Football Associations

3 amazing facts on player development in Icelandic football

Siggi Eyjolfsson is the Ex technical director/coach education director, F.A. of Iceland from 2002-2014. He was also Iceland’s Womens national team head coach 2007-2013 and head coach at IBV in the men´s Icelandic top league in 2014. He holds a UEFA Pro licence coach from the English F.A.

He writes great article of how Iceland is developing both male and female players for the future. A very small footballing nation with a big plan.

Article starts here >

As I wrote in my last post “Iceland best in the world in developing football players?”

Iceland has only 325.000 people, only 20.000 football players and yet manage to outperform more than 150 bigger countries on the FIFA ranking list!

If Iceland was a US city it would rank 58th in population among US cities with considerably fewer inhabitants than Honolulu, Hawai! Yet Iceland ranks 28th on the FIFA ranking list after their last match in which they beat the bronze medalists from the FIFA World Cup 2014 –Netherlands 2-0.

How are Iceland developing so many players?

Iceland is sitting top of their group for EURO qualifications with 3 wins in 3 matches and an 8-0 goal difference.

Many of you contacted me and wanted to learn more about what we are doing in Iceland in developing our players so here are the first 3 amazing facts that should get you thinking about learning more from Icelandic player development.

1. Icelandic clubs regularly give young players a chance to play 1st team football.

Eidur Gudjohnsen is an Icelander won the English Premier League with Chelsea and won the Champions League with Barcelona and the list goes on. Eidur started playing in the Icelandic top league at age 15 and scored 7 goals in 17 matches that year. Eidur was exceptionally young but in general Icelandic players are regularly given a chance to play 1st team football, even in the top league. This aids the development of our young players.

Sometimes Icelandic clubs do not even get the chance to play their young players because they are scouted when they play for the youth national teams and are then signed by bigger clubs abroad before they reach enough maturity to play 1st team football in Iceland.

However around half the national team that started in the match against Netherlands have played less than a season in the top league in Iceland. They received their foundation in Iceland but when they became really promising as players they were bought by foreign clubs where they continued their development and kept improving as players. Iceland has around 90 professional players playing abroad, they have moved abroad at different ages and it is tough to say at which age players should make that transition, I think you need to look at each individual case, the same rule does not apply to all.

To create good players you need good coaches. To create good coaches you need good coach education.

2. Coach education for all coaches!

If you want to be a football coach in Iceland, you have to have coach education, even if you want to coach beginners at the grassroots level.

  • Around 70% of all coaches have completed the UEFA B licence (124 hours) and around 30% have completed the UEFA A licence (120 hours).
  • This is counting all coaches, even at the grassroots level. On top of that many of the coaches are educated physical education teachers or have completed a Bachelors degree in Exercise and sport science.
  • All the clubs in the top 2 leagues undergo a club licensing system where coach education for all their coaches is mandatory and the clubs get fined by the Icelandic Football Association if they do not fulfill the coach education requirements. This has created a whole country of educated coaches who receive the basic tools they need to coach straight from the FA of Iceland.

3. Producing outstanding international players by working with what you have got!

In 1984, Icelandic player Asgeir Sigurvinsson was voted best player in the German Bundesliga after captaining his side VFB Stuttgart to winning the Bundesliga. Sigurvinsson developed in Westman islands on a small isolated island south of Iceland playing for IBV until he became 17 years old. The town of Westman islands only has around 4.200 inhabitants and is too remote to recruit youth players from elsewhere.

Hermann Hreidarsson developed at the same club, Hreidarsson played 15 seasons in English football and in 2011 he became the Scandinavian player who has played most matches in the history of the English Premier League.

On the female side, Margret Lara Vidarsdottir also grew up in the town, she is Iceland´s best goalscorer ever and has scored 71 goals in 94 matches for the Icelandic women´s national team. Not many players in the world can say they have a goalscoring record like that!

Think about how crazy this is… 4.200 inhabitants means that the whole town only has around 35-50 people born in a certain year, and only a part of them become football players and since the club is based on a small island they are stuck with that extremely small player pool to select from. They have to develop what they have got, they cannot recruit from elsewhere, they don´t recruit for talent. The lesson to learn here for player development is that you can develop good young promising players anywhere. I can name you at least 10 more players who have become professional players abroad coming from this small club.

