Brazilian Soccer Coaching with Gilterlan Ferreira

Brazilian Football Coaching - Gilterlan Ferreira

Gilterlan Ferreira is a professional fitness coach at Brazilian league side Mossoro, in Rio grande do Norte. He is a graduate in fitness education and post-graduate in sport training.

I asked him about the player development system in Brazil and how his country managed to create so many top-class footballers. The answer is perhaps not as straightforward as one might expect. Here’s the interview:

Pavl Williams: Hi Gilterlan, thanks for agreeing to do an interview for Better Football. It is very much appreciated!

First of all could you tell us where do the majority of kids start playing football in Brazil?

Gilterlan Ferreira: Here in Brazil, it seems almost all kids are born liking football! The culture of this sport is very deep.

The majority of kids start playing football in the streets or in sand fields. Only a very small proportion of those kids get the chance to play at a football club. We have a huge number of clubs around the country, but even so the number of young athletes is much greater than the supply of clubs.

PW: The belief in England is that complete players move from street soccer or beach football straight into league football. But the reality is a little different isn’t it?

GF: As I said, beach football and street soccer is very common here in Brazil and I believe that kids have the opportunity to play from an early age and every day after school. As a result they have a highly developed motor connection compared to kids who might only get to train in school’s [organised] football.

But even the youngest kids who are taken on at clubs must work like professionals, this is the job of football schools here. Each year there are extensive open trials over a few days and only the best players are taken on for the following year.

PW: What is life like for a junior footballer at a Brazilian club? How often do they train, how often do they have matches, and what other activities are they expected to do?

GF: The Under-15, Under 17 and Under-20 groups have training everyday. The Under-20 especially have a training regime very similar to the professional level.

Any athletes over 17 years old must become a young professional and live and work full-time at their club. These players can be called into the senior team at any point but they also have very competitive leagues.

PW:What is the most important thing that Brazilian clubs teach their players?

GF: I think the most important thing we teach yet is how to be a good citizen: this is the most important message we can pass to them. Football is a consequence for the few who make it but there are millions more trying to be succesful.

PW: Thanks Gilterlan, again I appreciate your time in answering these questions and I’m sure Better Football readers will find your answers really interesting!

GF: Thanks a lot to the oportunity. Was a pleasure talk about our football culture. Thanks!

For me the most interesting points about the club development system are;

1) “the youngest kids who are taken on at clubs must work like professionals”

2) “Under-15, Under 17 and Under-20 groups have training everyday. The Under-20 especially”

I think that the additional hours spent practicing football is the single most obvious advantage Brazilian footballers have over their young English counterparts.

The 10,000 hours theory is becoming, thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s popularisation of the idea, more well known – what this basically states is that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Therefore the amount of time spent practicing as a youth player will directly affect the age at which they fulfill their potential. In Brazil, players master technical skills earlier and this allows them to compete at a higher level than players of the same age in England are able to.

Conversely the youth system in Brazil can keep players in a development environment until the age of 21, with dedicated Under-20 teams and leagues. In England the oldest official youth category is U18s and then players are expected to graduate to the first-team, or else train with the reserves – with a mixture of unmotivated, injured and semi-retired players. It seems that in Brazil, more players are given the opportunity to reach their 10,000 hours at an older age by playing in meaningful competitions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the differences between youth development in Brazil and in England (or indeed the USA). Either in the comments below or on Twitter (@betterfootball), let me know what do you think?

Gilterlan Ferreira can be found at his website and also on Twitter (@Gilterlan).

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