By Johan Derksen- March 9, 2004- UEFA Magazine)
Johan Cruyff is seriously concerned about the future of Dutch football - and indeed the game in general. In this first extract from a special article to mark UEFA's Golden Jubilee, the 56-year-old voiced his concerns to Dutch magazine Voetbal International, a member of the ESM group (European Sports Magazines).
A lot has changed in international football since I quit coaching in 1996. The clock hasn't stopped ticking. But it's still disappointing to see how football, the world's No1 sport, is not No1 when it comes to development.
What I notice particularly is that policy-makers in football are never really concerned about individuals, all they're interested in is the team as a whole. Yet a team consists of eleven individuals who each need attention. I often wonder if we're making the most of the qualities players have to offer.
Today's football is completely different especially when it comes to the physical aspect - the players are in better physical shape, which is probably the result of all these coaching courses. There's nothing wrong with having fit footballers, but their technical and ball skills have not grown at the same pace, and that's all too apparent when you watch the game these days.
It seems to me that a wealth of practical knowledge is being squandered, in grassroots and amateur football as well as in top-flight football. If you want to be admitted to a coaching course, you need a good basic level of education, but many footballers lack such a solid basis because they turn professional at 16, and then after a long football career it's really hard to go back to the books and start studying again.
But on the other hand these experienced players already know everything there is to know about football. Too many of them are lost to the further development of the game and I think that is simply ridiculous. A football career should become much more important as a criterion for being admitted to a coaching course.
There are some former top players who take these courses and do so because they want to become trainers and coach professional teams. But they shouldn't be bothering with books on medical subjects - after all, the coaches of AFC Ajax, FC Barcelona or Arsenal FC all have their own staff of medical professionals.
Too much theory
These coaching courses are much too theoretical and this is what you see reflected in the basic technical skills of the average player. My generation put in a lot more hours playing football after school than kids today. These days all the football kids play is at their clubs, so the clubs need to work seriously on basic skills. You hardly ever see a young player who can use both feet, for example.
We really need to pay attention to the basic skills: passing, stopping a ball, heading, kicking. If we fail to do so, it won't be long before no one will want to watch football any more.
I watch all football, but I have to say I rarely find it interesting. I see way too much pinball football. The ball just goes to and fro, with teams unable hold on to it. There are very few players who can dominate the ball - mostly it's the ball that dominates the player. The coaches and trainers ought to take that to heart, as they are the ones responsible.