Sunday, May 03, 2009


Baan v. Berger, Part 1

Craig Foster's weekly piece in the Sun-Herald deals, naturally enough, with the new National Football Curriculum. But what is very surprising in the article is the vicious excoriation of Han Berger's predecessor as Technical Director, Rob Baan. When Baan was appointed, he was greeted with open arms by Foster (and the rest of the SBS crew). Now, he appears to have been consigned to virtual damnatio memoriae:

...Han Berger...has accomplished in three short months what...Rob Baan was incapable of doing in two long years...

...he has rejected much of what Baan developed, and rightly so...

...and he [Berger] works. Hard. What a revelation that is... criticism of Baan was always that he lacked the CV or quality to develop his own adaptations to the KNVB...system, and that any attempt at doing so was likely to be disastrous...

Really, Foz? You could have fooled us, given the earlier piece linked above.

In fairness to Baan, three important points need to be made. First: as many people commented at the time (including your resident tragic), Baan's role was simply not well-defined enough when the position was created. Was his focus meant to be the Olyroos? Assisting Graham Arnold (and then Pim Verbeek) with the national team? Standardising the development path? It was all pretty nebulous.

Second: like Berger, Baan did produce, admittedly in collaboration with others, a lengthy policy document. Said document, the development plan, did at least put in place two new leagues running parallel to the A-League, even if much of it was nothing particularly new.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Baan's contribution did go beyond producing bits of paper to something tangible; he steered the Olyroos through a difficult opening round of qualifiers, setting them on their way to Beijing. The job was finished by Graham Arnold, but those who saw the games (and I saw a fair few) were in broad agreement that the youngsters played far better football under Baan.

(In conjunction with the fact that the Socceroos played excellently in their one game under Baan, one might conclude that he was better value to Australia as a coach than as a technical director. But I digress.)

So then, what of Berger? Interestingly, there is close parallel in Australia's recent past. More later.

It's strange that Fozzy has commented on Baan's CV when he has the most qualified as a technical director. Apparently during 2005-2006 he was a Technical Adviser from under 14s to under 21 for the Dutch FA. This is something that Han Berger has never done. He also been technical director of dutch clubs for a longer period of time then what Han has done.

Out of all the Dutch coaches we had employed in the post-Hiddink era. Han Berger had the best CV for a result based coach but for youth development it's rather unconvincing.

I always been more convinced about Rob Baan (especially hearing him talking about football issues and his critique on Dutch football itself) then Han.
To be fair on Fozzy though, he was far more restraint and cautious greeting Han Berger and actually question whether his CV was good enough when he was appointed.

I guess Fozz learnt from his disappointment with Baan not to get too excited when another dutch gets employed.

He's only waxing praise now because Han is implementing a uniform system which Fozz has been campaigning for a long time.
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I think Foster was pleased to have a TD of football from Holland, France or Italy at the inception of Baan's tenure. He was pleased to have someone installed in the position. In theory he was excited about of the concept of TD. From memory you were sceptical of the appointment in principle, like many regulars on this blog. Conversely, Foster's view was supportive of the concept of TD in principle, even though he was disappointed of the output of the incumbent TD, possibly because of the inadequate job description.

Even with a nebulous job description, Baan was disappointing in practice. He made a poor impression in this state. Baan appeared to lack passion for the job and considered some things too difficult.

When I met Rob Baan in person in the ACT, he presented as articulate and intelligent, but seemed too old and fatigued for the job as TD. Comparatively, Han Berger has delivered in a short time.

Mikey, I think you've spent too much time discussing these issues with too many with a reductionist view of TD in principle, and a rudimentary understanding of the value of a cohesive national football curriculum, given our embryonic football mileu.

Notwithstanding, I'm astonished at your memory and attention to detail of matches that have occurred over the last 15 or 20 years. Your football knowledge in historical terms is amazing!

...When I met Rob Baan in person in the ACT, he presented as articulate and intelligent, but seemed too old and fatigued for the job as TD. Comparatively, Han Berger has delivered in a short time....

Must say I was quite impressed with Baan in person (much more so than Verbeek, TBH). Haven't met Berger yet.

Appreciate your last comment...although Shane D. (Hiraldo) is the undisputed king in this respect!
Baan was definitely a better coach then Technical Director. You have that spot on.

Good that you are picking apart sloppy revisionist statements of Foster. I am a fan of Craig but sometimes he tries to play to the crowd too much.
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Hi Mike
I think I can add a funny story here. When FFA were promoting small sided games last year, Football Brisbane distributed an article by Craig Foster promoting the idea. Foster thinks SSGs are great and he went into a lot of detail. So much so that the officials seemed to miss that in the same article Foster was also hammering Baan, mostly complaining he wasn't doing enough.

It seemed to me that Baan was prepared to be inclusive and keep in the tent even those that are prepared to make personal attacks.
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