Race, class and soccer stars

One can always ask the question “what are the prerequisites -- other than talent/genes –- to be a soccer star?” There are two obvious answers developing the prospective soccer star in a soccer culture / environment and 10,000 hours of training as promulgated by Professor Anders Ericsson. By soccer culture we mean a community which is deeply immersed culturally in soccer and by soccer environment we mean the immediate family members of the player who are either knowledgeable in depth about soccer and/or have meaningful experience in soccer as a player/coach. 

How about the race of the player? Is that a critical factor?

A recent survey lists the best 100 young (born Jan 1, 1997 or later) players in the world. I know that such a list is very subjective but it still gives us a sample of the best players. 

Of the 100 best young players 38 of them are black (10 of them are from the Americas), 19 of them are Hispanic (Spanish, Latin American or Portuguese), 40 of them are white (11 of them are outside of Europe) and three are Asians. It is clear that there is no one clear race advantage over the others except that the Asians are underrepresented. Especially if you consider that nine of the black players come from Hispanic cultures then racially it is very much evenly distributed between blacks, Hispanics and whites. Of the 100 three are from the USA: Justen Glad, Tommy Redding and Christian Pulisic.

Out of these 100, 20 play in non-European leagues (four at MLS). It is obvious that as they grow older they will move to European leagues. 100 players are from 52 different countries. 59 players are from Europe (France leading by 10), 17 from CONMEBOL (Brazil leading by seven), 10 from CAF, eight from CONCACAF and six from AFC (including Oceania). 

With the racial data explained above, it is obvious that the blacks are not all from Africa or South America. There are seven blacks from Africa and 10 from the Americas. That means 21 blacks are from Europe. They are all either immigrants or sons of immigrants from Africa. The immigrant statuses of star players in Europe are not restricted to blacks. Let us randomly look at the starting eleven of German MNT- the number one ranked team in the World. We chose the starting eleven of the recent friendly game between Germany and Brazil. Four players of the starting 11 were immigrants: Jerome Boateng (Ghana), Illay Gundogan (Turkey), Mario Gomez (Spain) and Leroy Sane (Senegal). You can find more numbers of immigrants in other starting 11 of the German MNT. Mesut Ozil, Emira Can, Sami Khedira and Amin Younes are there, to name a few. If you look at the Swiss MNT you will see a lot of immigrants from the new republics of former Yugoslavia, Albania and Turkey. Have a close look at MNTs of English, Belgium, Netherlands and France you will see a lot of white, black and Hispanic immigrants. The demography of the old continent started to change in the '60s when Western Europe required young workers from Eastern Europe and Africa. Now their sons and grandsons represent their new countries.

The Western European countries of Europe are the wealthiest and best organized countries in soccer. Simon Kuper and Szymanski in their recent publication of “Soccernomics” list three criteria for the success of a nation in sports: Wealth, population and experience. (The current success story of Iceland is difficult to explain with these three criteria except for wealth.) USA MNT is an underachiever with these criteria, according to the authors. The lack of experience compared to the top 10 teams of the world hurts the status of the USMNT. (Top 10 teams, according to win percentages in 1990-2010, are Spain, Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal and Czech Republic) Although USMNT performance based on win percentage jumped from prewar of 0.385 to 0.646 (between 2001-2010), the authors think in order to build the experience criteria USMNT should play more games outside of Concacaf. Since USMNT neither lacks the wealth of the country nor the population. 

The story of immigrants in Europe takes an interesting swing as some of the MNT of periphery countries of Europe rely on the second tier stars developed by the Western European countries. Turkey’s MNT at all levels have around 25% to 35% players who are developed by Western European countries. These are dual citizens of Turkey and the Western European country,mainly Germany. Germany will not allow the likes of Ozil, Can, and Gündogan to play for the Turkish MNT. Instead players like Nuri SahinOmer ToprakHamit Altintop and Yunus Malli, who are second-tier European stars opted for the Turkish MNT. The same could be said for some of the members of the USMNT who are dual citizens.

The bottom line in order to be a star: your racial background is immaterial but rather being an immigrant in a developed wealthy country with a lot of soccer experience is important.

How about the social class of a soccer star? Is that a critical factor?

