Thursday 20 April 2023, 11:00

Lionel Scaloni lights up FIFA/CONMEBOL Coach Educators course in Argentina

  • The in-person course was held from 11 to 15 April in Buenos Aires

  • There were 18 trainees from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile in attendance

  • The World Cup-winning coach spoke via video call

The virtual presence of Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was the highlight of the FIFA/CONMEBOL Coach Educators course, which took place in Buenos Aires from 11 to 15 April. Scaloni, who steered La Albiceleste to glory at the recent FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, and who subsequently won FIFA’s The Best Men’s Coach award, participated from Spain as a guest speaker, during the theory section of the third day of activities. He discussed his experiences and his career, and answered a series of questions from the 18 trainees – hand-picked by the Football Associations in their countries – from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile who attended the course.

“We’re here with coaches and educators from South America who, in one way or another, will have an impact on more than two million children after taking the knowledge they have gained through this programme back to their countries,” said FIFA Technical Expert Mauricio Marques in his welcome speech. “In these circumstances, it’s an honour and a pleasure to have with us the best coach in the world, who also happens to be South American.”

Scaloni proceeded to outline the issues he regards as vital when focusing on coach education. “If we’re talking about grassroots football and youth categories, which is where it all begins, and how to interpret what it means to coach young kids, you have to come to the conclusion that it’s not for everyone – you need to be committed to it, and you need a lot of patience,” he remarked. He added: “I was lucky enough to have great coaches and educators, who taught me how to view this sport through a lens of respect and discipline. But one thing we must do as coaches is let children express themselves on the pitch, and only pull them up on things that really matter. We shouldn’t tell them what to do all the time, because that takes away their sense of initiative and inventiveness.” Rocio Yanez, an instructor at the Chilean National Football Institute and the first woman to coach male professional players in her country, was quick to praise Scaloni’s contribution to the course.

FIFA/Conmebol Coach Educators course in Buenos Aires

“His words have great significance for us, because his outlook mirrors ours, which is to focus on the player, and to closely shape and guide the player’s work so that what he or she learns is meaningful,” she said. “It’s a real morale boost when someone like that confirms that we’re going down the right path.” During his presentation, Scaloni was actually not the only Argentinian world champion in the room: among those listening attentively was a certain Ruben Rossi, who won the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship in Japan and who is now in charge of methodology at the Cesar Luis Menotti Football School in his homeland. “First and foremost, I was impressed with how clear he was about key concepts,” Rossi said of Scaloni. “Secondly, I liked his honesty and humility, which are values that football tends to impart. And those attributes will positively affect all of us here today, because he is beginning to be seen as something of a role model. That always has an impact on anyone with the ambition and commitment to learn.”

A framework for cooperation and focused development

Giovani Fernandes, FIFA’s Senior Coaching Development Manager, went over the outline of the course, which last year was part of a pilot programme that has now been formalised.

“It’s important to emphasise that these classroom sessions are part of a wider process,” Fernandes explained. “We started with online learning together, where the trainees had the opportunity to think about the material provided and offer some personal input from their own experiences.

“Then we went through an online course, where we saw how the theory is applied in reality for each one of them. And today, here in Buenos Aires, is where all the content comes together. The attendees’ willingness to share knowledge and receive constant feedback is a key element of this course.”

In addition to the FIFA instructors, Clarence Acuna, CONMEBOL’s head of Technical Development, Fabimar Franchi, CONMEBOL’s Sustainability and Women’s Football Development Manager, and Luis Castro, Development Manager at the Argentinian Football Association (hosts of the event) were all in attendance.

“One of the key points we’ve observed is the level of cooperation between confederations and member associations, because they know much more about the requirements and the overall situation than we do,” continued Fernandes. “FIFA provides a structure that offers support, but it’s the confederations and associations that bring the richness of the content. Our role is to support and build a better environment for football development together.”

Former Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar, who travelled to three World Cups with his country and who is now Technical Director at the Paraguayan FA, extrapolated on this theme: “FIFA and CONMEBOL have, for a long time, been working to ensure that each association finds its own identity, and that they keep up-to-date with training needs without losing sight of the context or diluting that identity.

“This is a large-scale approach that applies both to the training of adults, as is the case here, and of children, who will be, via the coaches that we train, the eventual beneficiaries of the knowledge passed on during this course.”