Monday, June 28, 2010

"Learnings" from football

First up, I think that those who talk about "key learnings" should be given multiple paper cuts and rolled in salt. It is a an awful neologism that seems to be gaining ground despite there being a perfectly good noun in existence (Lessons) . I only added it to the title so I could vent about it.

More importantly, yesterday's England performance...?! Wow, that was abject. I've lived through some dreadful England performances but that was properly excruciating.

The xenophobic hacks in the tabloids will, no doubt, try to hang this one round the Italian coach's neck and it is true that as leader he must shoulder his fair share of the blame. Others will trot out the, "paid too much to care" argument which is equally fatuous. We are all complicit in their salaries by watching the game and paying our Sky Sports subscriptions; in the same way that by buying Heat or other seminal weekly publications, we have made millionaires out of Peter Andre and his ilk.

Talking to my FD (a former semi-professional footballer) the other week about football in general, I learned that in Germany you are not allowed to sign a professional contract until you are 18 and there is strong encouragement to complete your education, which is largely absent in the UK. I wondered if there is a learning element to our recent failure.

I have nothing to substantiate the following assertion but from the level of punditry from former German and French international players I get the impression that the average level of education is significantly higher in continental European players. Jurgen Klinsmann, Marcel Desailly appear to have a more profound understanding of the tactics, systems and psychology of the game than their English counterparts. This is quite probable given the comparative levels of general education revealed by the latest OECD figures

I wondered if you make it manditory for every premier league team (and possibly championship depending on the finance) to get all of its players to a level three qualification at a minimum before they can sign a contract, would it make an impact over the long term?

You can't blame the footballers choosing sport over school. Football is a route out of poverty and many of them will have had awful experiences of formal schooling and can't wait to get out. But there is more than enough money at the top of the sport to pay for specialist tutors and more than enough subject areas to interest even the most jaded learning palate.

Getting more of these people to a level three qualification might engender more former footballers able to pass the FA coaching certificates and perhaps more home grown managers. But it might also develop a team of England players whose conceptual understanding of the game is a little more developed than, blood and thunder, thud and blunder.

Or maybe I should just take to following England at darts...



1 comment:

Gordon Mclean said...

Hugh,

Reading this from Edinburgh - Land of the repulsive and mornonic ABE motif - it really did make me think.

Outside my house there is a huge park where kids leagues come every Saturday to play. I have observed them for the last few months and the one thing that I notice is that there seem to be two very different games going on: the one the kids are playing with each other and enjoying, and the one the adults are playing as they hurl venom at each other over their kids heads. (These are kids from some of the best schools in the UK).

The point about education is interesting. Francophile that I am, I was stunned to witness the French debacle. However, as we know, French footballers are more intelligent than half the university lecturers in Britain, so obviously something else was going on. Which brings me back to the kids outside my house. The whole tension point between 'failure' and 'success' seems to lie at a mangled vertex of player motivation/expectation and spectator expectation/investment. Hence, to me at least, the England result was not surprsing at all: having lost 'the war', Germany, having nothing to lose, won convincingly. As they have over and over for years now.

Which then of course brings me back to the Anyone But England merchandise: in Germany and France education is viewed positively, and those who look down on it with contempt. In the UK, any boy who wants to play football not only has to aspire to being an idiot, which most of the unilingual, foreign-coached team members are, but then actively continue to invest in this. (Britain is officially the worst place in the industrialised world to raise a child according to the UN).

Somehow I just can't imagine Wayne Spooney graduating from the Open Uni.