Sunday, December 21, 2014

COACHING EXCLUSIVE : Football Is My Life - 15 Questions to KEITH BOANAS - ESTONIA FA Women Head Coach and 2005 Women's FA Cup Winner. (Part Two)

KEITH BOANAS explains - EXCLUSIVELY to The FOOTBALL REPORT - what The FA's 'English DNA' philosophy means for Coaching to win the World Cup, for women's soccer and for systems of play; on the ESTONIA job and the cultural shock; with a detailed analysis on ENGLAND Women's chances at the World Cup and the pitches controversy; on why the FIFA Ranking system should be improved and also on his life with wife Pauline.

Charlton Athletic Ladies FC's vice-captain Karen Hills lifts the 2005 FA Women's Cup / Picture: CALFC. BACK ROW left to right facing: Emma Coss - Dani Farmer - Pauline Cope - Jess Smith -  Ebony Cabey Gooden. FRONT ROW:   Leanne Reidy- Jo Broadhurst— Sarah Snare — Ann-Marie  Heatherson — Jodian Clarke—Daniella Murphy—Karen Hills (vice-captain, lifting the Cup) - Donnique  Sinclair Chambers—- Eniola Aluko—furthest right Sian Williams. Missing from picture Casey Stoney — Alexa Hunn
at Saint Georges' Park


BURTON-upon-TRENT. Estonia Women Head coach and former English Premier League Charlton Athletic Ladies FC head coach Keith Boanas answers 15 questions to The FOOTBALL REPORT about his six years long experience in international football and what are the new trends in football coaching that have come out from the Football Association's 2014 Coaching Conference held on December 6-8 at Saint Georges' Park.

Q1: Welcome back to the UK Keith. How is life on the Baltic shores? What are your responsibilities in the Estonian football? 

''Still frustrating at times '' was his answer from the comfortable sofa in the lobby of Hilton Hotel at St Georges' Park where the 2014 FA Coaching Conference took place in the weekend. 

''I have been in charge of the Estonia's FA Women football teams of the senior team and of of the youth development since 2009, whilst my assistant  Katrin Kaarna, who was the first woman to graduate with a UEFA PRO coaching badge in the Baltic, has now taken more responsibility for the Under 19, Under 17 and Under 15 Girls squads. I also work with the technical staff on coaching education and I have a good relationship with the men's national team staff including the new head coach from Sweden, Magnus Pehrsson.  

Q2: How was The FA Coaching Conference then?

''Well they have developed a new concept, new ideas. In particular this new DNA project which in reality dates back to the times when Howard Wilkinson was in charge of the FA Technical Department'.'Yes, it has a new personality'. 'It is about the implementation of a young player's development that when he moves from the Academy level into clubs there should be in place checks or benchmarks to establish everything felt needed that will be there to influence the youth development..''

''They demonstrated how teams are brought to show the young players the FA's philosophy and there is a new change of coaching style on that philosophy'.'There will be however inclusion of what was brought in with the experiences of Sven Goran Ericsson and of Fabio Capello; and that talent growth will be absorbed within the new parameters of high expectation that Roy Hodgson also mentioned'.'The key is therefore on youth growth and influence''. 

I stared at him with incredulity - my mind going back to the old stereotyped images of long balls, high balls, second balls and that sort of mono-dimensional game Tony Pulis' Stoke City FC was recently successfully mastering in their Premier League displays.

''Oh no, not that!'' Boanas explains with a smile after presumably reading my expression ''It is about the players implementation'' he continues ''on how the four corners model qualities (Technical, Psychological, Physical and Social ) will allow a young player to progress from the Under 18 or younger age, into the senior squads''.

So ''not to have the sort of Balotelli's or the early unruly Rooney's type of misbehaviour that we have seen'' I prompted.

''Yes' the former Charlton women team coach replies 'It is about how the FA wants to develop teams to play in the future and how the FA want coaches to support players to play'.'It is about the future identity of both England teams, men's and women's and the way of working for all those involved''.