There are no social class indicators for the top young 100 stars of soccer. In general, in Europe and Latin/Central America soccer stars usually come from urban blue-collar families. The immigrant families of soccer stars are usually blue-collar families without an exception. Most of them have hardly finished high school. Although there are soccer stars like Ruud Gullit, Dennis Bergkamp, Socrates, Osvaldo Ardiles, Jorge Valdano, Pep Guardiola, Andres Iniesta and Kaka who have gone to school past high school. Very few of the parents of soccer stars were either executives or white-collar workers. Oliver Bierhoff’s father was a member of the upper middle class, the director of a big energy company. But these are exceptions in Europe and Latin America. Usually the less educated soccer stars that come from blue-collar families resent and ridicule those who are better educated and come from middle class families. For example Die Zeit – the German daily – described Bierhoff’s status as the general manager of the German MNT as that of “an alien object." “In the conservative environs of soccer, he’s always been an outsider.”  (From “Das Reboot” by Raphael Honigstein.)

If you cross the Atlantic and come to the USA, you will see a different picture. Actually a research has been carried out in 2015 when journalist Roger Bennett and University of Chicago economics professor Greg Kaplan produced a study comparing the background of each U.S. men’s soccer national team member from 1993 to 2014 with every NBA All-Star and NFL Pro Bowl player over the same period. The study found the soccer players came from communities that had higher incomes, education and employment rankings, and were whiter than the US average.

This is the proof that soccer is the sport of the suburban middle-class families who are predominantly white. Actually having better educated soccer stars than the rest of the world might give us a considerable edge. Because better educated players will be smarter, more analytical and more professional on the pitch and can be better team leaders. Unfortunately, there are two obstacles to this potential edge: First, is the very conservative NCAA who will not even allow for two semesters of college soccer. To be honest, men’s college soccer might not be NCCA’s first level of priority looking into the revenue it generates. The second obstacle is the pay-to-play system and the families that feed it. For the middle-class suburban families, the amount of money they spend on their kids is secondary. They want their kids to be happy and if possible get a college scholarship through soccer. Developing a soccer star for the USMNT is not in their dreams. The very obvious first prerequisite for developing a soccer star, namely living in a community with soccer culture or in a soccer environment, is not inherently in the suburban middle class culture. Even though you might have some immediate family members with a soccer culture like the Pulisics, still they will be the exceptions for the years to come. For a middle-class suburban family to promote and encourage 10,000 hours of playing/training soccer is beyond their wildest dreams. They would like their kid to finish school and go to college. It is if not impossible to have 10,000 hours of training/playing in a non-soccer environment and at the same time being successful in school, it is at least very difficult.

The two prerequisites of soccer culture/environment and 10,000 hours of soccer training and playing can only be materialized in urban settings of immigrants, just like in Western Europe. 

Pay-to-play model is a multi-billion business and a reality of our country. It is a known fact that pay-to-play system excludes the immigrants of our society. It makes it inaccessible for low income populations. Like their counterparts in Europe immigrants -- at least the first two generations -- they are underserved. The current scholarship system is like a Band-Aid for a major bleeding wound. 

The model to success is clear. You must integrate the immigrant population into the soccer development system like we clearly see in Western Europe. The USA has the same -- if not more -- capabilities and facilities like Western Europe. The USA has excellent human resources for the design of the development of soccer. The basic difference is that our system is not egalitarian like the Western European one. This country has more immigrants than Western Europe and is more diverse in culture. Unfortunately, due to the non-egalitarian approach, the immigrants stay away from organized soccer.

The pay-to-play system and the related youth systems rely on quantities. Quality is not the primary concern of the pay-to-play system. U.S. Soccer in order to be in the top ten ranking in men’s soccer need to primarily rely on quality in player, coach and referee development. Immigrants are waiting to be embraced by the system. U.S. Soccer has to create a parallel universe to embrace the immigrants in urban settings. Diversity and its manifestation as immigrants are the greatest wealth in our soccer world. Just look across the Atlantic to get a lesson.

Ahmet Guvener ( is the former Secretary General and the Technical Director of Turkish FA. He was also the Head of Refereeing for the Turkish FA. He served as Panel member for the FIFA Panel of Referee Instructors and UEFA Referee Convention. He now lives and works as a soccer consultant in Austin, TX.


