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The Boys from Brazil

 If you want to be the best you have got to watch the best and see what they do. The undoubted best in world football are the Brazilians (World Cup winners 5 times). Having little in terms of history they look at their country in the context of World Cup successes and their children are born liking football. The culture of this sport is very deep.

 

The majority of Brazilian boys play football on the beach or in the streets and sand fields. Only a small proportion of them will ever fulfil their dream and play for a football club. Although there are a large number of professional clubs supply always exceeds demand.

 

Because street football is common in Brazil (and becoming less common in Britain) children get the opportunity to play from a very early age. They have as a consequence a highly developed motor connection as compared to our children who train in "organised" football. There is a myth however that this is the reason that so many good players are produced.

 

The reality is somewhat different. The youngest kids taken by clubs from the extensive open trials have to work like professionals. The open trials are not the end. Each year no matter how well a player has performed at a club he has to endure a "Peneira" (Portuguese = straining) and if he does not perform he will be forced to leave the club. The pressure is therefore relentless. Cafu went through 14 Peneiras before he got a spot!

 

For those who are continually successful with this military style drafting and training of recruits a chance to make it as a professional gets closer and closer. The fact that almost all such players are from the Brazilian lower classes (only Socrates and Kaka made it from the middle class) emphasises the fact that for many football is the only escape from poverty.

 

The U15, U17 and U20 groups have training every day the latter being very similar to the professional level. In essence it is hard work. The additional hours spent practicing football is the single most obvious advantage Brazilians have over English players.

 

Malcolm Gladwell's theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill is becoming a popular idea. The amount of time spent practicing as a youth player will directly affect the age at which the player fulfils his potential. In Brazil players master technical skills earlier and this allows them to compete at a higher level much earlier in their development than their English counterparts. Many are spotted playing Futsal which teaches superb ball control and precision on a smaller less forgiving surface. It is perhaps no surprise that the worlds two best futsal teams are Spain and Brazil.

 

In addition the youth system in Brazil can keep players in a development environment until the age of 21 in which they play in extremely competitive Leagues. In England until fairly recently the oldest official youth category was  U18 by which time players have been expected to graduate to first team level when only the most naturally talented or physically and mentally developed had the necessary qualities to cope.

 

It seems that Brazilian players are given more opportunity to reach their 10,000 hours at an older age. I dread to think how many potentially good players have been lost to our game because they have been released too soon in their development.

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