English football can learn lessons from Belgium
The Premier League has become a hotbed of Belgian talent
The usually difficult task of naming three famous Belgians has become surprisingly effortless in recent times thanks to the Premier League’s team sheets over the past two seasons.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke may have bemoaned the top flight’s lack of English players and its negative impact on the national side, but if there really is a direct correlation, then Belgium will surely start to reap the rewards of so many of it's players going on to become Premier League stars.
Spurs alone have Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli regularly in the starting line-up.
Elsewhere, English football appears to be developing something of a Belgian dream team with Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen both leading Manchester City and Arsenal respectively from the heart of defence.
Liverpool’s fine start to the season has been influenced in no small part by summer signing Simon Mignolet, formerly of Premier League strugglers Sunderland, between the sticks.
Youngsters Christian Benteke and Eden Hazard have also lit up the league since their arrival.
Hazard may not be alone as his younger brother Thorgan joined him at Chelsea last year but is yet to make an appearance in the first team.
Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) and Romelu Lukaku (Everton) both made high profile moves over the summer and are now fitting in well at their new clubs, but such an array of Belgian talent surely raises questions as to the success of grassroots football in the country.
The Belgian FA’s ‘development vision’ for football in schools has been in practice for ten years, with constant adaptations based on the feedback of teachers, youth coaches and clubs. Young players focus on a balance between general power and coordination while playing with specific skills, but crucially have as much time on the pitch as possible in small-sided games to allow maximum opportunities to touch the ball.
At one level, Belgium’s grassroots plans do not differ dramatically from those seen in the UK, but the difference lies in the culture of enjoyment promoted in the games.
Belgium are yet to win a major tournament, but Greg Dyke may wish to take some valuable lessons from his continental counterparts nonetheless.
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