45 comments about "Race, class and soccer stars".
  1. R2 Dad, March 31, 2018 at 10:11 p.m.

    Nice review, Ahmet. I am curious how this type of analysis might apply to the referees in various top football countries. A notable exception must be Germany, where top referees are often doctors and lawyers. Bob Ashpole and I disagree on the relevance of officials as they relate to the quality of play, Bob believing the coaches plan determines all. Do Germany's more educated officials affect the quality of play in the Bundesliga? Where do US officials rate in all this? Keep up the interesting columns!

  2. Jose Moutinho, April 1, 2018 at 8:14 p.m.

    Very good article! Congratulations!

  3. Ginger Peeler, April 1, 2018 at 11:53 p.m.

    Fascinating! So, one of the most basic problems of developing excellent soccer players in the United States isn’t the lack of kids playing in the streets and on vacant lots in pickup games every chance they get. Or extensively studying and following some of the greatest players of all time, as some SA followers would have us believe. Rather, it’s the non-egalitarian system of our youth soccer culture! And until we figure out a way to make youth soccer here in the states truly inclusive, we’re going to continue struggling to produce world class players. The same would hold true for soccer officials, wouldn’t it? That makes sense! Of course, there will still be some highly skilled players continuing to develop; gifted children often turn out to be gifted athletes. Thanks, Ahmet, for an eye-opening article. 

  4. frank schoon replied, April 2, 2018 at 1:20 p.m.

    Ginger the statement <"one of the most basic problems of developing excellent soccer players in the United States isn’t the lack of kids playing in the streets and on vacant lots in pickup games every chance they get"> Are you serious. Have you seen any kids during  easter vacation play pick up games anywhere in your neighborhood, I haven't, I have yet to see any pickup and I live in the DC area where participation is great. Hey, Bob how often do you see pickup games in your neighborhood?...Can someone Google on Google map and find pick up games anywhere played...

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, April 2, 2018 at 2:44 p.m.

    When I lived in Springfield, VA, I would often see pickup games in parks, school yards and streets near townhouses. I haven't seen any pickup in Arizona, but I live outside the city now. 

  6. frank schoon replied, April 2, 2018 at 3:12 p.m.

    Bob, it must be tough in AZ playing in june, july or august even....

  7. Ginger Peeler replied, April 2, 2018 at 10:55 p.m.

    Frank...yes, exactly! You might benefit by rereading Ahmet’s article. You seem to have missed his point. Attacking me, Uffe, or anyone else isn’t going to change our pay-to-play culture which lies at the heart of the problem. 

  8. R2 Dad replied, April 3, 2018 at 12:26 a.m.

    Episode IV: A New Hope:

  9. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 7:15 a.m.

    Ginger, whatever the merits of pay to play, of which I myself is not a great fan of , the problem I have is how the youth are trained and developed, whether it is under pay to play or whatever system. To think that I'm attacking you by asking the question of whether you have seen kids playing street soccer is mind boggling. Following that logic , I must have also attacked Bob by asking him the same question or attacking myself for I likewise posed it to myself.....
    As far as the article goes, I criticized certain aspects that were suppose to bolster Ahmet's points.

  10. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 10:51 a.m.

    R2, that was great!! although it is a little fancy the accommodations. The next step is to see it in nondescript areas, like basketball courts, or some parking lots....They need to place some Cruyff courts out there as well.
    Thanks ,that was good

  11. Ginger Peeler replied, April 3, 2018 at 12:51 p.m.

    Frank, you’re still missing my point. Even if kids are out there playing street soccer and in pickup games,they’re not the ones who will be recognized and incorporated into the system. Sports in the United States are highly organized and regulated. Kids start playing recreational soccer in kindergarten, when they’re  5 or 6 years old. I was a registrar for years in a San Diego suburb in the 80s and 90s for both rec and traveling teams. Back then, the coaches were all parent volunteers and many knew nothing about the sport. They had 2 practices a week, the length of the practice determined by the age group, and a game every Saturday with tournaments at the end of each season. Kids played 2 seasons...all year, in sunny San Diego. Actually, everything was run by parent volunteers. Except we paid for the referees. That was included in the registration fee, along with the uniform: shirt, shorts and socks. The fee also covered maintenance and upkeep of fields, supplies for lining the field, registration of each team with the state for player’ cards...all kinds of stuff. Pay to play. 