''But' I objected 'what happened to all the brouhaha about the ball control techniques and Spanish tika-taka style of play the FA's former technical director Sir Trevor Brooking seemed to want The FA to embrace by 2012 Coaching Conference?''

''Oh yes, that is still the players' first development requirement but also the team characteristics, on and off the pitch values and standards of behaviour'. 'The key is on the youth's growth and influence so that this new DNA could be able to win England the World Cup by 2022 as the country hasn't won a big tournament since 1966!''.

Q3: Which topic of the Coaching Conference has been particularly interesting for women's football?

''The FA is now looking to introduce a form of equality philosophy in the game based on the new DNA concept involving the four corners, linking the grassroots game much closer to the elite level in the mindset of coaches''.

Q4: Did you spot at the Conference any particular coaching trend you think that can be adopted for your team?

''Retention of Possession, Building and Creativity of Play''.

Q5: What aspect of women's football coaching have been analysed at the Conference?

''The main emphases now is on playing 'SAFE' rather than to play risky passes, on how to get the ball 'through' without being caught out on transition by counter attacks''.

Q6: Is there a new way with which the football playing system is now to be coached and is there one
for women's? 

 Boanas with CALFC & England captain Casey Stoney
 / Picture: CALFC
''There is the integration of FUTSAL (short for Portuguese Futebal de Salao or Indoor Football but with substantial differences from the 5-a-side still widely played in the UK) which improves the qualities in ball control necessary in the X11-a-side'.'In a way women's football is open minded, fresh and open'.'There are no more panic clearances''.

Q7: On the artificial pitches controversy is there anything you would like to add to what you said before (In Part One)?

''At the highest level its has already been tested this year at the recent FIFA Under 20 Women's World Cup with  a good show of play overall for the audiences and resulting in a quicker and fluent game.''

Q8: Is that particular type of turf likely to alter the result of the next FIFA World Cup?

''Obviously the venues have been already adopted and tested''

Q9: Is there any particular team that could take advantage or by benefiting from it?

''Canada's direct style of play will receive further thrust from the home crowd support.''

Q10: How was your impression of Saturday's 2015 FIFA World Cup Draw?

''The USA have still great athleticism but not the play which isn't any more as good as Germany and Japan and (then) Canada are not any more a surprise.''

Q11: Which are you favourite teams to be in the FIFA World Cup Final next summer? 

''Germany, Japan, USA and Canada will be in the last four with the first two going for the world's crown''.

 Q12: What do you think of the England Group with France, Colombia and Mexico? 

''Well, it's a tough group as Colombia and Mexico can create any upset in the group's early matches'.'It also depends on who gets the better pitches adaptation and find the better mix and cover'.'I will expect England to make into the last eight and obviously anything better is welcomed'.

'Up front Eniola Aluko has got now the right 'DNA' but there are some other aspects of the Three Lionesses' defence that needs to be thought about '.

'For instance England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley is good, very commanding but at times likes to make simple saves look spectacular, but she has a great stature and she is a decent shot stopper; Demi Stokes and Alex Scott are both attack minded fullbacks and that can leave your central defenders exposed by the quality of counter attacking play at the highest level''. 

 Q13: Estonia women squad last December have reached their best FIFA ranking ever at 71. What do you need to progress any further?

''When I joined in 2009 Estonia was ranked about 93/4 so even if lately we had slipped a few positions from last December's all time high FIFA Women's Ranking, since I look at it positively considered during the years we won direct clashes with our local neighbours and we won an UEFA tournament in Armenia'. 

'Although we didn't have a good 2014 in terms of World Cup qualifiers as we lost matches that we could have won had we took our chances or lost matches like the one with Italy where we were in control at half time (0-0)'. 

'We have now set our next target to reach the FIFA 60's ranking level'.'With regards to the  two matches with Italy I must say they have been very inspiring when I did twice visit their wonderful Coverciano's (Florence) centre for football'.

