The regular season has finished in Serbia and, after missing out on the playoffs by one position, it is all over for my team. Since joining in January I have enjoyed having the opportunity to discover another country and experience their futsal.

KMF Smederevo

When I joined the club, together with a young Bosnian player, the team was under the threat of relegation with 4 points after 7 games. We collected 16 points in the remaining 11 games to finish 7th so I am relatively happy with how it went.

Before I arrived I was told they had a good squad despite the poor form. Shortly after I arriving I noticed there was a lack of leadership and I think this was the reason for the bad start rather than the quality of the players.

The squad includes one player who went to Thailand for the 2012 World Cup and a 20 year old who is now part of the Serbian national team and will be an important player for them in the future.

The language barrier, though I did have lessons to learn the basics, made it difficult for me to provide the leadership needed but I did my best by showing a good attitude and being an example. Over the years I have grown more into taking this type of responsibility and realise it is another aspect that makes a good player. As a young player you concentrate on yourself and your performance but with age you start thinking more about how you can have positive effect on the team environment.
Media coverage of my arrival

Media coverage of my arrival

My time here gave me more chances to play as a pivot as I did on occasions last season in Croatia. The team were usually playing 4-0 but decided later to sometimes switch to a 3-1 formation and I ended up playing pivot quite a lot despite usually being a sweeper.

I enjoy the variety the change of positions offers though I still prefer playing

at the back where you see more of the ball and can have more of an influence. I still need to improve in playing as a pivot but like with everything I am sure that will come with more experience.

The Balkan Talent Pool

After my time spent here and in Croatia the previous season I have observed that this region has a wealth of talented players. This can be seen in the recent results of the national teams of the countries that formed Yugoslavia before it was broken up.

Croatia finished 4th as hosts of the Futsal Euro 2012 and in the same tournament Serbia were knocked out to runners up Russia in a narrow 2-1 defeat. Further Slovenia is an up and coming team with many good young players and I expect to see them do well in the future.

The Playstation generation has yet to arrive here thankfully and so the children still spend a lot of time outside playing. This is probably part of the reason why the region has a strong sporting pedigree. They do very well in many sports such as handball, basketball, football, waterpolo and volleyball.

My Local Futsal Court

My Local Futsal Court

Street futsal is very popular and most children grow up with the sport. This is supported by futsal courts which are everywhere. In the summer they are many street tournaments with good prize money on offer. These are very social events with many people coming to watch. It is a shame this culture is non-existent in the UK.

For me the prominent characteristic of the players from this region is their ability in 1v1 situations. Some of the worlds best 1v1 players come from here such as Marko Peric of Serbia, Rok Mordej of Slovenia and Tihomir Novak of Croatia. Whilst Peric has already played in the Russian Super League I believe there are several other players from the region who have the potential to do well in the world’s top leagues.

1v1 Legend Marko Peric

1v1 Legend Marko Peric

One weakness they possess is the lack of high level tactical knowledge. The standard of coaching here is not so high with a few exceptions. Tactically the level of play could be much better. In my opinion if this was improved then they would be able to compete with the likes of Spain as on technical ability alone they are just as good. This can be seen with the success of Croatia at Euro 2012 who were a generation of young players brought through under the guidance of  Mico Martic, one of the world’s best coaches.

Another thing that would help their development is improved organisation. Despite most players being paid and all teams getting at least a few hundred fans to watch their games it is still quite amateur in the way they promote the sport. There is so much untapped potential. This, for me, is one of the biggest obstacles restricting the development of our sport not only here but around the world and I will post about this soon.

My Future

My love for playing will keep me as active as possible over the summer. I may return to Serbia to play some tournaments and have also been asked to help with the organisation of two international youth tournaments, one for U16s and one for U18s, on the Croatian coast in July and August (there are still a few places left if anyone is interested).

I will stay in Serbia for a little while longer and enjoy the sunshine before heading back to England. I have the opportunity to return here next year but I will consider my future over the summer.

Vidimo se Srbija!!

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  1. Miguel
    Reply

    Great article Rob, I have really enjoyed reading it.

    I would comment your this sentence: "with age you start thinking more about how you can have positive effect on the team environment"

    Some youth players in the academy show many leadership manners but some others show just the opposite.

    We are in continous training and control of technique and tactics, but we have a lack on leadership ones (and other psychologic aspects).

    Usually (not always!), all the people punishes bad behaviours but don't reward positive actions since they are supposed to be. I think this is an error, we have to recognise that player that is always supporting the others or the one who carries with the music for the changing room time.

    I think that the team that is a group of friends has the ability of overcoming difficulties that always appear in any season and this players are the trunk of this friendship.

    So, if you want a group with mental strength you must start by taking care of these players and their behaviours.

  2. Doug Reed
    Reply

    Thanks for the comments Miguel.

    It is strange because at the senior level everyone talks about how the top managers manage the psychological factors of a team to get success such as building team spirit. However, as you say, at youth level where the players are more impressionable it isn't really thought about in most cases.

    I believe that players who have a character and good values are better able to deal with the demands of elite sport. I believe Spain has these qualities and it is one of the factors that makes them one of the best in the world. When they are losing they remain calm and maintain their belief as shown in the final of the Futsal Euro 2012 when they came back against Russia in the final seconds.

    There are many ways a coach can instill these values such as being a good example and as you say encouraging positive behaviours. Most coaching courses don't cover this aspect despite the fact that most youth players will not make it to the elite level. Therefore having the right mental attributes will be much more beneficial to them in their life than the technical aspects of futsal. So whether the goal is for performance in sport or for success in life learning these skills is important and should be taught.

    From what I have read and from seeing how the players that have come through the football youth section behave, these values are very important at Barcelona aren't they?

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