Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Guest Column - Frank Lakwijk


Recently the PSSI has adopted a Youth Development Program. Timo Scheunemann, Indonesia’s undisputed authority of youth development is appointed Director of this Program. It is a system of regional scouting of young promising players and bringing them into an intensive program of further development of their skills. It is expected that in a few years those academies will start to supply better than average players who will improve the Indonesian National Team selections.

Perhaps this will be the case but is it the solution for development of football quality in Indonesia? Will the quality of football in the stadiums across the country improve? According to the PSSI Plan the Football Academies are considered to be the solution for the quality standard in the country. Everybody points at the extreme high level of players that are delivered from academies of Arsenal and Ajax. Indeed, the academies of these clubs produce world class players but the question is: why?

In Europe football is organized in clubs. In the Netherlands there are almost 4000 clubs where young footballers can join to learn and play football. Every neighbourhood in the cities and every village in the country has its own club. Children join those clubs when they enter the age of primary school: 6 years, sometimes even younger. At least once per week they have a training session and every Saturday they play a match in locally or regionally organized competitions. They develop technical skills but also tactical and mental qualities from the tender age of 6.

Decisive factor in their development is the voluntary trainer who teaches them the first steps on their way to become a footballer. He has a trainer’s diploma or has played competitive football himself. In the Netherlands the first diploma is JVT (Youth Football Trainer), followed by TC (Trainer/Coach) 3, 2 and 1. The first diploma is sponsored by the club and the Football Association and is free for everybody who is willing to train young players between 6 and 10 years old. Each child has the opportunity to develop his or her skills under qualified guidance.

Professional football clubs have academies who scout the best talents from their region. They have an extensive network of tipsters and scouts. In many cases the small clubs tip their neighbouring professional club that they have an extraordinary talent who should be seen by the scouts. As a result of those qualified trainers at the lowest levels the academies can select players who are already prepared to a high level in their home clubs.

Of course, not all of the talents invited to the academies will reach the highest level. Most don’t reach the first team and will go back to their former local amateur club, adding quality to their squad. Some don’t reach the level of the national team but make a more than decent living from a professional club and add to the overall quality of the competition, pushing the top-end talents even further.

Take for example Irfan Bachdim. He played in the youth department of an amateur side together with the other kids from his neighbourhood. He appeared to be better than average and the scouts of Ajax offered him a place in their famous academy. But alas, after 3 seasons he was not good enough to reach to the top and our teenager went back to the amateurs. There he was one of the best again and the scouts of FC Utrecht asked him to play for them. Again he could not break through to the first team. He moved to second tier club Haarlem. This club went bankrupt and Irfan was without a club. Then he tried his luck in Indonesia and was offered an opportunity to play for Persema. The rest is history.

Why was Irfan in Holland rejected two times at Eredivisie level and is a star and topscorer in Indonesia? Because he has been groomed from a very young age in a much higher level football environment. He has learned what is important at training and in the match; he understands the system that the coaches want him to play in. He has developed technical skills that are important in the match. He developed tactical insight and mental skills. He knows that not circus acts count, but effectivity.

Persema Malang had this year 77 new applications to choose from. All of them could juggle the ball brilliantly. With difficulty the trainers could find 4 possible talents, the rest was absolutely useless. They lacked even the most basic elements.

Logging the best from the forest is not a solution to lift Indonesia from the bottom of the world rankings. Quality has to improve from the roots up. That means that every child with healthy limbs should be offered development of his potential. Only then scouting for the real gems will bare fruit. The best of nothing is still not much. Only those who stand out from high quality are talents worth scouting for.

In my opinion the budget for Youth Development should be spent on develoment of the grassroots. Give every child the opportunity to learn the basic skills of football and then the best of them will be worthy of an academy. As long as there is no structure of youth development on local and village level, the best are still far from good. The PSSI would do better to start educating he educators: the well meaning people who take care of training of children of under ten years old. Only when scouts can select from many proven talents, an academy can be usefull.

well that,s brilliantly said...anthony...maybe you could contact timo and give your thoughts about it but i believe timo was a bit german so he should understand a thing or two about what you had just
not me's a guest column by frank lajwijk
A really informative read that sheds light on the key question: why, in a football crazy nation of 240 million, is Indonesian football still woeful both at club and international level.

Big part of the answer: youth development. I seriously hope the PSSI get their act together, but foreign clubs are doing working help the youth development side (as well of course as promoting their brands).

Last year I interviewed Paul Barratt at Jakarta's Liverpool Academy:

Liverpool appear to have some interesting plans - and not just for rich kids who can afford to attend their academy. They want to take football sessions to more rural areas, so kids from poor backgrounds get a chance too. Importantly, they are training Indonesian coaches. They are also on about setting up a national youth league - not sure if or when that will ever happen.

Barratt spoke of exactly the same problem this article highlights. Indonesian kids are half decent in terms of flashy tricks but don't have a clue when it comes to understanding how the game works - no tactical knowledge, no understanding of space etc. He also said that kids aren't coached early enough - you need to be getting in there around the age of 8 maximum.

Once this country starts imbuing kids with that kind of information, and once it opens its net in terms of which kids have access to those ideas, only then will the real gems be found.

Great article and thanks Antony for getting this out there.

this should be read by those geniuses in PSSI!
this should be read by those geniuses in PSSI!
this should be read by those geniuses in PSSI!
Great article. Thanks for the insights.
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