  12. Ginger Peeler replied, April 3, 2018 at 1:16 p.m.

    If a child is really lucky, they’ll have a coach who is familiar with the game and is more interested in developing good fundamentals rather than winning. And, if the child is really, really lucky, maybe all the parents will be happy just to see their kids play and not be screaming at them the whole game. Anyway, it’s the competitive sports culture of the United States. When I was a kid in the 50s, we had pickup baseball games in empty lots. By the time I had children in the 70s, baseball was not half as popular as it once was, and I hadn’t seen any pickup games, except basketball, for years. I’ve seen soccer pickup games in Arkansas, but al the players were young Hispanic MEN. No children. Anyway, our children are locked into a system that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. As I said in my initial post, we need to figure out a way to make our youth soccer system more inclusive. In the meantime, the immigrants and their families are bringing their passion for soccer and their skills, but they’re on the outside, looking in. Not everyone can afford that registration fee, much less have the means to get their children to practices and games. And then it becomes really difficult if the child is on a traveling team with a licensed coach. I won’t even go into the different ways people learn and how coaches need to approach their teams. 

  13. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 1:26 p.m.

    Ginger, Who cares if they are not recognized, as long as they are having fun and learning from their peers, that is what street soccer or pick up soccer is all about. Zlatan played as much pickup soccer as possible and joined a club much later.
    Did you see  the R2 suggested video. Amazing,if I had a kid in Atlanta ,I would tell him not to bother joining a club but play with these guys everyday....and I will guarantee  you my kid will stand out as compared to any kid his age playing club ball. You don't need to join an organized club if you can play pick up soccer in the first 5years of your development.
    As far as pay for play, field usage, registration, referee,uniforms,etc , hey, that's life, nothing is free in life.
    Those kinds of costs has been from day one of youth soccer...nothing  surprising about that. 

  14. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 1:40 p.m.

    Ginger, Hispanic men playing pick up?I would have asked them to allow your daughter to play with them and learn. These people love the game and were kids once and they enjoy seeing younger players learn. Everytime when I played pickup soccer on saturdays, one of the guys brought his daughter along.I would be talking to her during the game even when she was on the opposing side , telling  her what she should be doing....
    Once pickup soccer gets big like in Atlanta , although they need more of these facilities but without fancie stuff, more kids will leave their club team and play everyday in these types of facilities and have a lot more fun and is also another way of getting away from their coach whom they didn't like. Pickup will become a threat to club ball, for I will guarantee you, good coaches will hang around these pick up courts for talent....

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, April 3, 2018 at 11:38 p.m.

    Frank, in AZ the hottest season is May, June and July. There is an adult summer league, but everyone else takes a break. It was worse in Virginia. I played in an unaffiliated league year round. Nothing is worse than 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity on a rubber (turf) field. Wetting the fields is the obvious solution (cool them by evaporation) but city and schools won't spend the money on it. In AZ the fields were grass (I was surprised at that).

  16. frank schoon replied, April 4, 2018 at 9:33 a.m.

    Bob, Wow, that surprised me. I can imaginge playing in 100 degrees on astroturf here geeeeez. Summers in DC when it gets near 100.
    I didn't realize May would be that hot, perhaps in Tucson. I would have thought june ,july and august would be bad the bad months
    I love AZ , I'm an Old West fan, having so much about the history, of Earp, Holiday and other characters. As a kid in Europe, I grew up with cowboys and indians. I guess every European of our age, have this romanticism, of which I still have, about America and cowboys. We always fly in and stay at the Motel 6 on I think Camelback in Scottsdale. I think the next time this year ,I will rent an SUV high clearance for you can see more off road stuff. We'll go to Sedona, than up NM. I just love driving and looking everywhere. Somehow, I sense, , you live near Superstition Mts, I could be totally wrong... 
      I have not seen any pick up soccer as I drive around but ,ofcourse, I don't go into the neighborhoods and drive by schools or such or soccer fields.

