I read somewhere that a regular wage earner on average gets fired once per lifetime. Some never gets fired, others several times, but the average is once per person and lifetime. Within football, this number is definitely a low one. In particular, at higher levels, it is more common to have a couple of severance pay in their back pocket.

It is not rare to hear people say that the football / soccer world has become too cynical. Everything is about results and when they are not enough, a coach gets fired (let’s face it, it’s easier and cheaper to kick a coach than a whole team). Sometimes the results are not enough. Ask Fabio Capello who was fired from Real Madrid despite winning the Spanish league. The reason? They played dull football, the board said.

Now, when coach icons like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have put the bag on the shelf, it has in some way become a kind of pink skimmer of the times that has gone by. That it was better before when coaches actually got the chance and the clubs dared to invest in them in the long run. Note that it took a while before Sir Alex actually started winning titles. It is not rarely described that Manchester United’s patience and belief in long-term and continuity were crucial to laying the foundations for the success that would later symbolize the club.

Of course, it’s not hard to dream back to these times, not at least for us coaches. We would like to keep our jobs by writing long contracts and then praying and asking for patience. At the same time, I can not help thinking we have become a bit too nostalgic here. That football + continuity does not always lead to success. Wenger, who certainly had a couple of really good seasons, can anyone honestly say he has been succesful in recent years?

Misunderstand me right here. I think of course everyone should get a chance to do their job. My coach god, Brian Clough, got 44 days in Leeds United before he got sacked. Obviously, it was a strange employment and nothing I recommend, but what says that long-term always leads to success?

I recently read an article about AC Milan, describing their recent majesty era in the mid-2000s. When they won the Champions League in 007, the players were Paolo Maldini, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf. Then, the explanation for the success was the club’s continuity, that these experienced players stood for stability and long-term. When they left the same tournament less than a year later against Arsenal, the excuse was that Milan had not renewed. This despite the fact that it was basically the same team that as less than a year earlier lifted the same cup. What was previously shouted was now what was criticized. Can not make up your mind, eh? 

This issue becomes extra important at the lower levels of football. Not rarely, the squads changes radically from year to year. The core of the group usually consists, but in Sweden, in many cases it is a whole new team that will be gathered in January versus January the year before. Some players move, others test the wings in a new club, a third will have children, a fourth will study and so on. Trying to work on the same methods as the year before, despite the fact that the group is basically completely changed, would be a sort of suicide mission.

Even at higher levels, this is a problem. Attractive players move to larger clubs, the bad ones got sold or the contract expires, long-term injuries forces the club to panic signings. And then the coach is there with a whole new group of players. Then it’s not easy to be long-term.

My point here is that this thing with long term is certainly a good thing, but also a kind of football utopia. Why do we dream of something that is impossible to get? Of course, we will not make changes just because we can, but I think the key to being successful as a football coach is rather about daring to innovate, finding new approaches and always wanting to develop. Wenger ran on with the same old ideas year after year, finally the reality caught him. Just as it now seems to make for José Mourinho.

Sir Alex is an interesting example. Although he lasted for a long time, he dared to constantly develop his ideas and methods. United really did not play the same from when he took over to what he left. He also had no problems eliminating players who no longer delivered. In most cases, coaches usually become nostalgic and refuse to abandon a winning concept, but not Ferguson. It honors him and shows somewhere that long-term is not a worthy goal in itself. It is rather about developing.

Somewhere, I believe that long-term and continuity are needed to some extent, but there is a limit to it. Development is much more important than continuity. Otherwise, we stagnate as a coaches and get worse, or others get better. Where this limit is, I do not know. Expecting large-scale works during a season may be too demanding, but adhering to the same method when no major results or improvements have been seen in 4-5 years may be dumbfounded.

I am tired of talking about long-term.
Let’s talk about development instead, shall we?

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It was a good while since I wrote something here last. It almost feels like it was the last World Cup final, but that is of course not the case. Now, my work situation are manageable and I hope to be able to write more here on my official website.

As many of you know, I do not have any coach assignment at the moment, but I will take a new one in 2019. I want to go back to senior level in general and men’s teams in particular, mainly because I want to coach players at the highest possible level of football / soccer. I am currently living in the Sjuhärad area of Sweden, which is where I’m looking for a job. Until then, I will be a guest coach for a couple of clubs within the country’s borders when time is right between work, family and some other stuff. If your club is interested, please feel free to contact me, see my contact page for this!
It is well known that the World Cup is in full swing. As always, I think the tournament is a party, but of course there are things that bother me enough to write a blog post. One of these annoyances is VAR, or Video Assistant Referee, as it is also called. This phenomenon has already been ruled out by media and fans and that for some good reasons.

Unexpectedly, I was positive about VAR. The referees have an difficult task out there on the pitch and are expected to have an eagle’s vision on things that go far beyond their field of view. Of course, reviews should give them good opportunities to make justice?

Unfortunately, there have been childhood diseases that need to be addressed. The big Achilles heel is not, I think, that the games are falling in flow and pace, because I think that has been non-existent. Rather, it seems to me that decisions taken after these reviews are often wrong.

Despite the possibility of video reviews, a great deal of penalty kicks has been missed and despite the possibility there are also penalty kicks that should not have been taken in the first place, much because everything seems way worse in slow motion. Since it also is an assessment question, it is far from simple, even though these reviews exist.

In my book we shall allow the referee to have integrity intact. As it is now, we have referees that act as cowards, who do not dare to blow because VAR will make them look stupid. This is not a sustainable situation.

My suggestion is that VAR remains, but is used in situations where subjective judgment is not needed. For example, to determine if a ball is over the goal line or not (goal camera) or to judge if it is offside or not. These rules are clear and need no closer subjective judgment, in any case not the same as penalty kicks do.

