’ decisions and be able to demand more from our clubs.