Many of Iceland´s best players have developed in small clubs from the countryside. Have a look at another small club in Iceland IA Akranes who are a town of 6.000 people who have sold 30 homegrown players to bigger professional clubs abroad in 30 years. They do not recruit talented young players from elsewhere, they work with what they have got.

VIDEO: Here is a video where they are featured on UEFA Training Ground.

I will leave you with this cool video on player development in Iceland which I made for my presentation at the NSCAA convention in Philadelphia, USA this year.

And when you go to your next coaching session tomorrow think about this quote from Joachim Löw the national team head coach of World Champions 2014 Germany, this is what he said after winning the World Cup in Brazil:

“Youth coaches create World Champions”

If you are a technical director, in charge of a club, a CEO or a head youth coach think about how good your youth coaches are and if they have the right tools to teach the players the skills they need to become successful players.

If you want to know more about Icelandic player development or buy a presentation on it for your coaches, your club, your state, your national association etc. Let me know.

More amazing facts on the Icelandic football to follow, that is if you want to know more? It would be nice to hear what you think.

Siggi is currently looking for his next challenge in football, if you would like to find out more about his methods or interested in talking to him you can email him 

Siigi has more great articles on his website> Siggi blog  

Here is Siggi presentation on Iceland: How_can_Iceland_produce_so_many_professional_football_players


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me and if you don’t have anything to add, please pass this on to a friend.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter  @Coachdiary

See also Icelandic Football

Football Associations

Scottish FA blogs

Here are two great blogs by the Scottish FA for anyone currently doing their badges.

Positive Coaching Blog


Coaching Blog

Club Together Conference 2013

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Pat Bonner and Stig Inge Bjornebye are among the line-up of guest speakers at this year’s Club Together Conference at Hampden on Sunday, 18th August.

The annual event provides those involved in grassroots football with valuable information on how to develop the game. Pat, who had an illustrious career with Celtic and Republic of Ireland, is now a UEFA technical instructor.

He will present on goalkeeping coaching methods. Stig, who has played at the highest level with Liverpool and Norway, is now a development manager for youth football at the Norwegian Football Federation.

He will be joined by colleague and director of grassroots football, Alf Hansen, to provide an insight into the success of their grassroots football programme. This will include a presentation on their community club environment and philosophy for developing young players.

In addition, there will be a host of workshops with specialist presenters on the following areas:

From Club to Hub – A focus on developing facilities and improving access in partnership with other parties.

Growing Your Membership – Providing examples and ideas on how to grow and develop your club.

It’s Your Future – Helping you set out, agree and deliver future plans for your club.

The ‘F’ Words (Funding and Facilities) – A look at the current funding streams and innovative ways clubs can generate funds.

Last year’s inaugural event saw 120 grassroots clubs represented as Andy Roxburgh presented on UEFA’s vision for grassroots football.

To attend, please fill in the attached form on the ATTACHED and return by post to Ann Quinn, Football Development Department, Glasgow, G42 9AY.

DOWNLOAD FORM: Club Together Conference 2013, Scotland

Reference: Scottish FA Website

Worth a read: England’s Way Forward

Football Associations Irish Grassroots Football

Can we expect a new ERA or will it be much of the same?

Less then a week after I attended the DDSL’new beginning for a New Era’ and not even a thank on the DDSL website. I was expecting a message from the powers at the DDSL, maybe some feedback from the night, but nothing. They haven’t even added Alistair Grays email from Renaissance, the Company doing the audit on their site or least I can’t see it. They mentioned that 70 people should last week, I think that number is generous and I suppose it reflects how people really think or is it that they just don’t care!!!

Now I’m wondering what they did with all our ideas and will they do as one of the big powers usually does…..bring someone in, take the ideas and run with them, without using the source being involved, I just hope that they listen to the people on the ground, the coaches, managers and the kids themselves.

Grassroots football is not about the amount of trophies you win. It is about the difference you make to young people”. – Nick Levett.

We need to change together…

I still firmly believe that we need to introduce changes across Ireland. SFAI need to do what they were set-up to do and govern the grassroots game. At present all they do is run a few cups competitions. They have absolutely no involvement with how the game is developed in Ireland and it’s about time they started changing with the times. Kids these days have grown up with being able to access things instantly, football is no different; the kids game is changing. They, the SFAI, who supposedly run the kids games are in fact the ones preventing it from growing. You can blame this old farts, for thousand of kids leaving the game every year. The SFAI do not support children playing the game in this country, their sole goal is to provide cup competition, which actually go against the development grain because of how competitive these cups actually are and I’m not talking about the kids. So in essence they are preventing your child from enjoying the game and developing in an age related structure.