'The Italians showed they have perhaps the greatest passion and knowledge of football in the world although yet England have it a more 'detached but somehow more ingrained in the DNA's genome '.

'I felt sorry for Antonio Cabrini's team losing out to the Dutch in the World Cup playoff'.'Cabrini has done a good job however, he's has brought in professionalism and discipline in the squad'.'Italians tell all the time how important football is now in their lives'.

 S.W.A.L.K: FA Cup 'Sealed With A Loving Kiss' 
/ Picture: CALFC

''Football is my life too!'.'It cost me two marriages and also Pauline (Cope, pictured right with Keith) had been disgruntled at the time of the England changes'. 'She's now a West Ham season ticket holder where she analyses the games as well as any one; she is also an inductee in the National Football Museum Hall of Fame''.

''But it would help to reach this (FIFA ranking) target if we could somehow overcome the 'cultural shock' and the difficulties we had met in the country's social-political aspects over women's football in Estonia (an independent Republic from 1918 and now in the EU, with its very own distinct language with a hint of Finnish - where the prevalent influencing culture is Finnish & Swedish but where 25% of population is still of Russian heritage and language with many of them however speaking Estonian as it is required for citizenship) as football is still not considered here a form of revenue by the native population who view the sport very coldly''.

''On the contrary the other side of the Estonian population, the Russians, seem to see women's football with more passion and enthusiasm'.'I cannot count however on those new forces as there is a strong political divide (a factor we have seen nowadays precipitating in Ukraine) where promising Russian speaking players are rarely or never allowed to play for Estonia although they are never prevented to gain the citizenship'.'This is a strong set back when you are trying to grow women's and girls in a country of only 1.3m people when some parents choose not to encourage their children'.'There is where I face the problems at times.'. 'Despite all that UEFA's statistics show however we are the Baltic region best performers in terms of Under 17 new players registration growth''.

Q14: According to UEFA Ranking ESTONIA are in the middle table of the richest Federations (€350k to €1m budget). How come though they still not have an official sponsor? Any plans?

''Well, that's thanks to plenty of private founding brought in for Football development and on direct support from the UEFA/ FIFA programs.'Our football relies at the moment solely on private funding and on the UEFA/FIFA  programmes'.'As far as the sponsors are concerned we have however NIKE supplying the kits for our national teams, youth and seniors women's and all the men's teams as well'.'However whilst the men's have the sponsor's name on the shirt the women's at the moment do not have it'.'We felt on that respect we are treated as an annex of the men's structure with a separate budget spending. It will be however desirable to have one'.'UEFA have provided in the mean time with welcomed perks''.

Q15: How do you justify that there has been in the FIFA ranking this year Federations that have jumped 46 places? Did they use special fitness training or is it down to the players' individual qualities or incentives?

''It's all based on the (FIFA) Ranking mechanism which is somehow (like for the men's ranking) very unfair to some teams'.'It all depends who they play and which region they are in'.'It is obvious that some regions or world areas have a different quality of teams level compared with others''.

''Let's see how South America's 10 teams compare with Europe's 54 nations!'.'It is then down on how they allocate the points to those matches and related performances and who you play!'.'Let's take when we played Italy and it was 0-0 at half time, that should have also be considered and counted in the overall score towards the FIFA ranking valuation''. 

''In conclusion I intend to stay in women's football and Estonia for the near future'. ''Women's football is the future although some colleague coaches are reluctant to move to the women's side as it is perceived as an easy job that can weaken their potentiality and that may reflect badly on their CV's future applications and therefore job prospects'.

'That's however nothing more false and incorrect!'.'Instead in some aspects, like the psychological one, it is even more difficult and challenging than the men's role'.'I am therefore fully here with the aspect of my job as I am also looking over to support the men's sector senior team manager and his assistants and carry out my national coaching duties at the various UEFA Pro Licence workshops and FIFA technical committee meetings.'' 

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