  17. frank schoon replied, April 4, 2018 at 9:44 a.m.

    Bob, I just ordered from Amazon, 2 books. An autobiography of Ferenc Puskas, and Alfredo Distefano, in order to learn more about how they learned and developed and anecdotes. There is a Youtube video where Pele is talking about Puskas who he considered better than Maradona. He learned from his father , a soccer player, who constantly talked about the great Puskas. Then , one day , Pele faced Puskas on the field.  Remember that anecdot about Puskas ,I send you where George Best, and Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law told the story of Puskas hitting the crossbar 9 times in a row and on the 10th he Puskas juggled the ball used his head and took a volleyshot hitting the crossbar, like it was nothing...

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, April 4, 2018 at 3:04 p.m.

    We have 5 seasons--the "monsoon" season starts in early July and runs through September. It is overcast, humid, with a bit of percepitation. Humid and overcast in the desert makes a big difference in the temperatures.

  19. frank schoon replied, April 4, 2018 at 3:53 p.m.

    Bob, Humid ,really?. I thought it was dry air and the humidity was something of the DC area but not in AZ. I didn't realize there is a monsoon season in AZ. I do see warnings watch out for 'washes" when it's  raining but I never tied it in to the monsoons...Interesting..

  20. Bob Ashpole, April 2, 2018 at 10:23 a.m.

    Excellent analysis, Ahmet.

    In youth soccer, USSF rules inhibit clubs from registering children who have lived outside the country. This applies not only to our immigrant population but to US citizens, like military families. An unintended consequence of a bearucratic barrier intended to prevent the international transfer of minor players.     

  21. Philip Carragher, April 2, 2018 at 11:18 a.m.

    I believe better referees can vastly improve US soccer by taking more control of game environments, especially unruly parents and coaches in recreational games. I coached both boys and girls in AYSO, travel, high school, and college, and, for example, in the recreational environment I've witnessed overly-loud males scare and intimidate young players with their booming voices and a referee's intervention is helpful. And they don't need to be yelling or targeting specific players, but the power of their voice can disrupt an entire pitch full of kids trying to play a game. I remember watching to my delight baseball umpires during the Little League World Series stop games to quiet unruly spectators. There are other moments where better refs would help and even teach players on the pitch, but they'd have to be very good referees and knowledgeable about player development. I'd like to see more referree interventions during more competitive games but that may be asking too much.

  22. frank schoon, April 2, 2018 at 12:29 p.m.

    <"an immigrant in a developed wealthy country with a lot of soccer experience is important."> SURE . I think the real question should be put "why are kids from poor developed countries  better skilled than our kids who have so much more money, organization, coaching, equipment, and facilities, camps, licensed coaches, etc..... What is it that makes these kids from poor developed countries better ?...that ,I think, is more important to figure out for if we get a handle on that than our development situation could be so much better..

    <Actually having better educated soccer stars than the rest of the world might give us a considerable edge"> DON'T AGREE!  If you watch a college game, that should disprove your statement, right there. Johan Cruyff, finished school at 16, or little less, but he was a genius in soccer insight. Soccer smarts is totally different way of thinking than academic thinking. Cruyff was educated, disciplined and formed, by the older players, who themselves had not much of an education and whose backround is blue collar and DEFINITELY NOT from the academic world. Cruyff learned the deeper insights from these older players as well as by his own self. As a matter of fact soccer players in Europe are not known for academics but they play a much better game than the college educated players we have....
    Sure extend College soccer for another semester but you'll only get more of the same as far as the quality of the game goes. Don't expect quality to improve, for in order for that to happen you need a higher level input in college soccer in order to effect the quality of play but playing more stupid games isn't going to do it, remember it is not quantity but quality....
    < Diversity and its manifestation as immigrants are the greatest wealth in our soccer world"> I disagree on that.Good soccer has nothing to do with race or immigrants, period!!
    It has to do with good coaching and people with deep knowledge and insight of the game to teach players. Just look at the level of soccer Spain , Holland , Germany, has given the world whose exciting style has been influenced over the past decade by great soccer minds, not by immigrants or a diversity program to bring in immigrants to improve soccer.