The SFAI, don’t even have a mission statement……are you surprised, I’m not! Kids playing football know much more about the game then the people administrating it and by the looks of what I saw at last years AGM, the average age of this committee is well over 50, the game as changed ten fold since they were kids and that is were the disconnect lies. Whatever changes are made they need to be sanctioned right across Ireland. I’ve said it before, there is no point in Dublin doing one thing and Cork doing another. Think about this, a 26 year old international plays on the same size pitch as a 11 year old boy/girl….there is something not right with that.

Have the SFAI and/or FAI ever done any research on child development, have they ever asked kids playing the game, what they need and want?

A guide to the changes in the UK from 2014

From season 2014/2015, the FA will introduce a new pathway for development across the UK.

u7 will be 5v5 – No leagues published, no single eight month long season. Three trophy events allowed per season.

u8 will be 5v5 – No leagues published, no single eight month long season. Three trophy events allowed per season.

Ball size 3, goal size 12×6 and pitch size 40×30

u9 will be 7v7 – No leagues published, no single eight month long season. Three trophy events allowed per season.

Ball size 3, goal size 12×6 and pitch size 60×40

u10 will be 7v7 – No leagues published, no single eight month long season. Three trophy events allowed per season.

Ball Size 4, goal size 12×6 and pitch size 60×40.

u11 will be 9v9 – League table allowed but will change to: No leagues published, no single eight month long season. Three trophy events allowed per season from 2015/16.

u12 will be 9v9 – League tables allowed.

Ball size 4, goal size 16×7 and pitch size 80×50.

u13 & u14s – remains 11v11 – Leagues table allowed.

Ball size 4. Goal size 21×7 and pitch size 90×55.

u15s & u16s – remains 11v11.

Ball size 5, goal size 24×8 and pitch size 100×60

u17 & u18s remains 11v11

Ball size 5, goal size 24×8 and pitch size 110×70

Currently in Scotland they play 7v7 until u12s and move to competitive 11v11  football  at u13s. In Wales they play 5v5, 6v6 and 8v8 at u10s & u11s. England, NI, Scotland and Wales have sanctioned changes right across the country, we need to do the same and do it now, not in ten years.

“38% of players in premier leagues are available to play for England”

Organised or not

Many great players of the past did not play organised football until u12s, these players were allowed enjoy the game with not having the added pressure to win leagues or cups. We need to introduce change across the Ireland, not just in Dublin. No cups, no elite football, no leagues until 12s and gradually introduce a grading and league system. More emphasis should be put on school football, they have a 5v5 game up to 6th class but not enough is done to get all schools participating.  After primary school and only when they get to secondary should they be concentrating on developing in a single sport. Being involved in a variety of sports, this will help with kids coordination and balance. More kids should be encouraged to get involved with the community games and certainly the government should be supporting and funding these more. We need to bring back the FUN in to the game, it’s all but gone from Grassroots football in this country. We need to take the kids out of the adult environment and keep them in child related environments for much longer. When you look at the stats of kids making in the game, we are providing for the 1%, when we should be providing for the 99%.

“700,000 kids playing football in the uk  and the chances of making it to the premier league at 21 are 0.015%” – Nick Levett


This year the UK will invest 150million into schools sports, which probably isn’t all that much considering how big the UK is. However, they have recognised how important being in sports is. Sports not only reduces the chances of obesity, a child is also less likely to suffer from any psychological illnesses. Two areas, which are of of huge concern in relation to Irish kids.

I probably need to be more positive about the SFAI and FAI but it’s  hard to be at times, I’ll continue to look at ahead with hope that change is just around the corner.

You might be wondring what can prevent change from happening?  Well, a concern would be the bigs clubs in Dublin, not having competitive and/or elite leagues and this would certainly rock their boat. We know they relie on the small amounts of transfer funds they receive from the few kids that go to England but really these changes should not impact, as kids cannot sign until they are much older. The time is right, we are all ready for change!

I’ll concluded by thanking the vast number of volunteers who tirelessly give hundreds of hours of their time to keep kids in sports. To those, I salute you and ask you to stay involved.

‘Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time’

Football Associations

The Future of Football

‘Small-sided games are the pathway to success’

Sir Trevor Brooking told Special Report on Sky that more must be done to foster technical ability in youth football.

