For the first time in the 30-year history of the AEFCA (formerly known as the UEFT), one of its Symposiums took place in a country that once belonged to the former USSR: after achieving independence in 1991, the young nation of Belarus, which counts just over 10 million inhabitants, hosted the event at its capital, Minsk, from 24-28 October 2009.
Some 150 guests representing more than 60 different national coaching communities had accepted the invitation jointly issued by the AEFCA, the Belarus Football Federation (BFF) and its coaching body (contributing a further 50 attendees itself) to attend this year’s congress. Feedback from participants was tremendously positive even during the event; since then, the AEFCA General Secretariat has received plenty more letters of praise and appreciation.
Organised under the motto of “Improving the Game by Learning from the Best”, the congress was an excellent opportunity for coaches to absorb their colleagues’ know-how, share their own experiences and exchange ideas. The great importance attached by the hosts to the event, was reflected in the welcoming words sent by the President of the Republic, Alexandr G. Lukaschenko, as well as by the personal attendance and address given by the Lord Mayor of Minsk, Nikolai Ladutko.
Learning from the Best
For three days, a series of high-calibre lecturers treated those present to a broad spectrum of talks and presentations. Former FIFA Technical Director, Holger Osieck, started by giving a retrospective of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 held in South Africa, where he chaired the world governing body’s Technical Study Group. He was followed by former Polish national coach and current Polish FA Director of Sports, Jerzy Engel, who presented an analysis focussing on the UEFA Under-21 European Championship in Sweden entitled “Watching the Future”. As a special courtesy, all Symposium participants received a copy of the official FIFA (and UEFA, respectively) reports in print and DVD format.
Entertainer and full-blooded professional rolled into one, UEFA Technical Director Andy Roxburgh talked about the search for fresh talent and how best to handle promising young players (“Finding Fábregas – Developing Top Players”).
Bernd Stange’s presentation “Learn from the Best and give your Team a Face of its Own” received an equally enthusiastic reaction. The Belarus national team coach stressed the importance of a team’s individual, distinctive character. For more details on the presentation, click on the SYMPOSIUM or COACHING / TRAINING AIDS headings.
Interviewed by AEFCA Vice-President Craig Brown, Russia national team coach Guus Hiddink spoke about the challenge of coaching teams from entirely different cultural backgrounds, while differentiating between working with club and national teams, respectively.
The presentation of Hiddink’s compatriot Raymond Verheijen dealt with the Periodization of Training; later Sergei Gurenko, who currently coaches local top team Dinamo Minsk FC, looked back on his days as a player, recalling just what he learnt from his own coaches. Top coach Gérard Houllier, currently Technical Director of the French FA, crowned things off with his intriguing presentation on the “Ingredients for Success”.
All of the presentations referred to above, including a panel discussion chaired by the popular Belarus TV sports expert, Wladimir Nowitskij, and featuring Guus Hiddink, Bernd Stange, Dr Jozef Vengloš and Latvia’s national team coach Alexandre Stankov, took place at the “Business Centre Victoria” conference rooms, while the practical demonstrations were overseen by Stange’s long-time assistant Harald Irmscher in the spacious, roofed “Manege” sports facility.
Not all work and no play!
At the invitation of BFF President Gennady Nevyglas and BFF General Director Leonid Dmitranitsa, participants were treated to a wonderful evening gala offering national delicacies and several cultural highlights in the shape of highly professional choir and dance acts. AEFCA President Dr Jozef Vengloš offered words of thanks for the excellent organisation and commitment shown by all concerned, confirming that the AEFCA had been very right indeed in deciding to “go East”.