This is part 2 of the Wim Jansen story on the KNVB strategy “Winners of Tomorrow”.
A big number of football “experts” were engaged in this big think tank platform for the KNVB, but funnily enough, a number of them have asked to have their names removed from the report. Dutch football wants to go back to the top of the world, but Wim Jansen thinks we’re taking the wrong exit on our way.
Wim Jansen was also invited to join in on the broader debate for a new model for the Eredivisie. Wim asked if the number of clubs was on the table, as a discussion point. He was told “No”. The number of clubs – 18 – was fixed. For Jansen, having debates about a new format were useless if the KNVB wasn’t open to debate that. Wim Jansen doesn’t take prisoners. He might have been the quiet one on the pitch, off te pitch he only lives his own truth and is happy to tell people about it. Jansen: “I have no personal ego or agenda in the game. I want to do what’s best for football in Holland. But if I share my thoughts with the a bigger group of people, with vested interests, it will become chaos. If you really want to improve the quality, the first decision needs to be: no more artifical surfaces! Real grass. It seems Holland is the only “major” football nation allowing artificial pitches. You don’t see it in England or Spain. And we have around 4 clubs in the Eredivisie with those artificial pitches and they’ll need to either redo them or leave the competition.”
Success at Celtic but Jansen left the club due to difference of opinion on future
But that’s not all. “I also want to propose a 10 club competition and I would like to see clubs play each other four times instead of two. Four Feyenoord – Ajax classics, four PSV – AZ Alkmaar fixtures, etc. This means every week you play a tough game and every week players need to step up.” He realises this plan is seen as a bomb by the general assembly. “Of course! The boards of Roda and Excelsior and Go Ahead Eagles will be devastated. I get that. But if you want to reach for the top, you need to start creating resistance at domestic level. All other solutions are compromises. People doing their best to please other people. That is not what a top league needs.”
With an eye out for the new top leagues the European top clubs are contemplating, Holland needs to prepare for this new future. The Oranje midfielder goes on: “It’s alarming that the best youth of the country in the under 13s and under 16s are not in the same competition! It’s ridiculous. In particular in our little country. Now, PSV doesn’t meet Ajax and Feyenoord! No wonder they win their regional competitions all the time. The D pupils and B juniors (first years) of Ajax and Feyenoord also don’t compete against each other. All three top clubs are in separate competitions. Sometimes the coaches organise something amongst themselves on a Wednesday afternoon. Not good enough! The biggest talents of the country need to compete amongst each other! Then there is the national cup competition. The winner of that competition plays Europa League football. Why do we allow amateur clubs in that? Now, the pro clubs need to play three rounds against – potentially that is – amateurs. How does that make them better players?”
The KNVB amateur division has a strong power base in the federation. And Jansen knows that the amateur wishes count for something. “I get that, but the result is that these shenanigans will be hurdles on our way to the top.”
Former national team manager Bert van Marwijk and former Ajax and Chelsea coach Henk ten Cate already publically withdrawn their support for the KNVB plan, while football legend Clarence Seedorf and physio Raymond Verheijen have had their names removed. At Feyenoord, they were quite surprised to see the name of under 13 coordinator Gerard Rutjes in the report, in the “revolution in youth football” chapter.
Rutjes did participate in the meetings but he was strongly opposed to the new Twin Game approach. The report claims Rutjes was a supporter of the plan. Wim Jansen: “Rutjes had the loudest voice against this plan!”
At those Twin Games on small pitches, you see results like 55-3 and 1-39! And they play without refs, so the bigger lads will win the games. In matches where the fittest wins, football talent is not longer focus.
Jansen gets worked up now. “I am so baffled about the fact that the KNVB doesn’t want to disclose who is behind all this? Someone came up with this revolution and must have used scientific research? But the KNVB doesn’t wanna tell… Where is the proof?”
Jansen hit in the eye with iceball when returning to De Kuip in an Ajax jersey
The first thing new Technical Director Hans van Breukelen wanted to do, when appointed, was appoint a so-called Performance and Innovation Manager (PIM). But in the golden seventies, when Oranje reached two world cup finals, this role didn’t exist. Same in the late 80s when Holland won the Euros and there was no PIM to be found in 2010 and 2014 when Holland won silver and bronze.
All the successes were reached without some innovation manager. And in a period of complete chaos – no more board of directors, no management team, two assistants left, a team coordinator has to leave – Hans van Breukelen is pushing for this new and vague role.
Wim Jansen feels the KNVB should first focus on getting their own stuff together. but instead of structural improvements and organisational clarity, Van Breukelen is focusing on football technical matters, together with director amateur football Van der Zee.