Brooking, the FA’s Director of Football Development, wants to change the way children are coached in order maximise their potential. Plans to stop under-13s playing traditional 11-a-side games on full-size pitches are included in the Young Player Development Review that he presented to the FA last month.

“We want to take the pressure off the youngsters who get that intensity from the sidelines, whether it be the mums and dads shouting or the coach or the manager”. Brooking Explained 

“I could win, perhaps, a mini soccer league by playing two or three big lads at the back who could launch it to the end of the pitch, pick up the pieces and we’d win more games than we’d lose but over a three or four-year period we’d never develop them technically”.  “So we are just saying forget that. Yes, every game is important but it doesn’t mean [winning] is the be-all and end-all.”

Child Centred

Converting a full-size pitch into four smaller-sized ones is a relatively straight-forward process.

It takes little time and carries minimal costs, but FA Development Officer Nick Levett said it could reap significant benefits. “The main idea behind the proposals is to make the game more child-centred,” he explained.

“We have very much an adult-based structure that we put onto children assuming that the adults want the same as the children. “But the children’s expectations within the game are very different from the adults; they value fun and participation and engagement at a different level to the adults that have a lot of ego-driven values within youth football”


“So we are trying to make sure that youth football in the future reflects what the children want from the game because it’s their game and not necessarily what the adult values are.

“So some of the format changes we are looking at for under-sevens and under-eights, making the game five-a-side as mandatory so they get more touches, more shots, more dribbles and more fun within the game by just being involved more.

“Then at under-11 and under-12 level, we are talking about making nine-against-nine mandatory, which again is a similar thing; the jump from mini-soccer to 11-against-11 at the moment is huge for many children and nine-against-nine gives us, we feel, the natural stepping stone in terms of development so that we don’t have 10-year-old children playing on the same size pitches as 26-year-old internationals.”


The move will bring England more in line with Scotland, under-eights play four-a-side games and 11-a-side games aren’t introduced until players reach 13.

Neil Mackintosh, SFA Head of Youth Development, said:

“The new national player pathway is something we’ve been working hard on for probably about two years now, although Andy Roxburgh said it actually started 27 years ago – so that’s maybe a sad indictment that it has taken us this long. But small-sided games were introduced in Scotland 27 years ago”.

“But what became apparent was it was a random development; there was a lot of good practice in Scotland and we had teams and associations playing in different leagues and in different formats, in different age groups with different rules and it became messy” (Sounds like a place I know)

“So we decided to have a look at a national player pathway that had best practice. For us we are starting with four-a-side, so we now have six to eight-year-olds playing four-a-side football; that’s the smallest number that you need to teach the principals of the game and that’s shown throughout the world to be one of the best teaching tools for young children”.

“Seven-a-side football is the next step; we’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s very well resourced in Scotland. People believe in the small-sided game and it’s a logical step.”


Mick Dennis from the Daily Express, a guest on Special Report by Sky Sports, admits that he has been won over by smaller-sided games for children.

“When I started playing football in primary school, you played on an 11-a-side pitch and I thought that was proper football,” he reflected. “So when I first heard Bobby Robson talking about restricting the size of matches, I thought ‘that’s not proper football’.

“But I’ve refereed youth football for 15 years and I’ve watched the introduction of small-sided games for younger age groups and there’s no doubt at all that the kids get better at football but, almost more importantly, they enjoy it more.”

Keep following The Coach Diary on his path to change for better coaching systems throughout Ireland. We need proper structures and we need to get the adults with only their own egos in mind out of the game for good. This game is for kids not adults, if you want to get involved in adult football then over u19s football is not for you!

Football Associations

Small Sided Games in England

Interview with Samantha Sharman from the English FA

Nearly every nation in Europe is making changes to their small side game to promote better development and get away from teaching kids that winning is more important.

What changes are being made to the small sided game in England?

First off let me explain our current situation within England’s football structures: Currently in our youth football, leagues can play in the formats of 5 v 5s, 6 v 6s, or 7 v 7s up to the age banding of U8’s.

Do you print results?

These mini soccer/youth leagues do not print results of the fixtures, do try and take away the emphasis of winning and encouraging the development of the young players. This was made mandatory across all youth leagues 3 seasons ago.

From U11’s the player format moves to 11 v 11 and moves to a formal league where league tables are introduced and results can be printed.

