Andreas Spier and the plan for football development in Kenya

BY DAVID ONJILI

Andreas Spier was born in Romania in 1962 but moved to Germany where he has lived most of his life. It is in Germany that he attained his coaching badges, starting from the lowest qualification and ascending to the highest FIFA coaching badge, the UEFA Pro License.

Getting the UEFA Pro License from the Sporthochschule Koeln is no mean feat. Each year, thousands of applicants send in their names for consideration and only 25 get admission. Mr Spier got his between the years 2005 and 2006.

He started coaching in the 1990s, and between 2000 and 2005 while working up and acquiring his coaching badges, he worked with the German Football Association, the DFB, as an instructor of talent development. He was also the Hessen, Wiesbaden DFB Regional coach and scout for youth development, and a one-time Romania national football team U20 head coach.

In 2016, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President, Mr Nick Mwendwa, just new in office at the helm of Kenyan football, brought him in as a technical director. This was to help formulate and lay down infrastructure, which would be the blueprint on which our football would be developed.

Mwendwa’s choice made sense then, Germany had won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Bayern Munich had won the 2013 European Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in the same year. Their women’s national team were the 2016 Olympics champions, and had finished 4th in the 2015 World Cup. It was a match made in heaven, and sponsored by betting firm, Sportpesa who at the time were heavily involved in local football.

The German model of talent identification and nurturing had bore fruits and they were the envy of many. The country had produced technically and tactically sound players like Mario Goetze, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng just to mention but a few.

It is then that Mr Spier was handed a two-year renewable contract by the federation. He was fresh from eight years of working in Rwanda where he had been involved with the Rwandan Football Federation, and had also won the domestic league with APR Rwanda in 2013-2014 season. One notable observation in the APR Rwanda team he had led to the championship was that it included a total of 17 players promoted from the club’s U19 academy where Spier had incidentally been in charge of before assuming the role of APR Rwanda head coach.

In an interview with Mr Spier who is currently in Germany, he spoke candidly to the Kenyan Regista about his mandate and achievements in Kenya over the two years that he worked as the technical director.

Admitting that he inherited and started from zero a project that had hitherto never been undertaken by previous federation bosses. The office was new and he had to first establish a miniature office that encompassed an educational office, women’s football, Elite football and the youth.

There was need for trained instructors whom Spier would rely on to create the multiplier effect countrywide for the project and help pass down the project started by the federation with him at the helm as TD. These instructors were a few select coaches and former players that had sat examinations and he had deemed them fit to be his agents.

To implement the vision also required that the country has the needed infrastructure in terms of pitches, qualified coaches to educate the juniors and scouts to identify top talents countrywide.
In the end, Michael Amenga became his deputy, currently holds the TD position. Doreen Nabwire was in-charge of the women’s game and David Ouma was the educational officer.

One of the very first observations Mr Spier had made in the country was a lack of methodology by the local coaches when training. He points out to seeing some thirty players lining up as they await their turns to participate in shooting drills, or a warm up lasting between thirty and forty minutes. All these showed him the general lack of principles of training which in his own words require high intensity married with many ball contacts. In short, Mr Spier declares that a good footballer needs a good coach.

He also noted that since both FIFA and CAF finance all football projects globally, there is a demand from them that their projects are implemented in a competent manner and handled by qualified personnel. Some of the projects include women’s football, coaching education, the under 13, 17 and 20 age groups, and soccer academies.

He hails the federation and its partnership with Sportpesa as one major boost to his project. It required finances to conduct the two-week courses. The traveling meant accommodation, food and allowances. Local federations at the grassroot level would send their best identified coaches and the instructors from Mr Spier’s fold spent the time teaching them.

His team went to all the 47 counties in the country spreading the FKF work and training coaches. By the time he was leaving, 2500 coaches had earned the Diploma in basic coaching and several others who did well had been recommended to go up the training ranks and acquire their coaching badges.

Current Harambee Stars head coach, Jacob Mulee and his assistant Twahir Muhidin alongside Patrick Naggi are some of the instructors that the federation had within their ranks. These instructors received materials from the GIZ German International Development. There was also exchange programs that involved personnel coming from Germany to conduct educational soccer clinics.

What knowledge was Spier and his team transferring?
Asked what the German model of football was, Mr. Spier was quick to reiterate that football is a global sport and that there was varied influence from coaches of different nationalities, singling out coaches like Jose Mourinho (Portuguese), Joseph Pep Guardiola (Spanish), Antonio Conte (Italian), and how they had individually influenced football and its tactics globally.

Rather, what modern football is all about in his opinion was the development of players and teams that are excellent in possession. Teams that can comfortably build-up from the back, players who can press and counter press, and having players with excellent finishing skills. That is what the curriculum encompassed and strived to achieve in the end, an emphasis on good methodology in training and consistency.

The implementation targeted young players, the ‘golden age’ in his own words. This falls in the ages between ten and thirteen, a bracket he believes is where the fundamentals of football must be instilled. If not, you end up having players with very poor football fundamentals – ball control, passing, crossing, heading and shooting.
Football being a global sport, Kenya has to embrace global best practices from successful soccer nations. One of which is for the federation to create a football school. Italy has the Coverciano, France has Claire Fontaine and the United Kingdom have St Andrews.

The federation must bring on-board professionals to handle soccer matters. From the physical, technical, tactical, mental and methodological aspects, all these need highly trained specialists. This will cost money, and long-term planning. To attract such, their salaries must be competitive and the candidates treated like professionals so that they can be attracted to work in the football school.

Spier observes, and rightly so if you ask me, that many local clubs in Kenya only focus on their senior teams. Despite the club-licensing requirement that Kenya Premier League clubs have youth sides, few are existent. Even those present, coaches do voluntary work -no pay, no kits to the players and this discourages many coaches who also have families that depend on them.

There is also the issue of consistency whenever a federation or government takes over to implement a project. Do not start something then abort it in the next two years or so. Kenya, like many other governments must develop the patience with programs and set them out with long-term visions.

Asked about his overall time in Kenya, Spier has a soft spot for the under13 team that he assembled in 2016/17 and housed at Juja Preparatory. Noting that their participation in tournaments in Southampton, Barcelona (Spain) and Mauritius as excellent opportunities for the boys and coaches. He looks forward to the 2021 CECAFA Championships in Rwanda as a number of these boys will have graduated to the U17 ranks.

There are no major differences in football in Kenya and the region, Spier says. It is just the lack of implementation of ideas, little or no investment in youth football and impatience that hinders our growth. There is abundant talent in the country, but all football stakeholders and government must pull together for the general good of the game. The thinking should be long-term and with a focus on the youth age categories that will act as a conveyor belt for the senior team.

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