  23. s fatschel, April 2, 2018 at 2:19 p.m.

    I don't think college soccer is the problem. That's not their main purpose.  For those good enough, get into an MLS or USL side and go to college at night. Pay-to-Play needs to be fixed.  Reward clubs that keep costs down.  More youth volunteer coaching and community based fields.

  24. uffe gustafsson, April 2, 2018 at 8:37 p.m.

    Frank when are the kids going to play in a street, most of the players are practicing 4 days a week and add a game to that. Don’t think you up to date on competitive yoth soccer. Do you have a kid in HS if you do the HW is taking away from any other activity.
    we play all year round now adays if you play HS and club. At best we get a few weeks off in middle of summer. It’s not like in old days when you might practice once or twice a week and season was much shorter and you played w friends for fun when didn’t practice. That’s no longer the case.

  25. frank schoon replied, April 2, 2018 at 9:14 p.m.

    Uffe, you have read my comments for sometime now, but I'm afraid you still don't understand. What is it that you don't understand about that how we are training/developing our kids in the wrong manner. We have to train them more according how the youth in my time or how today the youth  in 3rd world countries  develop, which is more in tune with street soccer way of development. We are training our kids in the wrong manner and this is why we have not develop good players in the past 50 years.  Zlatan is a perfect example of having playing street soccer in Sweden and developed his individual skills which is not the case with these youth associations, because they are doing it wrong....

  26. Bob Ashpole replied, April 3, 2018 at 11:32 p.m.

    Uffe, USSF soccer has changed. For instance Donovan and Dempsey both played in Hispanic leagues, AYSO and USYSA. Mia Hamm and other women played on boys teams. Last I checked USSF defined boys teams as any team that included some boys--not a team that had no girls on it. But when was the last time you saw girls playing on a boys team?

    It used to be that there were far more unaffiliated teams than there were USSF affiliated teams. I don't know about today, but I would guess it is still true. Personally, I was in my 60s before I played in a USSF sanctioned match. 

  27. frank schoon replied, April 4, 2018 at 10:05 a.m.

    Bob, that's great, you're a perfect example of person having learned to play the game without USSF sanction. I wish more were like for you have your head in right place about the game. 
    I hope you watched that video that R2 Dad suggested, for it blew me away. Just think we've been having a discussion about pay for play here but as you look at this video can you imagine the possibilities if more of these little fields, although the accommodations are very fancy, were there. This is one of the answers to get rid of club ball control and "pay for play" for these kids have a place to play by simply could  going to these venues and learn , learn and learn to play  and play with older players...This is perfect....Pickup soccer  with these accommodation can threaten the hegemony of club and USSF soccer control.

  28. uffe gustafsson, April 2, 2018 at 9 p.m.

    One more comment.
    mike Woitalla as you know writes for SA and is heavily invoked with soccer without borders and really kudos to him. I help with reffing those games.
    and we see HS boys that’s involved with that program,
    Most of them played street soccer in their home country and never played club like we have here.
    and we seen a cpl of boys that have real talent from what you guys call street soccer and we been asking ourselves can he play bay oaks, that’s our club.
    and the answer is yes. But is he that much better player and think the answer is not sure but for sure he can compete with the club players.
    so to answer the street soccer vs club soccer that is not a complete comparison.
    sorry mr schoon.

  29. frank schoon replied, April 2, 2018 at 9:22 p.m.

    Uffe, again , you simply don't get it.  Let us we can't play in the street and their is no space to play pickup soccer anywhere. Let's assume the worse case.  Then what you do is to replicate all the elements of street soccer and integrate it wth club training. If you know the elements than their isn't any problem. 

  30. Bob Ashpole replied, April 4, 2018 at 3:28 p.m.

    Uffe, maybe this will better explain how I see street soccer as valuable. I would occassionally play with adults who had only played pickup soccer. They generally had good dribbling and first touch skills but they were incomplete players.

    Street soccer gives you a great skills base during the pre-teen years to build on during the older years, say age 12 and older when training should start focusing on team tactics and functional training rather than just fundamentals. Street soccer is still valuable at this age but so is the formal training and coaching.

