Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, spoke about the desire “for each member association to reach their full potential…and to give every player a chance” when presenting the recently-published FIFA global report: Increasing Global Competitiveness to the CAF Executive Committee meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
The report followed an unprecedented 14-month-long study analysing youth football and talent development practices and structures around the world. And as FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development explained, its focus extended far beyond the game’s elite.
“It’s not only about creating stars,” said the former Arsenal manager. “It’s about influencing people’s lives in a positive way. If we achieve the two, even better. But we want people to have a positive experience through football.
“What was important for us is to know what’s going on in the world, and ask: how can we help you? This is a global report but there is an individual report for every single country. Now what is important is to act. First comes the diagnosis; after, the action.”
The report concluded that a great number of talented footballers remain undiscovered due to a plethora of factors, including shortcomings in planning, education, infrastructure and financial resources. But despite evident disparities between nations and continents, Wenger stressed a need to find solutions regardless of the environment.
As he explained “In the best academies, at U-16 level they have approximately 200 training sessions a year. It’s a lot, and they play many games too – in Europe, on average around 45 games a year.
"That means if you look at countries with no organised competitions and less than 200 training sessions, they’re starting at a huge handicap.
"We can speak about countries that have ideal conditions but, personally, I believe that not having ideal conditions is not an excuse. The coach who wants to develop players always finds a solution.
"Coaches are people who find resources when the conditions are not ideal, and I have experienced that. So if we have not enough competitions, we compensate by making more training sessions of quality."
FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development also fully intends that FIFA will play a key role in finding and implementing those solutions.
FIFA’s Talent Development scheme will enter its second phase later this year when the world governing body’s technical team follows up with the Member Associations to set out individual long term plans to improve the state of youth development. This will be supported by a new online resource made available in the coming months to provide immediate practical assistance.
“We will create an academy online in August,” he said. “That will help you to develop coaches, educate coaches and develop training sessions online for every age category. It will be a complete support to develop top-level training sessions.”
"We believe that, to improve, you need better education and you need better competitions. For example, we have 211 countries at FIFA and 133 of them have never been at the World Cup. That is absolutely massive because being confronted with top-level competition gives you a good opportunity to improve. And I believe when federations have a better chance to go to the big competitions, they will do more to develop their players.
"We want each member association to reach their full potential, and the conclusion we have from our study is that, basically, not many are doing that. We want to be part of solving that and giving every player a chance, raising standards of youth development, bring balance and increase global competitiveness. That’s our main target."
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