G.’s Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Soccer’

Footie Fever

Posted by G. on June 21, 2010

The New York Times had a huge writeup on the Ajax training academy, Amsterdam.  

The youth academy of the famed dutch soccer club Ajax is grandiosely called De Toekomst — The Future. Set down beside a highway in an unprepossessing district of Amsterdam, it consists of eight well-kept playing fields and a two-story building that houses locker rooms, classrooms, workout facilities and offices for coaches and sports scientists. In an airy cafe and bar, players are served meals and visitors can have a glass of beer or a cappuccino while looking out over the training grounds. Everything about the academy, from the amenities to the pedigree of the coaches — several of them former players for the powerful Dutch national team — signifies quality. Ajax once fielded one of the top professional teams in Europe. With the increasing globalization of the sport, which has driven the best players to richer leagues in England, Germany, Italy and Spain, the club has become a different kind of enterprise — a talent factory. It manufactures players and then sells them, often for immense fees, on the world market. “All modern ideas on how to develop youngsters begin with Ajax,” Huw Jennings, an architect of the English youth-development system, told me. “They are the founding fathers.”


There are two ways to become a world-class soccer player. One is to spend hours and hours in pickup games — in parks, streets, alleyways — on imperfect surfaces that, if mastered, can give a competitor an advantage when he finally graduates to groomed fields. This is the Brazilian way and also the model in much of the rest of South America, Central America and the soccer hotbeds of Africa. It is like baseball in the Dominican Republic. Children play all the time and on their own.  


The other way is the Ajax method. Scientific training. Attention to detail. Time spent touching the ball rather than playing a mindless number of organized games.  

This reminded me of our own Footall Friends in Kannur. Several of my friends trained there back in the 80’s. Regarding its present condition, this and this are about all that I have been able to find. 


PS: In the summer of 1991, after days spent alternating between cricket in the morning and football in the evening, I thought I had discovered my life’s purpose: to coaxe leg-spin off a football. I had visions of lobbing a ball to bounce in front of the great Walter Zenga, and then flummoxing him when it turned sharply to his right and into the net.  Twenty years later, watching Maicon doing a Muthiah Muralitharan impersonation in the process scoring Brazil’s first goal against  N. Korea, I knew my dream had become reality… thanks to the mighty Jabulani.


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