Here’s a little known but immensely powerful secret that goes a long way in explaining the differences in football standards across different countries:
Unorganized games are among the most powerful learning tools that exist in Football.
Young players have benefited hugely from participating in unorganized football games all over the world. World-class footballers including Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Sanchez have all spent substantial periods of time playing street football during their formative years in the game.
Dennis Bergkamp, the legendary Dutch and Arsenal striker, gives a great deal of credit to street football for enabling him to hone his skills and make a successful football career, in his well-written autobiography, Stillness and Speed: My Story.
This also explains the continued success internationally in football of many poor nations (particularly in Africa and South America) – who, neither have the quality of infrastructure that India has nor the resources to afford good quality coaches at the youth levels.
And the best nations in football - including Germany, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina – all have the ideal combination of good quality coaching and lot of opportunity to play unorganized football for young players.
Unfortunately, in India urban landscapes are changing rapidly due to economic growth. The resultant pressure on infrastructure is leading to less and less free public space. Many apartment committees have also banned football in the complexes in the name of preserving the landscape. As a result, street football is disappearing – if not gone already in many cities. In its place there are many coaching camps for young players but not much opportunity to play matches.
The result – most young Indian footballers lack Game Intelligence – a crucial aspect that impacts the prospects of a professional career dramatically and something I also explain at greater length in the Masterclass.
It’s like much of our education system – lot of theory but not enough practical exposure.
Football is a complex sport with dynamic interactions for any given player with teammates and opponents. A copy/paste model of learning can’t work. One has to necessarily learn through experience and unorganized football helps immensely in this process.
Given that the school holidays are starting soon, this is something to keep in mind whilst you figure out the various options to engage your child in football.