Who is behind these changes?

A lot of research has been conducted through the Youth and Mini football manager Nick Levett, who has been travelling across the country speaking with County Football Associations, leagues and children (players). This research does support some of your views from your email.  From this research Nick has put forward recommendations to The FA Youth Development : –

Review of the below:

5v5s at U7 & U8

7v7s v at U9 & U 10

9v9s at U11 & U12 onwards

11v11s from U13 (natural progression as this is when the children move from primary to secondary schools)

U7’s to U11’s are known as development football, from 12s+ leagues to be known as development leagues

According to the format above, the size of the pitches and goal posts will also change. (To come in line with Europe)

I have read about RAE, what is it?

Another area that may interest you in your research is Relative Age Effect. RAE is an area Nick is also researching into to overcome the problem. A player born in September is grouped together with a child born in August, however physically the player born in September is (majority of the time) a year more advanced (physically) than that of the player born in August, therefore being stronger, faster.

Due to the emphasis of winning coaches/managers tend to pick the players that are bigger and faster to increase the chance of winning; therefore the player will have more playing time than others, hence an increase in development.

As you can imagine this is fairly hard to overcome and is another piece of research that Nick is currently co-ordinating.

“Some of the format changes we are looking at for under-sevens and under-eights, making the game five-a-side as mandatory so they get more touches, more shots, more dribbles and more fun within the game by just being involved more” FA Development Officer Nick Levett

Are the British nations talking to each other? To make you aware, a Home Nation Youth Development meeting was created in 2010, that have met up twice and a meeting is set for this year.

All home nation FA’s are represented (English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish FA) to discuss each other’s current developments in youth football and to discuss any issues that have arisen and how we believe they should overcome them from our previous experiences.

I have a few copies of the FA Football Development Programme Mini-Soccer Handbook, if you want one?

Football Associations

Welsh Football Trust

The Coach Diary had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Jamie Clewer Regional Development Coordinator of the Welsh Football Trust.

Q. What is the WFT?

The Welsh Football Trust is responsible for the development of the game in Wales for boys and girls up to the age of 16 and also for Disability Football across all ages. The Football Association of Wales, its member Area Associations and Junior Leagues then regulate and administer the game across Wales. The Trust is effectively the Technical department of the FAW as we are also responsible for all player development (up to 16) and Coach Education from Level 1 – 5. It was setup as a separate body to protect funding for the development of the game here in Wales regardless of the fluctuation in results of our senior international team.

Q. Do you think youth football in Ireland, Scotland, and UK needs a drastic revamp and how did Wales change their system?

There has been a lot of coverage in the media around youth development recently. We are strong in our convictions that we have already started to address these issues in Wales. We have played compulsory small sided games maximum of 8v8 up to Under 11 with no competitive leagues since 1997. We in 2009, introduced compulsory 4v4 (No GK) and 5v5 (GK included) at Under 7s and 8s respectively.

This season, this has continued with Under 9s playing 6v6. Our plans are for next season are to complete the restructure with U10s playing 7v7 and U11 playing 8v8s (as they currently do). All Mini Football remains without competitive leagues. As part of this restructure the Trust and FAW invested in one set of mini pop goals for every junior club in Wales (550) to assist them with the change.

Alongside Mini Football we have our ‘Behind the Line, Behind the Team’ campaign promoting good parent and coach behaviour including our own version of the FA Respect Barrier concept.

It is our intention, when our Under 7s from the 2009/10 season reach Under 12 (2014) that we will introduce 9v9 (This will be the first age group to have played right through our new mini football structure). We are also considering extending this to Under 13 as some leagues run a two year age bracket in Wales due to our rural nature. The concept of 9v9 is yet to be ratified by the FAW council; however it is our intention to develop a model that works for Wales by consulting widely and looking at other nations.

Q. Why have changes been made?

  1. Emphasise on raising standard of play, to develop more technically capable players. Give players an opportunity to have more touches on the ball and make more decisions in a game related situation.
  2. UEFA at the Grassroots Conference 2009 emphasised the importance of providing age specific activity for children starting with small sided games.
  3. Better environment – Free from the pressure of playing to win with an over emphasis on adult influenced competitiveness. The game situation is challenge enough and children are inherently competitive.
  4. Children must have enjoyment regardless of ability if they are going to stay in the game.
  5. Raise standard of play at national level.

