‘O jogo bonito’, or the Beautiful Game, is a phrase made popular by Brazilian professional footballer Pelé, to describe Football or Soccer, a team game, which is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport.
In New Zealand, it is enjoying a refreshing resurgence, with increased international success at youth level tournaments, local players like Sarpreet Singh reaching dizzying heights at Bayern Munich, and The Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand’s professional football team are enjoying fantastic success this season, currently fourth on the table in the Australian A-League.
Locally, area clubs such as Pukekohe, Tuakau, Drury and Waiuku are seeing year on year increases in enrolments in the younger space and with the establishment of Franklin United, and its burgeoning Academy, there is a great deal of confidence about the future of all things football in Franklin as we head into the 2020 season.
Franklin United was set up in 2016 with a vision to create a sustainable pathway to the top level for all football players, coaches and referees in the Franklin Community. Working with member clubs, Pukekohe AFC, Drury UFC and Tuakau Soccer Club the goal is to build extensive partnerships between all Franklin community football clubs, utilising and adding to existing resources, whilst at the same time supporting elite playing in the area achieve the highest level of success, they can without moving out of the area.
The development of a Youth Academy is seen as vital to the success of the Franklin United Vision and Director of Coaching, Ben Fletcher is excited about what this season holds.
“Having completed most of my football in the UK, I have been exposed to a very strong footballing culture, it is not the same in New Zealand, but we are seeing it develop and locally, football has a very strong footprint. What the academy does is further develop that culture and gives anyone the opportunities to be the very best they can be in the footballing space” enthuse Ben.
The academy uses a player centred approach with guided discovery, this means that the player makes decisions and learns in a supportive environment from both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Available from ages 10-17 and run in a number of training facilities and across numerous nights, the new season kicks off in February and Ben encourages anyone in the greater Franklin area to come and take a look at what the academy offers by coming along to one of the Academy Trial nights in early February.
“Every player has potential, and by allowing them to learn and constantly try new things, practice proven techniques and strategies, every player from every level will achieve their desired outcome. By participating in the Youth Academy, anyone keen on football and being involved in it as a lifelong occupation, whether it means in coaching, playing at the top level or becoming the worlds best goalie, will have access, we hope to a very high standard and best practice that will maximise their talent.”
While only in its fourth year, the benefits of Franklin United and the Youth Academy are already being seen. Numbers have accelerated across all the age levels. Players have been exposed to training opportunities at Ole Academy in Wellington, were represented in a Southern Auckland representative type team at last years Weir Rose bowl, and more recently members of the Academy were selected to play in a number of Maori football teams in a transTasman battle against Australia.
Whilst it may seem a little odd to be thinking about football in February, senior men’s training is all ready underway and this year fall under the expert tutelage of Head Coach Mark Holt who has been busy over Summer establishing a strong team to represent Franklin United at the top level this season with a number of impressive signings of both new and returning players.
“My style of player-centred coaching fits in perfectly with the Academy model as even at this level it is important to have an environment where players learn from all their decisions whether they turn into a good outcome or not. I try to work with players so they have multiple options to solving problems. The difference between an Academy and First Team and ultimately onto National and International representation is that results are expected and coaches at Senior level keep or lose their jobs based on those results. This results in a different type of pressure and we need to also provide the coping skills required to handle that.
Both Ben and Mark have the full backing of a team and board who believe that the path that Franklin United is taking is one that will ultimately benefit the local players, coaches and referees of the future. But they acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“The top clubs in Europe, Australia, even New Zealand didn’t get to have the best teams every year overnight. It takes commitment from individuals, families, teams, clubs, and communities all working together to create that pathway. This year I see the link between the top team and the footballing community as vital and this is why we have recognised functions as part of the players contracts that sees the introduction of them interacting with our youth academy teams and other community events. We want our Franklin First team to be the first of many who become household names not only locally but through the National League, USA college opportunities and beyond.”
So, if you have a footballing superstar, goal keeper extraordinaire, or just someone who likes to rule the game from the side-line, come and take a look at what Franklin United can offer.