Interview ● Oct 05, 2017

Edmilson: Coaches Guide, but the Ball is the Best Teacher

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Edmilson: Coaches Guide, but the Ball Is the Best Teacher

SINGAPORE, 5 OCTOBER 2017: Retired Brazilian FIFA World Cup winner Edmilson, who conducted a football clinic over the weekend for Albirex Niigata FC (S), met Football Association of Singapore (FAS) President Mr Lim Kia Tong earlier this week, along with FAS General Secretary Winston Lee. The hour-long meeting saw a lively discussion about football in Brazil and Singapore, with Mr Lim asking the former Lyon and Barcelona defender for his views on how Singapore football can integrate elements of Brazilian football to improve.

The discussion started on a positive note when Mr Lim asked Edmilson about his famous overhead-kick goal at the 2002 FIFA World Cup against Costa Rica, sparking an animated recounting of not just the goal but the Brazil team’s tactics at the tournament in Korea and Japan.

“It was a moment of improvisation. It is not easy for a defender to score a goal, and it was very special to do so at a World Cup – every Brazilian dreams of putting on the jersey, so for me to do that and score, it was simply amazing,” said Edmilson through a translator.

That improvisation is what Edmilson wants to bring to the world as part of what he describes as the best of Brazilian football, along with another critical factor: creativity.

According to him, a large part of what makes Brazilian players so technically proficient is that for many, they play on and master four different types of surfaces – street, beach, futsal and dirt fields – even before moving on to formal football. On top of this, many cannot afford to buy proper footballs, so they improvise and use all manner of spherical objects. These all help with ball mastery, a key ingredient of success in football.

However, he acknowledged that there are many differences between Singapore and Brazil, and as such, it would be impossible to replicate the Brazilian system in Singapore – what can instead be done is to bring the best elements of Brazilian football to Singapore.

“Brazil is very different – we are a third world country, and many children don’t go to school full-time. There are many who are completely focused on football, so it is easier to get good players when that happens,” affirmed Edmilson.

Citing the famous ’10,000 Hour Rule’ that states one must practice for that amount of time to become world class in any field, he broke it down to a child needing to spend 2-3 hours with the ball every day for 10 years. 

“Passion is the most important thing. Not everyone who trains will become a professional footballer, but they can continue the passion and carry it on to become fans of the game. But players must be with the ball every single day. A coach can guide players, but the ball is the best teacher,” he continued.

This training time required is why Edmilson is a fan of the FAS’ practice of having National Football Academy teams compete in the Centre of Excellence leagues and the Garena Young Lions compete in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League, saying that having the opportunity to increase the amount of training time together will only improve a team.

He cited the example of the United States, whose age-group National Teams he says have up to over 200 days of training together a year, in contrast with Brazil’s age-group teams who only have 30-plus days of training together a year. As a result, the USA has had stronger youth teams in the past three years, and have been improving gradually as a whole.

The meeting concluded with Edmilson promising to bring a Brazil Masters team to Singapore, following in the footsteps of the Brazil Olympic team (2008) and Brazil ‘A’ National Team (2014) who have already played in the Lion City.