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Denmark promotes new football culture

October 31st, 2007 by Rasmus Wilhardt & Troels Kaltoft · 2 Comments

More youngsters will become succesfull football players if they are allowed to have fun rather than focusing on results. That is the opinion of Keld Bordinggaard, coach for the Danish U21 national team.

(Photo: Morten Flarup)

“The players only learn how to follow orders. But on top level we need intelligent players, who are able to think independently and create solutions. Earlier we believed, that we could instruct us into creating skillfull players, but we cannot. That is why we in Danish football today have a lot of players, who are skilled at organizing and following orders, but only few players, who are able to break down the opponents organization and think for themselves” says Bordinggaard.

With his colleague Kasper Hjulmand he has produced a report on a new direction in Danish youth football. Inspired by downgoing numbers in Danish children active in the sport and downgoing international results for both Danish national teams and clubs, the two football coaches realized, that something needed to be done.

The answer, according to Bordinggaard and Hjulmand, is a new way of training young football players for the good of both the children as well as Danish football. This includes few players on every team and thereby more direct involvement in the game for every player, less focus on results and gathering of the best players in elite clubs and generally creating an environment, where the youngsters develop skills through playful and unstructered football rather than organized and focused training.

“When the big clubs gather all the best players at a young age, you see results like 12-0 and 15-0 every weekend. That is not educational for either the winners or the losers. The problem is, that it is meaningless to talk about elite for children under 12, because their needs are totally different from the older children and adults. They need time and space to develop into skilled football players. In my oppinion it is a misunderstanding to think, that you can treat kids as little professionals,” Keld Bordinggaard says.

However, this view on football training for children collides with the Danish elite clubs’ intension of creating potential professional footballers by gathering them at a young age and matching them with other players at their own high level.

Leader of Danish football club AGF’s talent academy Søren Juel feels, that it is important to let the young players compete and that it actually makes them better players.

“I see a lot of interesting initiatives in the report regarding the way of training children. But I disagree heavily with the idea, that everything that has to do with elite sport must be stopped. All this finger pointing at all that’s elitist is just plain wrong,” he says and continues.

“I disagree with the idea, that it’s suddenly forbidden to win. The young boys care about, whether or not they win or lose, and I believe, that winning is a large part of the motivation for them”.

In Keld Bordinggaard’s ideal world of football children below the age of 12 should be protected from focus on results and pressure from both coaches and parents. He compares with the many football talents of Brazil and Holland, who develop their skills through unstructered football for instance in the streets. Furthermore, he points out the paradox of Danish football clubs investing in technically skilled African players, who in many cases have developed their skills through much more playful and experimental forms of football than the Danish clubs practice themselves.

“The elite clubs believe, that they can create skilled players by introducing professional conditions for the talented children at a young age. In my opinion it is a very big mistake to think, that the same principles that work for adults also apply for children,” says Bordinggaaard, who sees a long battle ahead with the Danish football clubs.

“It is going to be very difficult to change the development, because the battle for the best young players is ongoing and continuing. It doesn’t look like the clubs can regulate it themselves,” he says.

And Borddinggard just might be right. Certainly, Søren Juel from AGF is not backing down and withholds that collecting the best young players is for the good of both the players and Danish football.

“We agree that training and playing football should be fun for kids, but still we are not afraid to divide them into levels at the age of ten. We do this, because we believe, that the way to become a better player is to compete with others at the same level. And also our experience is, that the kids find it most fun to play with someone at their own level,” he says.

The battle continues.

Watch Keld Bordinggard explain about Denmark’s new football youth system while showing off his (lack of) ping pong skills.

Keld Bordinggaard Larsen
Age: 45
Occupation: Head coach of the Danish U20 and U21 national football teams.
Active career in football:
OB, Silkeborg IF and Vejle (Denmark), Wichita Wings (USA – indoor soccer) and Panionios (Greece). Four games for the Danish national team.
Previous coaching-jobs: Vejle (assistant and head coach), the Danish national team (assistant coach)

Tags: Theme: Children in sport

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 yaya osman // Oct 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

    i would like to play for my home country and i wanted a reply back am a quality footballer.

  • 2 sælg din bolig selv // Jun 26, 2014 at 4:22 pm

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