Jansen: “Dutch football is now being flooded with psycho-babble. They’re talking about re-thinking. Quotes like “with a draw, both teams have won”… They want to create a winning mindset amongst youngsters and visualising victories and all that. But I try to stay closer to the game, with these kids. The best way to innovate football is to develop good players. Football was never improved by scientists, therapists and even coaches. It’s the players. You know who was football’s biggest innovator in recent decades? Johan Cruyff. He changed the game as a player. He made Ajax and Barca into what they are. Then he went to evangelise in the US. When he was 34 years old, he returned and won two titles with Ajax again. Then he moved to Feyenoord and won the double. Ben Wijnstekers was already in his early 30s when he played with Johan and he told me: I learned more in that one season with Cruyff than in the 12 seasons before him.”
Jansen and Cruyff as team mates for Washington Dips in 1979
Cruyff became a legendary coach as well and he kept on teaching his players how to see the game, develop their vision and see the spaces. Football is a simple game, but playing simple football is complicated, was his motto. In one of Jansen’s recent discussion with JC, before the #14 died, was about how the pro clubs develop talent. Not the federations, not the amateur clubs. “The number of pro players in the different competitions developed at big clubs is stunning. There’s approx 40 players in the Dutch competition who started at Ajax. Probably around 30 from Feyenoord. Same with Man City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich. We need to empower the big clubs to keep on investing, instead of using the recreational bodies – like the national federations – to see if they can create talent wholesale. It won’t be possible.”
Jansen about Van Breukelen’s plan: “Hans wants to focus on youth football with mental concepts. No! Let’s focus on football. On skills. On developing your weaker leg. And once we get there, focus on other aspects. Van Breukelen was a goalie, he wasn’t a midfielder or forward. He had an amazing mentality. He also wrote two books, about winning. Psychology stuff. But paper has patience. However, you win matches on the pitch. Not on paper. It’s decided on the pitch.”
The KNVB is considering opening up a whole new department focused on winning mentality. “The KNVB thinks you can create top players by working on their mentality. It’s the world turned upside down! Talent needs to be developed. How do we teach them the details. How can coaches improve in that, is a factor as well. You cannot focus on 300,000 young amateur players, which is what Van Breukelen wants to do. The Federation is going to educate and train 41,000 youth coaches for recreational football. But for Oranje, you’ll only have approximately 50 players who will reach top level. If you want to play top with Oranje, you need to focus on the top talents. Instead, they’re paying lipservice to the broader community.”
Hail to the Chief in 1974
“They recently added the second and third division to the two pro leagues. Why? Will that improve the quality at the top? Of course not. It’s just shifting with boxes instead of improving the quality.”
The big sponsor of the KNVB – the ING Bank – is also involved. They will go past amateur clubs with a whole circus of buses to make young players physically stronger. Doing push ups, more long distance running… Jansen: “This won’t make better players… Sigh… This is a sponsor campaign. The ING Bank is focused on the masses. Good on them and I don’t want to stop them. I’d love to see these initiatives for recreational football and as far as I’m concerned they do get more coaches and more different games and practices. Fine. But we need the disctintion between top level and recreational level.”
This distinction is not made by the suits of the KNVB. According to Jansen, most people at Federation level are not equipped for top sports. Amateur football director Van der Zee for instance, recently said “Jansen didn’t have a lot of understanding of youth football” until he realised who he was talking about. Jansen couldn’t care less.
“I’ve said it years ago, the FIFA, the UEFA, the KNVB, they lack vision. They’re an old boys network with the key focus on keeping their job and their perks. These suits are there for themselves. And you wanna know the big irony? The KNVB wants to create a winning mentality, but their chairman – Michael van Praag – …he lost everything in the last two years. He wanted the Euros in The Netherlands? The bid failed. He wanted to become a head honcho at FIFA and UEFA, he didn’t get elected. Then he went on to clean up the KNVB? Well, the board of directors is gone, the management is gone, we are missing two assistant coaches for Oranje and our team coordinator is asked to leave! His main focus was to get 40 countries to the World Cup, instead of improving the quality of football. And that focus of his, was purely focused on getting votes to become a top man at FIFA.”
Two Dutch football warriors, Cruyff giving his opinion with gesture. Willem only needs a look
Jansen keeps on going: “The KNVB has the monopoly on coaching licenses. There is no other avenue for anyone to get a license for The Netherlands elsewhere. So if that is their core business, they should focus on improving those courses. Instead of thinking they can develop talent. We need top coaches at all levels. Now, in this new plan, they want to bring players from under 15 till under 19 to Zeist for more training sessions. So they take the players away from the club, but it has always been at club level that talent was developed. The Federation should facilitate. They need to provide strong coaching courses and strong competitions. That’s it. One thing I can see, is that there’s always players at amateur level who develop late. We have seen many examples. The current Sparta striker is one of them. He’s 29 years old and only played at amateur level. Last year he was the top scorer in the Jupiler League. That bridging role I can see for the KNVB.”
Feyenoord winning the UEFA Cup in 1974, with Wim Jansen as skipper, over two legs vs Tottenham Hotspur.