By Wilson Hawes
There has been a tidal wave of comment from both within and outside the football world on Anthony Hudson’s recent statements about the preparedness of NZ footballers, mentally, for the rigors of top-flight football. There has been a wide range of opinion expressed both supporting and disagreeing with him. This is pretty typical of football in this country and every perspective on this has some relevance to the vexing question of why so few Kiwis ever make it in world football and why we struggle internationally.
Firstly Anthony, I want to thank you for having an opinion and not being afraid of expressing it. This is the sort of forthright thinking that all sport is lacking in this modern era of politically correct soundbites and contracted limitations on free-thought in the workplace.
While I am certainly not a top-flight coach or player, my experience in youth coaching and club administration has given me a unique perspective into the attitude of young players (and their parents) when it comes to player development in this country.
When the Whole Of Football Plan was launched, I applauded it as a strategic template for the future of the game in NZ, and as a great way to respond to the success of our participation in the 2010 World Cup. As a plan it is absolutely superb. But its execution has fallen down at the coal face, due to mediocre coaching at the federation level and, more importantly, the belief that participation in National Talent Centre and Federation Talent Centres is the be-all and end all to creating a path to footballing glory for a young kid in NZ. Truth is, it is not.
And more importantly, telling kids and their parents that a young footballer has “talent” at 10 seems to have created an attitude of “entitlement” and a feeling that young Johnny or Julie has “made it” just by getting into their first rep-team . The fact is that this is the point at which the real hard work should start, where exposure to the best coaching the country has to offer should commence and the ruthless attitude that is needed to succeed in international sport should start.
The very best players in the world are hugely talented, massively paid and coached, analysed and managed to within an inch of their lives. Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale, Ronaldo et al are money making corporations playing sublime football week in week out. BUT that doesn’t happen without effort. And the amount of effort is supreme. For every Messi, there are maybe a 1,000 players out there who are better, faster, even more outrageously talented, who never got the chance and are now packing groceries, labouring, doing drugs or whatever.
Talent is not enough, players need drive, attitude, exposure to the best coaching and day in day out competition at the highest level from other players hungrier and more talented, searching for the same glittering prize.
Fact is, New Zealand is a long way away from the footballing world and we are seduced by the fact that the All Blacks can operate as the world’s best in a sport that realistically only 5 countries really play. The football world is massive, the competition is extreme and if we wish to compete in it we need to get in the game and harden up.
Thank you again Anthony and please stay around for a while, we need you.
[Wilson Hawes is a former Chairman of Fencibles United]
Categories: All Whites
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.