Four recently retired Icelandic professional footballers have founded a football academy for young people in Iceland - the first such school in the country.
The men behind the project are Gudni Bergsson, formerly of Bolton Wanderers FC, Eyjolfur Sverrisson, who recently left Hertha BSC Berlin, Sigurdur Jonsson, the ex-Arsenal FC player, and Arnor Gudjohnsen, father of Chelsea FC's Eidur Gudjohnsen, who spent most of his 20-year career in Belgium.
The academy is based on Arnor Gudjohnsen's football school, which was attended by 700 children from 25 clubs around the country over an eight-month period. Valur Reykjavík's head coach Thorlakur Arnason will head up the academy and teach modules along with experienced coaches such as Pavel Kretovic (Czech Republic) and Zelkjo Sankovic (Croatia).
Academy students will train twice a week for more than an hour at 6.30 in the morning, before enjoying a healthy breakfast and going to their normal school. The students range from 13 to 21 years of age, and can choose either a five-week or ten-week school in two of Reykjavik's new full-size football sports halls, Egilshöll and Fífan. Arnor Gudjohnsen says the academy is not meant to be in competition with clubs, but is intended to give young footballers the chance of special training in addition to their club training.
"Many have had this idea, but it is expensive, and it was not possible to know how many youngsters would sign up," Arnor Gudjohnsen said. "But I decided to go for it.
Twenty years ago, I was fostering the idea of a football school, but I had to concentrate on my own career. More than one hundred kids have already signed up, and we have had to stop registering."
Players and leaders
The academy is designed to give youngsters the opportunity to be better players and will set them ambitious targets including: the improvement and development of basic skills; an emphasis on technical training; improving physical conditioning; and strengthening the students' psychological approach. The youngsters will also learn about a healthy lifestyle and food.
"We will be looking at how to play in different positions on the pitch," Gudjohnsen said. "Youngsters have ambition, and we think that there must be an academy for this way of teaching football. The kids have to get up early - and therefore go to bed early - which is part of learning about discipline, and most of the parents are happy about it even though they have to drive their children to the sports hall early in the morning!
Learning the basics
"The plan was that this school would only be for the best, but later we decided to have it [more] open – to include girl footballers, for example. However, we still plan to establish a section for the best youngsters. I can see that many young players are promising - but I still see that most are lacking the basics, such as passing the ball, receiving it and moving around with or without the ball. In fact, I think this is lacking in Icelandic football.
Ready for the step
"My hope is to see these kids ready to make the step up when they enter adult football around the age of 17," he continued. "Hopefully they will be able to expand their skills. We do not see too many 18-year-olds ready to play in the top division. But I am patient, and I can see that many of the youngsters are looking forward to starting training, which is very important."
The academy's web page can be found at www.knattspyrnuskoli.com
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