“How should Canadians play soccer”
At the International level, the best football countries in the world have always possessed a unique ability to mould the style of soccer they play based on their country’s image and strengths. A country’s soccer fingerprint, soccer DNA, which is intimately associated with the country’s core values. A country’s soccer DNA drives the behaviours and performance of the players and leaves a clearly defined legacy.
From Brazil to Spain, from Argentina to Holland, from Italy to Germany, from Cameroon to France, or Spain or Romania: over the course of history, the greatest countries tend to wield such influence that they are able to shape the entire organization into a reflection of their country, values and vision. Considering that we need to ask ourselves, “How should Canadians play soccer?” or in other words, “What should be our Canadian way to play soccer?”
Before we answer that, first we need to find out what are the Canadian values as a society with regards to sports. Every society has values that are important to it and that set it apart from other societies. This statement holds true for the Canadian society. There are values that are important to Canadians that are not be fully shared by other societies. Canadians feel that these values are what make Canada an attractive place to live.
Canada has long been recognized for its peace-keeping role around the world. Canadians are seen as polite, sometimes too polite. We often say sorry or excuse me even when other people bump into us. Canadian values include freedom, respect for cultural differences and a commitment to social justice.
The best way to see Canadian values in sports is to take a look at hockey and by looking at that we see that we are:
- Hard working,
- Physically fit,
- Tactically Intelligent,
- Never give up attitude,
We need to bring these attributes to soccer. However, is that simple? How do we bring our hockey attributes to the soccer pitch?
What should be our “Canadian style” of soccer? What should be the “Canadian way” to play soccer?
Now that we have responded to what we stand for we need to find a way to incorporate who we are into our Canadian soccer style of play.
This way we implement a vision that matches our Canadian DNA and Canadian core values, in short a vision that suits our nation and our players.
Based on this we need to look at which style of play will suit us best?
A style of play is the way in which the particular system of play chosen by a team is used. Like playing systems, the choice and success of the style of play will depend upon the abilities of each player and the overall qualities of the team.
However, one must not forget other external factors which can play a part in choosing or adapting a particular style. Different teams often have totally contrasting styles, depending upon a country tradition or the personal philosophy of the coach. Examples of the different styles of play seen in soccer are listed below.
- Direct Play
- Slow build-up play
- Counter-attacking play
- Total Football
- Block defending
- High pressure play
- Low pressure play – (Parking the bus)
One could say that at the end of the day it is down to the coach to define the team’s playing style in order to make best use of the abilities and knowledge of the players at his disposal.
We can be revolutionary in our thinking.
The Need for a Canadian National Soccer Identity and Revolutionary thinking
As a country, we have to know what we want from our athletes. To have a lifetime of sport and to be healthy, to be athletes in the limits of social life or to be high-performance athletes? Let’s take a look at them one by one.
The sport of “beauty” or “athlete for life” is done without goals. Pleasure must come from participation in training. Let’s face it, in nature we are not all endowed with all the same physical and mental qualities, not everybody is born a predator with a competitive spirit or as strong as some others. Sports halls are filled not only with national champions, but are also filled with people in which satisfaction that comes from participation and camaraderie.
Sport performance (not to say small performance) is the limit in which the athlete can devote themselves to the sport. Some of us do not have the good fortune of having a social situation which allows us to spend our youth in the gym and the soccer field.
We go to work, to school, to kindergarten, and so on. The athlete must be aware that the level at which they enter in competitions is not high and the results will not be as expected.
High-performance sport instead is more demanding. We have to make sacrifices and satisfaction comes only from the results. We cannot resist or exist to long in high performance sport if we don’t have results that please us.
Our goal as a country should be to give athletes the chance to perform at their maximum potential. “Maximum Potential” means that all the four important parameters to be at the highest level.
The four important parameters are:
- physical conditioning,
- mental (psychological) conditioning.
In my opinion, the most important parameters are intelligence, character and attitude which are included in the mental (psychological) component.
There is not one without the other and the evolution in a sports contest is a mean between these parameters. Obviously, each parameter has a minimum threshold above which the athlete must pass, and you have to cope with them as soon as possible.
Then you start to work to maximize the capacity within the 4 parameters. If an athlete does not exceed the minimum limit for a parameter, the median for all parameters will tend towards 0. It’s like the multiplying by 0. For example if your technique, tactics and psyche are at level 10 and, if your conditioning fails at 1 minute into the match. The inevitable result will be 0.
CONCLUSION: The level at which an athlete performs in competition is strictly linked to the four parameters: technique, tactics, physical conditioning and psychologically.
- Increase the minimum limit in each parameter, and then try to maximize them and customized (parameters) according to the qualities of each player.
- Help the player to understand that in order to be a high performance player they need to make sure they perform well in:
- Possession (when you have the ball)
- Defending (when you don’t have the ball)
- Transition from defensive to offensive
- Transition from offence to defence
The need for a new player development principle of play and curriculum, from 10 years old to international players, that will help us reach our maximum potential as a nation.
The video is an example of how the new “Canadian Philosophy and Player Development Curriculum” should work. A detailed framework, aims, objectives and contents that will be a tremendous value and hopefully help to raise the standards, performance and expectations of the Canadian players from 10 years old to the International senior level. The curriculum should also include approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, quality of relationships between coach and the player and the values embodied by the Canadian Soccer Association, but most importantly to introduce the same or similar philosophies and styles of play across the provinces at all levels .
We need a Canadian team that plays “The Canadian Way” with wide-eyed intensity; harrying and chasing in midfield to restrict space and suffocate their opponents’ attacking instincts, a Canadian team that demands assertiveness , determination and commitment from his players, a team packed with fast players, playing a combative style. A Canadian team that plays compact, ruthless on the counter, but keeping possession if necessary and impossible to break down. The core beliefs should be based on the Canadian values in the strength of the collective, continuous striving for self-improvement, fierce commitment to the cause and approaching the game like there is no tomorrow. We need players that adapt easily to any tactics. Canada needs a collective group of hard working players who always want the best for the team and country, who battles for every ball during every minute of each match with a winning attitude that nobody wants to lose.
We need a Canadian team with a great team spirit, like a family who embraces the multiculturalism that Canada is well known for.
Barcelona remains the ultimate template for long-term team development, but their successful era was achieved thanks to a consistent philosophy over a few decades. In Canada soccer, such long-term thinking is sorely lacking.
What we need in Canada is a template for long term development that includes our Canadian core values and does not change from year to year. We can add the trends in soccer but not change our template .
We do not need to copy the Tiki –Taka method of play, because it does not match our Canadian DNA. We need one that matches how Canadians play. One that matches who we are and what we stand for. One that matches our demographics and then and only then we can say we have a Canadian style of play.
While Canada’s high performance athletes strive for the podium at every opportunity, their world-class performances will instil a sense of pride in our country and the maple leaf from coast to coast to coast.
We need to rethink and rewrite everything from scratch. We should pay attention to developing youth soccer and the academies should receive funding to allow players to play for free. Give the players specialized coaching to develop their skills in a professional environment. The soccer reforms should not just be words on paper but administered to the letter as other countries did it before us and then and only then we will have a Canadian way a Canadian Style of soccer and play in the world cup every 4 years.