Many times I ask myself the same question with the aim of understanding reality: Where was the best football player born? Surely the answer is easy, everybody knows that historically the best football players were born in Brazil and Argentina.
Curiously in these kind of countries these players traditionally don’t have the best conditions to practise their beloved sport. They don’t have a good pitch, good football boots or a good ball either. However, a lot of football players come from this area. Not only do the best players in the world, like Pele, Maradona or currently Leo Messi come from these countries, most of the foreign players in Europe and Asia do too. I have been working in China and Romania, countries where the teams can only have a reduced number of foreign players, and most of them were from Brazil and Argentina. I think that we have to consider that there is one very important factor in the final result of being a professional football player: the hours of practise, especially when the children start to play football voluntarily. It’s surprising to see that in Europe, parents bring their children up to play in a team from being only 6 years old, where they receive structured training under the command of their coach. These children need to play in the streets, in the parks, at break time at school, without regulated training. And they only have to enjoy practising that football becomes a real passion for them.
Currently China has big plans to control the football world. They are paying unbelievable transfer fees to get the best football players and the best coaches in the world. China has imposed football as a compulsory subject at schools, and they have contracted a lot of football coaches from Europe to give the best football teaching. From my point of view they have forgotten that football is not Maths, 2 plus 2 is not 4 in this sport. It’s going to be impossible for coaches to teach them the passion of football. They want to take control of the world of football but they won’t open their borders. Only four foreign players can play in Chinese football teams and it’s prohibited to sign foreign goalkeepers for example. The conditions of the pitches for training are not the best and the medical staff are far removed from those in professional football in the first division in other countries. Also the mentality of players in the national team is not good enough to achieve anything important in this world.
The best way to improve football players is to get them playing with other intelligent players and with these restrictions this is not possible. It is not enough to pay huge record/breaking amounts for transfers and they should reflect carefully on this.
I still remember when the USA organized the world cup in 1994. FIFA chose to host the world cup in the USA to maximize the exposure of soccer there. Everybody thought that when the USA started to play football, they would achieve good results. They were the most powerful country in the world and they had to be the best. Most people thought that the USA wouldn’t have any competition. The USA tried firmly to dominate the world of football but they couldn’t because their systems, which are very good for other sports are not transferable to football. They concentrated all their energy on developing the physical condition of their players, forgetting the other things in football. Twenty two years later, the USA doesn’t have control of the world of football and their national team remains insignificant in the best tournament.
Something similar happened when football arrived in Africa, fifteen or twenty years ago. Most people believed that if African players started to practise this sport, they would be better in regard to other teams. People thought that as the African race can be physically stronger than other races they were going to be a serious threat to other countries. Although obviously they have better performance from a physical point of view, we still haven´t seen African players or the Africa national teams being among the best in the world.
The main virtue of Spain, Argentina or Brazil is that these countries have always prioritized tactical and technical systems above fitness conditions. Therefore their players achieve a higher level of tactical awareness and understanding of the game rather than those from cultures which focus their efforts just on physical fitness, forgetting the most important skill and abilities to dominate this sport.
Today everybody wants to follow the modern methodology, making the ball the most important thing. But there is something that nobody can buy, this is the feeling of passion for football and this has developed in Brazil, Argentina, Spain and of course in the country which invented this sport: the UK.