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International football in Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament 2008 diary
By Matthew Walters
Follow the 2008 Shrewsbury international Soccer Tournament with Matthew Walters. Come back every day through the week to read his latest diary.
Day five: Thursday, 7 August
The countdown to the finals of the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament has begun, with quarter- and semi-finals played out at a blistering pace to separate the footballing haves from the footballing have-nots.
Those that believe they are hungry enough for success have had that desire put to the test and scrutinised in an intense competitive atmosphere, testing their physical and mental strength and pushing themselves beyond boundaries they never thought possible.
I always enjoy this segment of the tournament because it brings out the full range of emotions in those involved – unparalleled joy and jubilation in the winners, and the most despairing feelings of loss and desperation for the runners-up. As a neutral, it simply couldn't be a more compelling football spectacle.
I received quite a surprise early on in my shift at the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament today, and I'm pleased to report it was an extremely positive and encouraging one.
I assigned myself to an under-11 match between Maiden City of Ireland and the West Bromwich Albion Development Centre, expecting a match in which the Irish - as they are famed for doing - would play aggressive, bruising football that would intimidate their opponents. Far from it. Maiden City played some of the best football of the tournament so far, playing high-tempo, pressing, exhilarating football that delighted spectators of all ages.
Their success was built upon a strong communal work ethic, a willingness to be ambitious and a never-say-die attitude. They won the match, of course, but the score was really irrelevant. It was a comprehensive victory that overcame the battling resistance of a talented West Brom team.
Fast forward a few hours and I was witness to a match of a totally different order on pitch five, where Discoveries from South Carolina took on Short Football from the Midlands in the 1989/90 age group. The Americans struggled to keep their shape against fierce and formidable opponents, and were cut open several times - to their cost - as they were dispossessed or gaps were exposed in their defence.
However, American defensive misgivings are not the reason I draw attention to this match. What really caught my attention was the way in which the manager and spectators of the American team behaved when their team went several goals down.
It's quite typical in Britain to see parents and managers alike berating their team's players at the sight of a misplaced pass, especially when the chips are down. The American philosophy is entirely different. The American manager simply spoke calmly to his players individually, explaining what he expected of them, what they had done well and what they could improve on.
The team's collective spirit was far more visually noticeable than anything I'd seen in the entire course of the tournament so far, and maybe that was the fundamental driving factor behind their small comeback when they began the second half. This is what this event offers you: a glimpse of the man-management and coaching techniques from other cultures. It's something that can't really be taught, it has to be experienced.
I've elaborated at length this week about how I feel we could learn from our visitors in terms of their organisation and coaching. Sports psychology plays an increasingly pivotal role in professional sport in the 21st Century, and we in Britain should fundamentally educate our coaches that telling a child that he or she is "useless" is far more damaging than taking them aside, having a quiet word and explaining an individual's strengths and weaknesses.
We've got to reign-in the instincts of those failed-footballers-turned-coaches that make football a military exercise to be endured rather than enjoyed by youngsters. Football is more than a sport with two goals and a round-ball: football, for many people, is a culture, a philosophy. Football's principles of team-work, strong communication and dedication are universal, applicable to any way of life, in and out of sport.
The emphasis has got to be participation over perfection. Charles Dickens had to learn to write sentences before he began writing novels. Michael Jackson had to learn the basic elements of music before releasing Thriller. In the same manner, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo learnt to kick a football and run with it before attempting Cruyff and Maradona turns.
Finals, film-making and flamboyant celebrations from winning teams: tomorrow promises to be very exciting indeed.
last updated: 12/08/2008 at 13:25