'South-east Asia can produce next David Silva'
Valencia Soccer Schools technical director says local young footballers must train more often
The Valencia conveyor belt of talent has produced some of Spain's finest footballers in recent years, including the likes of David Silva, Jordi Alba and Paco Alcacer.
And Gonzalo Sanz, the technical director of Valencia Soccer Schools in South-east Asia, is confident players from this region have what it takes to compete with players of that calibre one day.
The 29-year-old, who has worked with Los Che academy teams from the Under-11 to Under-16 level, has been in Singapore for just over two months, but he has seen enough raw potential in local youngsters to feel optimistic about the future of South-east Asian football.
"Talented players can be found all over the world," Sanz told The New Paper after a Valencia Soccer School training session at the Bedok Stadium recently.
"The difference is cultural, when they train in different ways.
"Here in Singapore, for example, we can see the players are skilled, they have a lot of talent, they're eager and committed.
"But, maybe because they only train once or twice a week, they lack a lot of teamwork concepts, especially defensively.
"And sometimes physically, they are not as fit as players who train three or four times a week, like in Spain when they reach Under-14 teams."
Sanz, who leads the Valencia Soccer School training sessions twice weekly, said the academy's goal is to introduce the Spanish club's methodology of training to young players in Singapore.
He explained: "When players are young, you must focus on their technical abilities.
"What we have been doing in Valencia in the last few years is explain or introduce easy tactical concepts from a very young age.
"So when they start to train, they are already making decisions, and understand the different situations.
"They are deciding, thinking, understanding why they are shooting or making a wall pass... everything.
"Here in Singapore, this is the same methodology we are trying to train with, for the Under-7 and Under-8 boys.
"So, the purpose is, age by age, step by step, introduce more complicated concepts."
At the Epson Singapore Cup, which is held this weekend and the next, Sanz will oversee the action as well as offer pointers to aspiring local footballers.
At the same time, he will keep a lookout for talent to rope into the Valencia Soccer School.
The winning Under-15 team will be invited to train with the academy.
The Epson Singapore Cup is the latest corporate social responsibility initiative by the technology giant to extend its outreach efforts in local communities.
It also ties in with Epson's emphasis on youth development in this region.
Other recent efforts include a one-year sponsorship agreement with local football club Geylang International since February, and an overseas training stint for Singapore national youth players at J.League side Matsumoto Yamaga in June.
Said Sanz: "We like the Epson Singapore Cup because, here in Singapore, the system only allows players to train and compete less times than usual.
"It's very important for the players to compete regularly, not necessarily to win games, but to apply what they are learning.
"We decided to have this tie-up with the Epson Singapore Cup because we think this experience is good for players' growth."
"When players are young, you must focus on their technical abilities. What we have been doing in Valencia in the last few years is explain or introduce easy tactical concepts from a very young age."
— Technical director of Valencia Soccer Schools in South-east Asia, Gonzalo Sanz