Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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New JFA Development Academy
I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this, but the Japanese football development structure was first designed on an American model. So, future footballer wanna-bes would have to get whatever training they could at their schools first, and then try and get into some of the J club youth teams before heading into a pro contract. This sort of made sense from a Japan culture point of view, but we've seen already that its too slow and vulnerable a plan, and this has delayed the development process in individual players. Not just the skills and such, but other things like maturity, independence and so forth. While European teenagers are already starting for top clubs in Europe, Japanese players are just getting their toe in on what it means to be a pro footballer.

jfadevprog.jpgIn a previous entry where I introduced the Japan NT coaching staff, I mentioned that Zico's brother and technical advisor Edu had tried to get an academy started of his own. But there were financial problems, and really it is a difficult thing to keep going with little help. And most of all, places like Okinawa, where some of Japan's most rhythmically gifted, outgoing, athletic personalities come from, doesn't even have a local league club where kids could get organized youth level training. The photo on the right is of Christopher Tatsuki Kinjo, one of Okinawa's best in the U-12 group.

Well, thank god, the JFA must have been on the same wavelength in recent years. This past month, 662 children from all over Japan applied for the chance to join the new JFA Academy Fukushima. Kids in the middle and high school level will be picked from the hundreds after a three tier evaluation process (boys and girls), and they will end up living in the Academy. Christopher, from the photo, showed up at the J-Village for the evaluation and selection process.

The kids will live in dormitories, train under JFA coaches on the Academy grounds (there is a pitch set aside for them), and attend the local schools for basic education. On top of that, they will also get additional educational electives like languages. I forget what the final acceptance numbers are, but I think it's something like 15 for boys. Not many, but I guess it's good to start with a smaller group and see how that goes before expanding.

The JFA feels that if Japan continues with the plan they had so far used for the past ten or so years, we will never catch up to international standards. They feel that in order to close the gap, the JFA will need to play a more active role in developing promising players, 24/7. Their aim is to be able to have 3 or 4 national team members come out of their Academy ten years down the road.

This Academy is modeled after France's National Football Academy, the one that Zidane and Henri have graduated from. The French academy is I think about 30 years old.

During the selection trials, the evaluators looked for potential and natural football sense. For instance, during the lifting test, they didn't look at how many times a candidate lifted without dropping the ball; but instead looked at the the style of lifting, whether the candidate had a natural soft relaxed touch with the ball. In the 50 meter dashes, they didn't look at just overall speed, but also evaluated running form. They had speed-reading machines at 10 meter intervals so they could see what the increment by increment speeds were, whether the candidate decelerated considerably in the final 10 meters, what the acceleration was like, and so on. And of course the kids played a game at the end, and evaluators looked at how well the candidates could express their strengths, intelligence and style during an actual game situation.

This is really exciting stuff, and could make a huge difference on the future if done properly. Things won't go perfectly smoothly, that's a given, but if something valuable can be gained in the process for the kids as well as the Academy people, it will be worth it.
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