Thursday, September 13, 2007

Football and You - Part 2

Football requires intelligence, agility, and an extraordinary coordination of movement. Size is of secondary importance and many great players are small in stature. Some others have succeeded despite physical handicaps. A case in point: Garrincha. Struck by polio as a small child, he walked with a limp his entire life. Yet, he became a superb player. He was a teammate of Pele and while playing for Sweden and Chile Garrincha made it to the World Championship finals and experienced the glory of being part of the World Championship team.

American fans are not accustomed to sports like this. Sports they follow require more brute strength and more macho. If they were ever lucky enough to see a well-played World Cup contest, they would see the kind of power that’s needed to win and compete well. In addition to their athletic skills, players have to be smart. For example, they have to know how to play against the clock and they must do it instinctively, with no prompt from their coach. Let’s say your team is controlling the ball to protect their lead as time is running out. Imagine the frustration and hostility felt by fans of the opposing team, as your favorite players thwart them at every turn. Now, that’s macho.

I am putting all my effort into making this imagined scenario a reality. By following this formula, players in the United States will be able to successfully compete on a World Championship level, and their fans will react with renewed enthusiasm. This is exactly what American football needs.

Our Formula

Students of the game will understand my winning formula:

South American Ball Control + European Teamwork + American Enthusiasm = Tomorrow’s Champions

To achieve success, two additional components are needed - hard work and, most importantly, real competition. Hard work is no problem for Americans. They’ve already shown the world at the Olympics that they are capable of being top contenders in any given sport. In regards to training, American sports programs feature the best equipment and facilities, as well as the best trainers and medical personnel. Yet, there are elements of the game that you cannot develop in the laboratory or with machines, or by training or instruction from the best coaches. To finely hone their skills, what players need is competition.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Walter's Open Letter to Coaches and GMs

My main knowledge is from the sport I played and coached in my old country (Uruguay). The best way I know to express myself is in the court (Field).

Let me tell you what’s on my mind:

I would like to see teams go back to playing the game as I know it, old school futbol (soccer), and I feel very confident I can make that happen. Mostly, I’ve been contacting teams whose coaches and GMs are in danger of losing their jobs because of poor performance. Maybe, I figure, one day someone will talk with me before they get the axe and give me the opportunity to turn their team around and save somebody’s job. And I’m so confident I could do that that I would not even talk about money until we got to the playoffs. It’s not easy; it will take some work. But I like what I see in today’s players - they play hard, maintain fantastic conditioning, follow any coaching, and, most importantly, pass the ball quickly. They will soon be playing a more effective brand of futbol with my help.

Here’s some of my strategy:

  • Be gentle to the ball – don’t make long passes that have only a 50% chance of succeeding because the defenders are facing the ball and waiting.
  • ESCALATE the field, that way the BALL can proceed to the other goal nicely, with passes of 10 to 15 feet away and CREATE a chance for a goal, not just hope for a lucky mistake.
  • You'll see a TANDEM, two players who together can provide or create a chance of goal and any give game.
  • You'll see a NEXUS, a player who will connect the defenders with the forwards, without that long pass,
  • A "DELIVERER" a player who obstructs the guy who is with the ball - without fouling! -- And one of his teammates steals the ball!!!

Even if you coaches like my ideas and try them next game without consulting me, that's FINE with me because at least I'll see a good game for a change. People around the world pay a lot of money to watch futbol and those in America are particularly desperate to see a good game. They went to see PELE and got robbed - he wasn't the same player he used to be. Now, today, they bring another STAR. But without a good strategy the game will still be like ping pong. And, who will win? The team that is LUCKY that day.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

FOOTBALL (a/k/a soccer) AND YOU: Part I

First, I would like to discuss what, undoubtedly, is the key issue in the American Soccer dilemma.

Meriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines soccer as follows: a game played on a field by two teams of 11 players each with the object to propel a round ball into the opponent’s goal by kicking or by hitting it with any part of the body except the hands and arms -- called also association football. The word soccer, itself, is an alteration of the term association football. A game fitting this definition and played, thanks to the Englishmen who disseminated it, around the world in more than 100 countries is commonly known as football. Could there be a more natural name for a game requiring that a ball be propelled by a foot?

Though extremely popular around the world, due to poor management and disastrous changes that corrupted their version of the game, football has never caught on in America. Typical of this mismanagement was the decision made in the 1970’s, a decision that reflects a complete lack of intelligence, to drop the name football in favor of the term soccer.

Some Americans, realizing the excitement that term aroused, cleverly proceeded to create a new sport that, while completely different from football, has become popular with the American public. The two versions of the game, one well-managed, the other mismanaged, are, in fact, so different, as different as night and day, that there is no reason why the two cannot coexist without competing with each other.

I would like to introduce American fans, especially that minority who wants to compete on a World level, to a sport hardly played here but revered in other parts of the world. It is called football. That’s the term I will be using. This may be confusing to those who have been using the term soccer, but I would like to drive home the fact that while vaguely similar to the game known worldwide as football, it is definitely different.

Let me explain a few of those differences. Professional soccer, as originally played in America, was actually a combination of football and various other sports popular with American fans. In an effort to gain the attention of fans, managers of the various leagues combined some rules of these American games with the rules of football and soccer was born. Unfortunately, their creation was a boring game that repulsed rather than attracted disappointed fans.

Today, even though those original professional leagues have died out, the game they contrived, soccer, can still be seen on college campuses and athletic fields. What a pity! Though there are talented players, they are handicapped by rules and practices that just don’t make sense. For example, you can’t substitute six or seven players at the same time and expect to maintain momentum. No way! All this does is disrupt the flow of the game. And Sudden Death, which makes it necessary for teams to keep playing until there is a winner, completely discounts the achievement of a hard fought tie. No, I’m sorry, this game isn’t football.

I could go on forever pointing out differences and mistakes, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to show you the excitement, beauty and art of the game. Yes, football is an art and only a few select people have the talent needed to master it. To cultivate the abilities required to play the game as it should be played, one must begin at an early age and continue to nurture those skills until adulthood when all their hard work will bare fruit in the form of a splendid and accomplished football player.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Welcome to Fútbol My Way

What Americans call soccer, the rest of the world calls football. What we call football, my good friend Walter Rasso will quickly point out, involves an oblong object that hardly resembles a ball, and is more dependent on hands than it is feet. Walter eats, sleeps and breathes futbol. He spends a lot of his time emailing professional soccer coaches and GMs, pointing out to them mistakes their teams are making and suggesting changes that he feels will be beneficial. For the most part, they do not listen. That's their loss. Walter has a wealth of experience and he's willing to share. He endorces a style that's dependent on short, quick passes and abhors the long easy-to-defend ping-pong-like exchanges so prevalent today. If you are interested in turning your team around, Walter is available for coaching and consulting. Just leave a comment or email him directly and he'll get back to you.

(I write this introduction to my friend Walter Rasso's blog as a friend of more than 30 years. ~ Ace Toscano)