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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 14:59 GMT
Call for young players to stay at home
Boyce pointed out that much of Arsenal's youth team are foreigners
A top Uefa official has called for young players to be allowed to develop their skills in their home country rather than being poached by European clubs at an early age.

Many young stars from Africa, Asia and South America are snapped up early as local talent from domestic leagues can be expensive.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter last year condemned what he called the "social and economic rape" by European giants as they scour the developing world for talent.

And Jim Boyce, head of Uefa's youth and amateur committee, told BBC World Service's World Football programme that he believed players should be allowed to develop in the countries they live.

"The Arsenal youth team has only two or three English players, the rest of these kids are foreign players - this is the problem at the moment with national associations finding out that so many of their best players are playing abroad," he said.

"I don't think that at sixteen or seventeen these lads can handle the pressures and that's why so many of them fall by the wayside."


The pressures on young players have increased in many ways over recent years.

Top European clubs are keen to bring them in early to prevent having to pay millions for them later.

Meanwhile, many become instant media darlings should they score a good goal. This further raises their potential marketable status - and therefore cash value - in the eyes of agents, who are keen to get them the best deal.

Andy Roxburgh
Nowadays if young players are criticised, they react negatively
Andy Roxburgh
Former Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh, who is now Uefa's technical director, said that he felt the Bosman ruling had allowed money to dominate football to such an extent that it had now affected youth players too.

"You have agents and parents and youngsters who are looking for the money and this has dominated the scene," he said.

He added that Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful had said "when I look for a young player I want a player who can come and play here every week in front of 67,000 people and like it."

"In that one statement he says everything," Roxburgh added.

"Those with weak minds in a sporting sense will never play in a champion's league final. You have to be mentally very tough."

Roxburgh also said that when asked, young players said they actually wanted a coach who was "honest" - but that he had never heard coaches talk about that.

"I've never heard anyone say the first quality is that they need to be honest with young players, but that's what young players want, someone who's extremely open and honest with them," he stressed.

"They need to be approachable, a father figure who can motivate them and stimulate them, especially when they're down."

"They desperately want a one to one relationship."

No criticism

Generally, an approach which focuses on the individual, rather than the team, has been found to be more important in youth development.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Holland, which has a long and famous tradition of grooming talent from youth academies.

"We easily forget that we are dealing with individuals so we have to treat them as individuals," Wim van Zwam - the Dutch national youth coach, told World Football.

Sepp Blatter
Blatter has condemned Europe's richest clubs for 'exploiting' young talent
"That's why we appreciate contact with parents for example, so we know that they are in school and that they're doing well.

"Maybe that's one of the main reasons that we have always produced great players - we care for the individual in Holland."

But he added that it was dangerous for young talents who too often are only given praise.

Often young footballers can be lauded as international material after one or two good games. But van Zwam said that this was counterproductive.

"In many ways people create problems with these young players because they're always giving them accolades and awards and medals," he said,

"They often get them before they're ready to cope with that. This is why I think in children's football there shouldn't be cups and medals."

The dilemma coaches face is how to build a player's sense of self confidence without creating a monster ego in the process.

"They don't like to be criticised," Roxburgh said.

"In the old days you accepted criticism, that it was there to help you, nowadays if young players are criticised, they react negatively."

Blatter condemns European clubs
17 Dec 03 |  African
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28 Jan 04 |  Arsenal
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05 Nov 03 |  African

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