I think there are other things that are more important than VAR, such as effective playing time, time out breaks for the coaches and the like.

But maybe in the future, all is well…

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At the moment, I am without a coach job (if anyone has an interesting offer, just get in touch), but that does not mean in any way that I’ve been lazy. As a football / soccer coach, you rarely have time to improve yourself or have the space for your own field studies, so I try to use the time I have to educate myself in areas I find interesting.

One area that has interested me for a long time is futsal, a kind of indoor version of football / soccer (which not in any way be associated with that felt ball and tough tackles in slatted chairs). One of the biggest reasons why I have become curious about futsal is that it in many ways removes the things I dislike about football / soccer. More time with the ball per player, no long balls, effective playing time, timeouts allowed for coaches, fluid positions, focus on skill and understanding of the game … Yes, the list runs long and I have not even begun to write about how much fun the sport is to watch.

The other night IFK Uddevalla played against IFK Gothenburg in the Swedish top league, the SFL. They drew 0-0, which apparently was the first time in history that a futsal game ended 0-0 in Sweden. That alone says a lot about how many goals there is in futsal.

To satisfy my curiosity, I went on a course for futsal coaches on Saturday with the Swedish Football Association. Today’s supervisor was Lars Ternström, with dual championships as a coach on his resume as futsal coach of IFK Göteborg Futsal. We were a motley crew of about 10 students who wanted to take us of one of Sweden’s relatively new sports.

In South America, futsal began as a response to the lack of space that existed in the cities, where there simply was not room for large football / soccer pitches. Instead of abandoning playing football / soccer completely, futsal was created, a variant of indoor football / soccer, where the games are played five against five (including goalkeepers) on a surface the size of a handball court. Futsal has been around since the 30’s, but in Sweden, the sport is still relatively new, and our men’s national team (we have no national teams for women yet) have not yet managed to qualify for either the World Cup or European Championship. However, it is the fastest growing sport in the country right now, with about 140 000 licensed players. This compared to ice hockey that has about 64 000 players who are licensed.

It is, as I imagine it was for floorball’s relation to ice hockey, easy to bundle futsal and football / soccer together. It is easy to believe that it is “the same sport, but indoors instead of outdoors” but the differences between sports are striking. Almost as to the degree that I would say that futsal has more in common with sports like basketball and handball than football / soccer.

If we start with the similarities, the feet are main center of attention here. Just like in football / soccer, I pass and shoot with my feet, but that’s about where the similarity ends.

For example, you use much more sole in futsal than you do in football / soccer. There is even a direct necessity to control the ball with the sole in a sensible way. The ball has its own history. It is smaller than a standard football and has a moderate bounce. It feels heavier and is therefore more suited to a game via the ground, the long ball is virtually non-existent in futsal.

There is, because of the size of the court, of course, a difference between the number of practitioners at the same time (five players on each team including the goalkeeper), but there are free substitutions in futsal, unlike football / soccer. The coaches also have timeouts that they can use during a game. When the ball crosses the long side, it is not even throw in, but a play in with the feet.

With this in mind, what did I want to get out of the day that I could pass on to my football / soccer?

One idea I had was if it was possible to use futsal instead of practicing too much at the gym during the winter months. In Sweden, we have a long winter and pre-season training traditionally has contained very little training with the ball. Futsal could be a response to this while developing the individual technical skills and game understanding. Happily, futsal is an interesting complement to this type of gym training, but I much more than that with me from this education day.

One thing that was striking to me is how different the individual movement pattern is in futsal versus football / soccer. In football / soccer, it is normal to follow up a pass with “run with the ball” or go into a new space to be a playable option. In futsal, it is more normal to “back” from the original position and thus rotate with another player. The starting positions are not as important in futsal as there are in football / soccer, the players almost seamlessly switch roles with each other for what is best in the situation. A back can in the next stage become a forward and vice versa.

This makes the players more involved in the game than in football / soccer, but also places greater demands. You cannot sneak cheat in the defense in futsal, the team loses 20% of its total team effort when a player does not defend. Same thing in the attacking game, the team cannot afford to have bad passing players when it comes to attacking. All players are needed in the defense as well as in the attack.

In my head, I thought it was much more skills and less tactics in futsal compared to football / soccer, but oh how wrong I was. The coach’s role is incredibly important in futsal, not only because it is free substitutions and timeouts, but also because it is important to set up the right tactics. Each player is important and needs to have clearly defined roles. Above all, the strategy at set pieces is crucial. To just “shoot the ball” is a guarantee of a conceding a goal, so this needs to be chosen carefully by the coach.

Finally, I had not anticipated that it would be so tough physically to play futsal. Tackling is strictly prohibited, but it does not mean that players should be lazy. The fact that there are so few players on each team, each individual takes up much more space than they do on a football / soccer pitch. In futsal, small teams game is a constant, which is very demanding. Free substitutions are thus understandable. It’s about constantly being in motion to help your teammates. I would not call myself out of shape, but I got sore muscles after Saturday’s practice. That says a lot.

In sum, it was a rewarding education with a good instructor, but the question remains – What is the next step for futsal?

Obviously, there is a breeding ground of many players, but can the media attention increase? I doubt that futsal will outrank football / soccer or ice hockey, but to be the third largest sport in the future should not be impossible. It’s fun to watch, warmer than going to watch football / soccer outdoors, you get closer to the game … All the possibilities are there.

For me personally, now that I’ve got a official futsal coach eduaction, I would enjoy to one day coach a futsal team. I think there are many intriguing similarities (and differences) between football / soccer and futsal that would be interesting to explore in my coaching and leadership.

Futsal may only be in its early stages here in Sweden, therefore it will be exciting to see what the future