Respect, friendship, personal development and professional improvement – these were the key rewards which the participants at the eighth UEFA Conference for European National Coaches in Vienna identified this year.
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Respect, friendship, personal development and professional improvement – these were the key rewards which the participants at the eighth UEFA Conference for European National Coaches identified.
National-team coaches and technical directors from all 53 UEFA member associations had gathered in Vienna over three days to reflect on UEFA EURO 2008™, discuss trends in the game and make proposals for the future. Each coach put strong emphasis on the privileged group time they had sharing ideas and talking freely about common challenges. But the overriding sense of the feedback was that Europe's leading football minds enjoy sharing not only for the benefit of their national associations but for the good of the game.
"I'm a total believer that these get-togethers must be a positive force," said Vicente del Bosque, new coach of UEFA EURO 2008™ winners Spain. "There is a friendship and brotherhood between coaches, off the pitch, which people who watch football possibly don't know about and should have the benefit of understanding. [UEFA technical director] Andy Roxburgh is a maestro at organising the chance for us to share like this, and our work, generally, is not only to ensure each coach's country gets better but that football as a sport develops for the better."
With football all over Europe endorsing the value of respect among players, referees and coaches, and the need to actively promote it, the forum in Vienna helped breed good relationships which will underpin the way in which coaches react to one another in the heat of competition. Sweden's experienced coach Lars Lagerbäck said: "Sharing like this develops you not only as a trainer, but as a human being. When you play one another afterwards you show more respect given that you have a personal relation to other coaches."
The wide range of delegates in age and experience was noticeable – from national coaches in their early forties such as Croatia's Slaven Bilić and Lithuania's José Couceiro, to lifetime achievers such as Fabio Capello and Karel Brückner, new coach of Austria. England's Italian manager said the flow of ideas went both ways. "You must never stop learning and nobody knows everything in life so it is important to get to meet new people, to speak and to absorb interesting new ideas. This process enriches all of us." Brückner concurred. "This is a melting pot of ideas," he said. "It creates an atmosphere of motivation and mobilisation. You can share experiences and benefit from them." He stressed that the aim must now be to put those ideas into practice. "You can be given a recipe, but you must cook the meal yourself," he said.
Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz added: "The impossible dream of every coach is to have one player who possesses the creativity and imagination of Cristiano Ronaldo, the attitude of Wayne Rooney and the football intelligence of Paul Scholes," he said. "But at least when coaches come together like this you can pick and mix from vast ranges of skills, ideas and experiences which can help you become a more effective and multi-skilled professional."
Beyond the well-organised forum for information sharing, Lagerbäck wanted to stress that the value of the technical information being fed back to the audience from events such as UEFA EURO 2008™ was of a top standard. "I've been attending this arena since the first event [in 1994] and the quality of organisation has continued to grow," he said. "But the technical reports are also much better than ten years ago. The Swedish FA used to send our own people to construct our own technical report, but today UEFA's is so good that we've stopped doing that."
Such positive feedback reflected the high quality of the conference and UEFA Executive Committee member Per Ravn Omdal, who was representing UEFA President Michel Platini in Vienna, praised both the hosts and the organisers in his concluding remarks on Wednesday. "I would like to thank again the Austrian Football Association [ÖFB] for their wonderful cooperation and hospitality, and Andy Roxburgh and his staff for a 100 per cent quality conference," Omdal said. ÖFB general secretary Alfred Ludwig also expressed his thanks, though his words were tinged with sadness.
"I wish to show my gratitude to UEFA," he said. "I was happy to have all these famous coaches here but I am also sad because UEFA EURO 2008™ is now history. It will be an eternal positive memory for our country." Perhaps the final word, though, should go to the UEFA EURO 2008™ winning coach, Luis Aragonés. His address to the conference on Monday was stimulating, and the 70-year-old confirmed: "This process is very important. When groups of football people get together and talk about their sport, important things can happen."