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Friday, April 23, 1999 Published at 07:42 GMT 08:42 UK

Sport: Football

Secrets of Samba football

Simon Clifford tries out his new skills during his time in Brazil

Simon Clifford is the man who is seeking to take the punt out of English football and replace it with the lavish skills of Pele and Ronaldo.

Simon Clifford: "Futebol de Salao is the future of English football"
Over the past few years Clifford's mission has been to convince some of England's top soccer coaches that the old romantic tale which cites that Brazilian soccer players are graced with a natural ability is indeed a legend.

Ever since the former school teacher was asked to coach his school team, Clifford was anxious that he would get the best coaching guide which contemporary football could offer.


And Clifford saw no reason why he should not look as far afield as Brazil- after all they have dominated the sport for over 30 years despite the worrying fact that the game is native to the English soils.

[ image: The Futebol de Salao is a lot smaller than the balls which are used in the Premiership]
The Futebol de Salao is a lot smaller than the balls which are used in the Premiership
Indeed, the Brazilians only stumbled across the game in the early 1900s when an Englishman called Charles Miller decided to have a kick around on the beaches of Sao Paulo.

However in recent decades the boys from Brazil have taught the British grandfathers of football the new improved way to suck eggs, and Clifford was astounded to hear the Football Association had done no research into the coaching methods which are employed within the Brazilian game.

His curiosity got the better of him and in his school holidays he decided to pay a visit to South America to see if he could find out the reason behind the Brazilian success story.

Game plan

His time in Brazil proved more fruitful than when the man from Del Monte first visited an orangery.

After meeting Brazilian stars such as Pele, Rivelino and Zico, Clifford returned home armed with a plan which would soon turn his school team into a side who could beat any Premiership youth academy within their own age range with breathtaking ease.

With a little help from Juninho, who became a good friend to him during his time at Middlesborough, Clifford set up his own Brazilian soccer school in Leeds.

The UK Confederation of Futebol de Salao which has proved to be a remarkable success story.

The school has been running for a number of years now and already Clifford and Juninho have tipped many of the current crop of youngsters to go on and play for England.

And it is easy to see why. Just a single visit to one of his soccer schools had both Glenn Hoddle and Michael Owen cooing at some of the dazzling tricks which every child within Clifford's academy is capable of executing.

Clifford - a modest young chap - said the secret behind Brazil's success is a game called Futebol de Salao in his latest book called Play the Brazilian Way.

Futebol de Salao

"This is a unique five-a-side game which is played with a size two football," he said.

"Pele developed all his skills from the game and both Juninho and Ronaldo only played Futebol de Salao until they reached the age of 14.

"It was only then that they started playing football with a full sized ball on a full sized pitch.

"At my school we use conventional balls as well as the smaller futebol de salao but we focus on precision passing, playing on the floor and developing attacking skills rather than humping the ball up to the big lads."

Clifford's football empire has received a great deal of interest from Premiership clubs, with many of them inquiring about some of his talented young players and about his own availability as a coach.

But at the moment the 27-year-old intends to continue revolutionising the English game before the likes of Brazil disappear over the football horizon, far beyond the reach of any English centre-halves' long punt up the pitch and far beyond the despairing reach of the contemporary English game.

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