    Now this is all assuming that the club coaching and training is top quality. Frank's primary complaint is not that kids are not playing street soccer, but that club coaching is not always top quality for player development. 

    I have to agree that some youth clubs and coaches are focused on developing teams to win youth matches and they improve their teams primarily by player recruitment rather than long term player development. For instance there are clubs that have little kids playing "possession style" under instructions to always make safe passes on the ground. These restrictions retard player development. It is just as bad as assigning young kids permanently to the back line and instructing them to never join in the attack.

  31. uffe gustafsson, April 2, 2018 at 9:41 p.m.

    Not sure what I’m not getting.
    our club trying alaways incl as much as possible the girls play the boys in a scrimmage at practice. You can call it whatever you want, no refs and just play time.
    i think most clubs do just that.
    same for HS our girls play the boys all the time in a scrimmage and they love it.
    its not in a street but very loosely on a field.

  32. frank schoon replied, April 2, 2018 at 10:11 p.m.

    Uffe, that is good the boys playing the girls. Do the kids play on concrete for that's is a major element for skill development. The ball moves faster , you can't run fast to beat an opponent thus forcing you to employ skills and all the skills have to be thought out more. How much time is employed passing back and forth with the weak per week? When on grass wear flats not cleats for in this manner the player has to think more and be more conscious of his actions otherwise he would fall. How often do the boys play mixed with older players?   These are some of the elements

  33. Bob Ashpole replied, April 4, 2018 at 3:43 p.m.

    Playing on artifical turf fields is very much like playing on streets because they are very fast compared to good grass fields. We used to play on hard clay fields too. Again very hard, fast surfaces. The point about training in flats though is a good one. As long as I have been involved, coaches usually insist on players wearing moldeds or cleats. I would say it is universal.

    Your suggestion reminds me of high school football. The backs and ends trained in cleats like the linemen wear, but wore our lighter soccer shoes during games. It did make us quicker and more agile during games. Your suggestion makes a lot of sense to me. When I young we played all unorganized sports in sneakers. I also played a lot of basketball and tennis in flats. That is where I learned to move before I played high school football and later adult soccer. So essentially I did train in flats, not by plan though.

  34. uffe gustafsson, April 2, 2018 at 10:06 p.m.

    By the way slatan did play in a club environment he played with jogusllavian teams in his youth.
    and early age went to ajax.
    there was little street soccer you talk about but pick up games. And loosely league like many immegrants do here

  35. frank schoon replied, April 2, 2018 at 10:15 p.m.

    Zlatan did play some club ball, of course, but most of his individual technical development came from the street, just like Zidane. Yes he came to play for the first team of Ajax when he was 20, or better he was an adult not a youth

  36. Frank_schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 7:46 a.m.

    Uffe, I tend to use pickup soccer and street soccer interchangeable. The only difference is that pick up games can be played on grass as well. Because i grew up in the city it is obviously that  I played most of my game on concrete, although sometimes in parks or on grass. What I did with my teams here is to make sure wherever I trained , the kids were able to play on a basketball court or parking lot half of the practice. In this way they benefit playing on grass and on concrete.

  37. s fatschel, April 3, 2018 at 12:28 p.m.

    Youth street or pick up soccer will likely not happen in the current system as there is no time available, except July/August or for very young like U8-U10. Best alternative would be expanding  futsal, which DA has started.

  38. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    Watch this.
    I think pickup soccer can be played and if it really becomes popular and kids begin to flock to this and have more fun, learn more , left the team becuause of coach issues,and leave the club or join a club much later whuch Zlatan did ,than pickup soccer has arrived.....

  39. Philip Carragher, April 3, 2018 at 3:52 p.m.

    I agree that pickup soccer would be very helpful in improving our players but will those players, even if they play pickup soccer on a daily basis know how to recognize and play "the beautiful game"? Most US teams don't demonstrate a basic understanding of the beautiful game and I know of only a few coaches who can recognize it and actually teach it. I coach a middle school soccer team and all the players, even those from very competitive travel teams, show up to tryout and don't know how to play the beautiful game.

  40. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 4:40 p.m.

