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05 June 2010

How a Soccer Star Is Made [More:]
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.”
The rise of the football academy has resulted in the decline of the amateur game at schoolboy level. The best players are taken at a very young age out of the school and park football teams and hot-housed.

Also, many local authorities in the UK discourage competitive sports in schools. The borough of Barking & Dagenham produced some of England's finest players - Moore, Peters, Venables, Greaves, Brooking, Ince ... but in the 70s developed this "no child is allowed to come second" nonsense which meant that no competitive or team sports were allowed in schools. This was a bad thing for the beautiful game and its development in England, as far as I'm concerned.

(Paul Ince was lucky, although he lived in Dagenham - a few streets from my old house - his street was in the borough of Redbridge at the time, where he was able to play schools football.)

John Terry was also born in Barking, but he is a guttersnipe of the highest order and I hope he gets a good kicking from someone during the World Cup.
posted by Senyar 05 June | 04:42
Interesting read. The Netherlands being a tiny country we need apparently to be very efficient with the talent that we do have. Unlike Brasil for instance.

It's intrigueing to read about these extremely young high potentials. On the one hand I admire that some young children can be tough and excel even at that age in grueling competition.
On the other hand it feels wrong to some extent that young children are exposed to the power of big money and world wide competition.

Personally I don't crave for the US to enter top level soccer. There's a certain kind of beauty in there being a world sport that's not anglophone by default. German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French; it's truly global.
A piece of world culture that's not dominated by the US.

So, I beg of you, just stick with baseball, basketball and American football.
posted by jouke 05 June | 10:35
Thanks for sharing the link. I'd have been glad to encounter it in a FPP.
posted by Joe Beese 05 June | 11:34
Personally I don't crave for the US to enter top level soccer.

I don't think that there's any danger of football/soccer becoming big in the US beyond the junior highschool level. It's been "the next big thing" ever since Pele got hired by the New York Cosmos in the seventies and never seems to happen.
posted by octothorpe 05 June | 12:33
Stonehenge at night, 1944 || Tahini