foot ball learning from the best

Learning from the Best

In September 2015, Dashen Brewery and Arsenal Football Club announced a three-year partnership. The partnership focuses on supporting Dashen Brewery’s community-based initiatives. Coaches from the club regularly visit Ethiopia and provide coaching to the Brewer’s grassroots football development project.

The third round the grassroots coaching session was held from February 9 to 10, 2017, in Addis Ababa. Grassroots football projects of the Ethiopian Premier League clubs, the Ethiopian Football Federation, regional sports commissions, and private projects partook in the training. EBR adjunct staff writer Abiy Wendifraw attended the session and discussed with participants on how the training will help them to improve their coaching.

Edelu Dereje, 37, remembers how his first day at school happened. One morning in September 1986, he wasn’t at home. Hence his mother was looking for him in several places because she wanted to take her 7 years old son to school for the first time. However, Edelu was not at home. Later, she found him playing football in the centre of Piassa located in Arada District, in a field, which afterward stayed fenced almost for the last two decades. “[Even if] there were no formal training or football education, we used to play there for long hours,” says Edelu who retired from playing football two years ago.

Now the deputy coach of Ethiopian Coffee Football Club, the team he helped win the first premier league title six years ago, Edelu is working hard to become grassroots football coach too. He attended the three round of Dashen-Arsenal Grassroots Coaching Series with due attention for both the theoretical and practical sessions.

“The training made me recognize the need to know football philosophy which can be applied on players from youth to elite level,” says the former Coffee skipper. “The sessions were 50Pct in theory and 50Pct through practice. We learnt so much just in a couple of days; it was very effective.”

A total of 32 Ethiopian coaches from Ethiopian football teams and private grassroots football projects from several parts of the country attended the recent Dashen-Arsenal Football Coaching session in Addis Ababa. Simon McManus, head coach of Arsenal Soccer Schools, was joined by his associate Carlan Edgar to conduct the theoretical and practical training programme at Beshale Hotel and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia Football Team training field, respectively.

The foreign coaches gave details of the elements of football philosophy to produce young footballers. Issues regarding how to become a good coach, and how to train young players were incorporated in the topics. The technical aspects of the game, receiving a ball, possession, moving in different directions and shooting, were practiced in the training field.

“We have shown them different practices. That can help players to develop creativity and progressive football Arsenal is known for,” said McManus.

Since the announcement of Dashen Brewery and Arsenal Football Club three-year partnership in September 2015, two Arsenal legends visited Ethiopia to inspire Ethiopian coaches and the academy footballers. Six months after Ray Parlour, one of the popular midfielders at Arsenal, arrived in December 2015, Martin Keown, the defender of “The Invincible” team, came to raise the trainees’ spirit and forward professional advices.

Tarekegn Argebo, 36, Assistant Coach at Arbaminch City Football Team, was among those trainees who attended the first two round trainings in Bahir Dar and Gondar towns. The former player is a passionate grassroots football coach since his high school years. After suffering from career ending injury at the age of 23, Tarekegn committed himself to help youngsters who dream to be footballers in Arbaminch.

“I used to give the ball and watch them while playing their own way. Sometimes I train them how to control, dribble, and pass. I also advise them to behave,” says Tarekegn. Alongside his job to take care of Arbaminch City’s second team, he implements the Arsenal way of training with 30 boys he separately gathered from the city. Until the summer vacation comes, these boys meet Tarekegn every weekend. “[Managers of] Dashen Breweries also expressed their interest to visit Arbaminch and see how I am applying the training I received from Arsenal coaches.”

Indeed football loving kids of this generation have a better chance of learning football from “good coaches.” In addition to the Arsenal way of technical and tactical exercise, Edelu believes that this series of training programme can transform the leadership style of Ethiopian football. In the past, many of the coaches in the country were known for their old school coaching style. Even in this modern time, many young coaches practice a similar style because they were inspired by their previous coaches.

“Command style of coaching really worked in the past. Now it may not be. Working with kids demands extra effort. You need to listen to them too. That is when you can choose the right methodology to train them. Learning this was one of the most interesting sessions,” says Edelu.

Being thankful for the training opportunities the Dashen-Arsenal partnership presented to coaches like him who can’t otherwise get the chance to study modern football training abroad, Tarekegn, seems worried that the lack of facility in the country may hamper them from realising the maximum benefits of grassroots development training.

The playing fields in Arbaminch, where some of the stars of the Ethiopian Premier League such as Abebaw Butako, Biyadgelegn Elias, and Tadele Mengesha used to play, have been used for building condominium houses and several constructions. “Unless the city administration takes tangible measures on this issue, [Arbaminch] will no longer be football talent factory [for the nation],” he says.

There is a similar problem in Addis Ababa. Though the 10 districts have plans to build big stadiums, critics believe that these facilities will not solve the shortage of playing fields at grassroots level. Kids need public pitches closer to their home. “The Arsenal coaches repeatedly reminded us that we must let the kids play. Without pitches, you cannot let them play,” says Edelu.

Several European grassroots coaches frequently mention the “10,000 hour rule,” which sets the total minimum hours kids should spend playing football all the years to succeed. EBR

5th Year • April 2017 • No. 49

Abiy Wendifraw

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