Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Short Sighted Soccer

You'd have to wonder at an organisation like the Football Association of Ireland which claims to be interested in developing Irish soccer but seems to go out of its way to do the exact opposite.

Strategy 1 : Sack the incumbent manager and dismantle grass roots development structures within Ireland prefering instead to have Jack Charlton build his side from overseas players with fairly tenuous Irish connections. The FAI persisted with this policy when it wasn't immediately successful arguing that they were after a longer term, more strategic goal. Of course, it's reasonable to argue that Irish soccer under Jack wasn't really that successful. Certainly they climbed up the FIFA rankings by not getting beat by too many other countries. They played tediously dull kick 'n' run football which, though not exactly the best lesson to young soccer players, did at least fill Lansdowne Road. [IRFU says thanks]. But what did this long term strategy bring? 10 years later, the FAI had no stadium, no money, and no grass roots development.

Strategy 2 : Sack the incumbent manager and appoint a loyal servant of Irish football - a nice man who hasn't a lot of experience in management - as manager. Do nothing about developing Irish soccer at grass roots. Again taking the long term strategic view, the FAI give him some time to secure success with the senior team. After several unsuccessful (unlucky?) campaigns, Mick McCarthy eventually succeeds in bringing Ireland to within a penalty kick of the last 16 in the World Cup. This success was all the more remarkable given the constant FAI-led sniping at the manager and the unprofessional behaviour of Ireland's greatest ever soccer player.

Strategy 3 : Sack the incumbent manager and appoint a loyal servant of Irish football - a nice man who has lots of experience in management and understands the grass roots needs. Taking a strategic view, this manager nurtures indigenous Irish soccer, bloods new players and establishes a national plan for technical development. After years of no investment in Irish soccer, Brian Kerr, unsurprisingly is not immediately successful with the senior side. Ireland, despite rarely getting beaten Ireland falls down the FIFA rankings. Cue for the FAI to abandon their supposed strategic thinking.

Strategy 4 : Sack the incumbent and see Strategy 1.

Of course why should we be surprised by this absence of strategic vision and lack of professionalism from the FAI. They should take a look at the much derided GAA. An amateur organisation with a modern 80,000 seater stadium, exemplery grass roots development and the unnerving ability to do the right things.

Paige's boyfriend (a former Irish football supporter)


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