At the UEFA Grassroots Conference 2009, Hamburg, Germany – Children’s Football (Under 12)

All football up to the age of 12 years old, UEFA stated

Key aims:

  • Help children to be healthy, happy and challenged.
  • Help children express themselves through football.

Q. How should the game be played?

  • up to U8 – 2v2, 3v3, 4v4
  • up to U10 – 4v4, 5v5, 7v7
  • up to U12 – 7v7, 9v9, 11v11

Can be split into two phases:

Fun Phase – up to Under 8 –

Aims of the ‘fun’ phase:

  • Basic skill development
  • Maximum ball contact
  • Fascination for the game
  • Small group coordination
  • Desire to learn
  • Develop less ‘me’ – more ‘we’
  • Have fun with friends.

Foundation Phase – 9 to 12 years old.

Aims of the foundation phase:

  • Ball mastery
  • Reading the game
  • Understand basic principles
  • Speed, coordination, mobility
  • Team identity
  • Imagination
  • Love of the game

Some Interesting Facts

  • 4v4 average findings (against 8v8):
  • 38 more passes
  • 35 more 1v1 encounters
  • 29 more dribbling opportunities (tricks/turns)
  • 32 more shots
  • 20 more goals

(Martin Diggle – Bolton Wanderers)

The Benefits of 4v4

Don’t over emphasise the statistics! They just provide hard evidence behind the theory.

Key message: In a 4v4 situation the game produced more of each technique/skill – the players got to practice technique and develop technique into a skill through competition.

8v8 in 20 minutes: 2 passes by Page

More Benefits of 4v4

  • American research studying comparing 4v4 against 8v8 (female players) to emphasise the far greater number of opportunities a player will receive in a 4v4 situation.
  • In the 8v8 situation Page made only two passes in 20 minutes, on both occasions, she gave the ball away to the opposition.
  • In the 4v4 game she made 29 passes, she still gave possession away occasionally, but she had 27 more opportunities to learn from the mistake, practice technique and hopefully learn to make the right decision.
  • 4v4 in 20 minutes 29 Passes:- See total passes by Page
  • 27 more opportunities to practice the passing technique and when, who to pass to and how to pass.
  • In the 4v4 game she made 29 passes, she still gave possession away occasionally, but she had 27 more opportunities to learn from the mistake, practice technique and hopefully learn to make the right decision.
  • 27 more opportunities to practice the passing technique and when, who to pass to and how to pass.

Q. What does it mean for the Player?

  • Better technique’ – more touches of the ball.
  • ‘More enjoyment’ – more involved in the game.
  • ‘Better concentration’ – always in the action.
  • ‘Greater understanding’ – more learning from decisions.
  • More movement – fewer players, more space.

Q. How do you educate the coaches?

A side from this we run free coaching workshops for all U7,8 and 9 coaches to educate them about small sided games and show them conditioned games they can use in training to assist the development of player technique, skill and understanding. These workshops also contribute to revalidation of coaches level 1 coaching certificate.

The last initiative I would like to make you aware of is the FAW Club Accreditation Scheme, which is mandatory for all junior clubs in Wales. The basic premise of this is that every team who plays mini and junior football in Wales must have a qualified level 1 coach, first aider and all people involved with the team must be CRB checked.

Q. How do you convince them, this works?

In reality Antonio we know that people will agree and people will disagree with our philosophy, that is the great thing about football it is full of opinions. We try our upmost to educate people on our philosophy and the reasons and rationale for structuring Mini football in the way we do.

After 13 years of having no structured competitive leagues up to U 11s it is now engrained in our junior football. Football is competitive and should always remain that way; I personally don’t like the term ‘non-competitive’ it isn’t an accurate reflection of what football is. But it seems to be the best way of explaining that there should be no organised competitions and league tables for children Under 11.

Q. Kids are naturally competitive, aren’t they?

We believe that the game itself is competition enough, the children when they leave the pitch know if they have won, lost or drawn and they feel the full range of emotions as a consequence. As well as developing better players technically we also have to respect that the vast majority of players are always going to be grassroots players and play because they enjoy football.

Children these days have so many different activities to take up their leisure time, playing football in the park is only one of a long list!

What we are trying to create is a replication of this. When we played football with friends there were winners and losers but we didn’t have league tables to tell us this. The next day we would go out and play again regardless of what happened the time before because we enjoyed football.

