In this information age, a football player that wants to improve gets on YouTube and watches clips showing what she/he can practice. It’s usually fancy tricks with the ball.
Sometimes, the player will capture a video of themselves practicing to show off what they can do with the ball but that’s not competitive football, perhaps freestyle football.
Football has two main principles; defending and attacking.
That statement shows that if you don’t have the ball then you defend to avoid conceding a goal.
It also shows that if you defend well then you can get the ball and attack.
People will tell you how they played or watched a football match but apparently, the team that had the most possession is the one that played but defending is football too. The team without or less possession is playing too.
The recently concluded 2018-19 English Premier League (EPL) season showed that defenders or defending can be recognized.
Virgil Van Dijk was named Player’s Player of the season after fellow players voted him.
He’s not the first defender to win that award but it’s good to see a shift in mindset to show that defending is football too.
Manchester City won the league title with a consistently 9/10 performance from Benardo Silva.
The attacking midfielder from Portugal is known for dribbling but had one of the most successful tackles and ball recoveries throughout the season.
He also recorded the longest distance covered, a staggering 13.9 km in a match against Liverpool.
A clear indication that his defensive abilities are very good something that helped him compete for a position ahead of more established players in the Man City squad.
BACK TO UGANDA
It’s good to see that in the recently concluded 2018-19 Uganda Premier League (UPL), goalkeepers and defenders were able to take home the man of the match award even better, Mike Mutebi the head coach of UPL champions KCCA FC says that Timothy Awany was the club’s best player during the 2018-19 season.
Football coaches in Uganda have a habit of separating football. They restrict defensive players to practice only defensive work, attacking players to practice only attacking work. This habit has reached, underage football, players as young as 10 years old have already been classified as either defenders or attackers.
Coaches have made players believe that as a defender you shouldn’t have any business using the ball, attacking players have been made to believe they have no business working to defend.
With this upbringing, Uganda is now filled with the majority of players not having the ability to function on the field when the demand is to defend and attack. Most of the players can only do one football function.
Perhaps it also explains why most goalkeepers are still struggling with being comfortable with the ball at their feet.
Worryingly though it explains why in Ugandan football when a team is defending, the pitch will be usually split into one part of the team defending while the other part of the team waits for the ball (seems like we are stuck in the past).
Players that are very good at attacking the aerial ball with the head will rarely fall back to defend set-pieces.
Defenders that are good at defending aerial balls with the head will rarely be a threat when attacking set-pieces.
MODERN FOOTBALL TRENDS
The current trend in football is that every player on the pitch should be useful when their team is either attacking or defending.
Wide defenders have many assists after arriving in the attacking third of the pitch while many wide attackers will be in the defensive third when out of possession.
Lionel Messi is a wonderful tackler, Christiano Ronaldo has many defensive headed clearances from set-pieces and of course, Vincent Kompany came up with a wonderful goal, shooting from distance to keep Man City in control of the EPL title hunt.
This ability in those players shows they were taught all football skills at a young age something that needs to be done by football coaches in Uganda or else the margin to professional football will keep getting bigger.
For all young players that intend to impress as footballers, defending is football too.
Learning how to do both defending and attacking is one of the things football scouts observe in a player.
Disclaimer: The writer has nothing against freestyle football.