    Philip, your statement<even if they play pickup soccer on a daily basis know how to recognize and play "the beautiful game"?> What kind question is that? That is just like asking a black kid in the city who plays basketball everyday " will you recognize the beautiful game of Basketball?"  The very fact that a kid comes out and plays pick up soccer everyday should say enough how he feels about the game. As kids get older watch stars ,watch European soccer, looking at Youtube videos, have a coach to show the beauty or point to the beauty of the game is all part of it. This is why I like to see the USSF teach coaches the history of the game , the stars and what they did in order tell their kids. All of my kids that I ever coached, knew Garrincha ,how he played, how he dribbled, what he did ; knew who Puskas was and what he was able to do; Stanley Matthews, Cruyff, Keizer who the greates scissor move of all time; Beckenbauer: Dzajic, Rivelino, George Best etc...I mean ,come on, I can talk for hours about these types of players and what they were able to do. That's the problem why kids get burned  out because they never learn the beauty of the game and it begins with respecting the great stars and  what they all did and some of  the anecdotes. I wish could I teach a Soccer 101 Appreciating course....

  41. Philip Carragher, April 3, 2018 at 5:20 p.m.

    Frank, our definitions of "the beautiful game" differ. I, like you, love to see individual players demonstrate incredible technique just like the bicycle-kick goal I just watched Renaldo perform v Juventus, but what I am talking about has to do with flow, rhythm, and symmetry that results from intelligent interplay. It is a game of intelligent decisions, runs, and positioning rather than the dominant athleticism I see emphasized too often in US soccer.

  42. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 6:13 p.m.

    Philip, that aspect of the game takes years to appreciate. As a kid I was into moves beating people one on one.  At Ajax as a youth all i could in the beginning was beat and have little understanding what to do next.I would study how a player beat an opponent. Then as I grew ,I began to  appreciate passing,especially ones that curved or dropped, a heel passes. I worked on different kinds of passes ,trick pases.I was an attacker so I watched and paid attention for those aspects. It wasn't until my team years later that played on wasn't scoring, something was missing, but noone ,including myself, could figure out why. So I decided to play sweeper and let someone else play up front. It was that change in position that made open my eyes to different game a different view a more organized view, and I felt more responsible to lead and to tell where to go what ahead of time. I began to get more interested in the details of team play and what to do and over the years I changed my perceptions and importance which was from technique to the mental part. Now I totally try to see puppet master behind the curtain. Able to try see the game , in manner of why certain things happen, the resultant effects, the inner details. To further learn I began to read books nota about  soccer but autobiographies of great players and especially look for their insight and experiences about the game, in other words learning from the horses mouth. I have all the interviews that Cruyff ever gave(in dutch) and his books are in itself are thought provoking....So at each stage in socce I saw beauty. 
    Beauty can take different aspects of the game. Don't expect your kids to see that, they are too young for what you want. Their appreciation of beauty of the game is very limited to tricks, moves and nice goals and that is why Cruyff doesn't care about talking tactics to kids until they are about 14 for before that time it goes into one ear and out the other.....What we want them to see take years to get. You have to ask yourself why is only Guardiola able to do what he does and not other coaches, for apparently he sees more details about the game than the others....
    I hope that sort of answers your question,LOL

  43. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 6:29 p.m.

    Philip read this about puskas

    watch this

  44. frank schoon replied, April 3, 2018 at 6:37 p.m.

    philip here the translation of puskasHe belongs to the realm of dreams' - the best quotes about Ferenc Puskas |

  45. Ric Fonseca, April 4, 2018 at 11:47 p.m.

    Jeez whiz, are you guys kidding me?  Now, when I played back in the day, in Mexico City, I remember going to play not only in the srteets, or local parks, but very vividly remember going to play at the side railroad yards!  Yup, no lie man!  When one hears about street soccer, one imagines actually playing in the street, dodging cars, etc.  How about playing stick-ball in the wide open spaces of the Bronx, or Brooklyn or Halstead St in Chicago.  Oh, actually I wanted to adress the gist of the article, but given the comments above being dominated by several, well, it is adios amigo!!!I am going out to South Gate Park or Lynwood, or by Garfield HS in ELA to see about picking up a game, if not, I'm going home and watch it on the telly!!!

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