Collating league tables and top goal scorer charts etc is adult organisation being imposed on a child’s activity. I often hear the argument that football can’t be non-competitive and I completely agree!

“The game itself is competition enough, there is plenty of time for children to participate in organised leagues and cups as they grow older and understand better the concept of winning and losing”.


Like our neighbours Scotland, The Welsh Football Trust has to be applauded for what they are doing, this is a massive project to undertake and you have read how much they believe in it. Ireland with the help of Clubs, Coaches and Associations it can be done and the game can be fun again, we can develop even better technical players without the emphasis on winning. We need to get onboard and follow what are Celtic brothers are doing for their game, we can restructure our small side game for the benefit of all who play it.

I wish to thank Jamie Clewer and The Welsh Football Trust for giving me his time and helping with this article; I would like to wish them the best for the future.

You can find more information about Mini Football in Wales on their website there are also a number of video’s and resources in the Mini Football section use the menu on the left side to find them.

Football Associations Irish Grassroots Football

Scottish Youth Football – Live It – Play It – Love It

I totally forgot to post this an I’m glad I remembered..

Recently I had the absolute pleasure to speak to, Neil Mackintosh from the Football Development Department at the Scottish Football Association about, what Scotland is doing to improve under age football in Scotland?

Neil said, “In Scotland we have been asking ourselves the same questions that you are doing at present Antonio. 2011 will be an exciting time for grassroots football in Scotland as we are going to implement our first ever National Player Pathway. This involves all the grass roots football leagues agreeing to the same formats, age groups, rules and this will align all youth football in the country”

What is your vision for the future of Scottish football? “Our overall vision is through our Developing Talent Plan which is the Long Term Player Development model that we are working from. This then aligns our Coach Education which is age and stage specific and now the Player Pathway which aligns the competition programme”

National Player Pathway in partnership with the Scottish FA & The Scottish Youth FA

What doe this mean? “To summarise, the Player Pathway has players playing 4 a side up to age 8, 7 a side up to age 12 all of which is trophy free. We then move to 11 a side football and trophies at U-13.”

From March 2011 all children aged 6-9s will play 4v4 football, all children aged 9-12s will play 7v7 and from twelve years onwards they will play 11-a-side. Quote,..

“The pathway is revolutionary as, for the first time in Scotland, all children playing club football will play a format of the game that relates best to their age. The game formats will focus the player on developing the right skills and techniques for their stage of development. However, without the buy-in of the Scottish Youth Football Association, who run youth leagues nationally, the pathway would not be ready to kick-off”. The SYFA will help the leagues to implement the new game formats, while the Scottish FA, with their Community Partner McDonald’s, who will support the transition and ongoing development of all players, coaches and club officials through coach education courses, practical and theoretical in-services and Positive Coaching Scotland workshops.

The launch of the pathway coincides with a new summer season for youth and women’s football in Scotland, with leagues now running from March to November to take advantage of the best weather conditions.

Summer leagues is also something I’m campaigning for, most teams in Ireland haven’t even be able to kick a ball this year; it seems to be the only solution to get the game running for a longer time with no disruptions and on the plus side the weather will be so much better and with it being non competitive parents  don’t have to worry about their kids missing a games.

I would highly recommend a take a look at the Scottish FA  website

what I specifically like about the Scottish FA’s site is that it is very informative, its Child, Parent and Coach friendly and for anyone interestd in getting into Coaching is offers detailed and up to date information about what to do and expect.

Scottish FA south west regional manager, Ritchie Wilson, explains the concept of the new National Player Pathway, the valuable points he makes are:-

  • Offers a consistant approach to the game allover Scotland
  • Better weather
  • All leagues will have to roll this out by March 2012
  • Its part of the Scottish FA national player path way
  • Positive coaching throughout Scotland

Why 4v4? (6,7 & 8 year old)

  • More touches of the ball
  • More 1v1 situations
  • Develops more creative players
  • Encourages attacking football
  • Length, width & depth using the diamond shape


  • Diamond shape, same principles of play of the 4v4,
  • Encourages more attacking and defending situations
  • Long term development

What will this achieve?

  • Looking at long term player development.
  • Programme is now in place re amount of hours for practicing.
  • Try to re-create street football but in a safer environment with structure.
  • Try get kids kicking a ball for longer like in the olds day for 4-5 hours per day

I just do not understand why the FAI is not forcing these changes and coming in line with the rest of Europe. Well done Scotland a true sign of a progressive football nation.