Saturday, January 13, 2007


Some Gentle Baanter

Mike Cockerill’s thoughtful piece on Rob Baan, Australia’s new technical director, has probably dispelled a few misconceptions in some quarters.

Pleasingly, Baan has confirmed that he’s not simply here to “import” a Dutch style, and he has readily admitted that the much-lauded Dutch approach is not without its problems, especially in terms of the value (or lack thereof) placed on individuality.

Inamongst the predictable motherhood statements, there are a number of comments from Baan which bode well. To wit:

“So why do Brazil produce so many fantastic players? Not because of the coaches, because they have the time to play on all surfaces, in all conditions.”

In my opinion, the importance of unorganized street football in producing players capable of pulling tricks at crucial moments cannot be underestimated. Elsewhere in the article, Baan hints at the desirability of fostering this further in Australia.

Of course, such football only tends to be truly widespread in countries with third world conditions in some areas of the big cities. Significantly, though, it still flourishes even in some affluent parts of Europe – such as France.

Baan’s comments rather put into perspective the current craze for futsal as a means of developing technical excellence, which seems largely predicated on the fact that “Brazilians do it”.

With reference to the current Dutch system:

“Already when they [players] are six years old, they have coaches, and I hate that. When kids are six years old, we have to organise there are two goals and a ball, and just let them go. Otherwise we create only certain types of players, a little bit like a robot.”

I could not agree more.

“But it should not now be that I have taken this job, then we must only be influenced by Dutch coaches. We should be influenced by many coaches, so we can learn from many countries.”

One of the great strengths of Australian football, in my view, is that it has the capacity and the willingness to absorb many different influences, while maintaining a healthy scepticism. Already, along with the vastly overstated British influence, successive waves of migration have meant that we have had a taste of other styles, mainly from continental Europe.

It’s a unique position in world football, in some ways. And worth exploiting.

I couldn't agree more with your closing paragraph there mikey. Here's hoping those charged with high responsibility see it that way too.
Baan is 100% right.....The more you practise playing the better you get and in many 3rd World countries the most affordable form of entertainment for young lads is to kick a ball about.

I doubt whether Mr Foster would agree though.......Im sure there has to be a far more scientific and 'technical' reason than that!
Thanks for drawing my attention to this article Mike.

Baan is hard not to like at this stage. We might even have to thank Foster for his incessant insistence on the need for a technical director, but it's gratifying in a perverse sort of way to have him looking so silly at the same time. Despite all his experience in soccer, he's no intellectual.

Baan's sentiments about the nature of Australian soccer - drawing the best from all over the world and developing our own style - is actually reflective of the depiction in Les Murray's biography, By the Balls. Les puts a great emphasis on SBS of course, as a coach for Australian soccer, but also on our diffuse ethnic base, which is only getting more diffuse. In my own community there are now many beautiful blue-black people from Somalia and elsewhere in Africa. Their kids, fast and physical, are already making an impact in the little leagues.

If I could add a thought, another strength of Australian soccer may be the range of climatic conditions we are exposed to. If the A-League develops a Townsville and a Canberra club, and in the future perhaps even a Darwin and Hobart club, it's going to be hard to surprise us with conditions internationally. Disadvantage as it may also be, we are also going to become experts at maintaining physical fitness with extensive travel. For the international arena, these are helpful traits.

A Socceroos World Cup in my lifetime, and I will die happy. Go Mr Baan!
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