Defending is football too.

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.

The podcast about laws of the game: worry for football in Uganda.

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.

These principles show that; if a player/team has possession of the ball then they are attacking, if the player/team doesn’t have the ball then they are defending.

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.

A good defending performance can be as good as an attacking performance.

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.

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.

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.

The best two goals at the 2018 FIFA world cup came from two central defenders (Pavard and Nacho) playing as wide defenders.

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.


Principles of defending in football.

A principle is a known way of behavior.

It should be DELIBERATELY taught so that an individual knows and understands what, when, where, why and how to behave.

Defending in football is best understood and efficient when player(s) as an individual or group understand how to apply the principles of defending.

These are; Immediate chase, delay, control, depth, compactness then control and restraint.

Immediate chase: the moment a team loses possession, the nearest player to the ball in the defending team has to apply pressure on the player with the ball.

Applying pressure on the ball denies the attacker space and time, forces the attacker into mistakes and prevents the attacker from looking up to make a good decision.

The player can also make a recovery run to get behind the ball (between the ball and defending goal).

Delay: the pressuring defender forces the attacking team to slow down in order to allow the defending team to re-organize one of the skills required to perform good delaying is jockeying, poking the ball, and peddling backward.

Depth (cover): This’ the immediate organization of the defending players behind the ball (between the ball and goal they are defending) and the pressuring defender.

The defenders offering cover should be positioned within an appropriate distance from the pressing defender to enable them to react fastest in case the pressuring defender is beaten by the attacker.

The covering defender should be able to communicate verbally and issue instructions to the pressuring defender.

Compactness: as defending players recover towards their goal, they have to concentrate in the area where the ball is to limit the opponent’s ability to directly attack the goal.

Recovery runs should be as central to the defending goal as possible.

Compactness is meant to deny attackers penetration and to force them to take the longest route towards goal.

Control and restraint: defending players have to be in control of their actions to avoid easily being beaten.

While challenging for the ball, they should use controlled aggression as poorly timed tackles make it easy for attackers.

Defenders should stay on their feet unless if they are very sure that they can win the ball.

“It’s very important that all players are taught and can apply the principles of defense in the right way because at some point in football all players will be required to defend.”

Players that have been taught and understand the principles of defending will find it easy to learn the roles of defending in football.

Principles of defending are a necessary basic if players are to play at a very high level.

Players should be taught defensive football skills like tackling, peddling backward, jockeying, blocking, intercepting, defensive heading and poking the ball before they can be taught principles of defending because the principles cant be effectively applied without quality execution of defending skills.

The four moments of football.

Football has four moments that keep occurring throughout a match.

These are; In possession, losing possession, out of possession and gaining possession.

These moments are separate and can only happen one at a time for a given team.

The best players that make it to the top level, know and understand how to behave in all these four moments.

In possession is attacking, out of possession is defending while gaining possession and losing possession are known as transitioning.

In possession: The team in possession of the ball is the attacking team. Players in the attacking team are expected to behave by applying the principles of attack and roles in attack.

The efficiency of an attack is determined by how well individual players in a team are comfortable at executing attacking football skills.

Out of possession: The team out of possession is the defending team. Successfully defending an attack in football requires individuals in the team applying the principles of defending and the roles of defending.

This requires the individuals being able to execute all football defending skills comfortably.

Transitioning: Losing or gaining possession happens at the same time.

As one team gains possession, the other team is losing possession.

The faster the transition, the better the outcome.

If a team gaining possession transitions faster than the team losing possession, then attacking will have the desired effect.

If a team losing possession transitions faster than the attacking team, then defending will have the desired effect.

Players with excellent football speed transition better.

The higher the level of football, the higher the demand to have better football speed to perform with quality during transitions.

Top teams in modern football are capable of transitioning under five seconds if the ball is won or lost at the halfway line.

It’s important for football coaches to ensure that players are taught how to comfortably execute all football skills irrespective of playing position because modern football dictates that every player gets involved in all the moments of football.

Football: Roles in defense.

When a team is not in possession of the ball, it’s the defending team.

All players in the defending team should be able to help out with defensive duties.

The roles in defense are; pressuring defender (first defender), covering defender (second defender) and the balancing defender (third defender).

Its important that football players are taught the roles of defending after understanding principles of defending.

Pressuring defender (first defender); this’ the player closest to the ball, the role of the first defender is to apply pressure on the ball.

Pressing the ball helps to delay the attackers by denying penetration, forces them into mistakes and if possible then wins the ball to regain possession.

The pressuring defender’s other roles include selecting the proper angle and speed of challenging for the ball.

Covering defender (second defender); this’ the player closest to the pressuring defender.

The second defender’s role is to offer cover to the pressuring defender.

The covering defender should always be positioned between the pressuring defender and the goal they are defending.

The distance has to be appropriate enough to enable the covering defender to react fastest to the ball in case the pressuring defender is beaten.

The covering defender should be able to communicate verbally with the pressing defender.

“A good defender is verbally loud.”

Balancing defender (third defender); The role of the third defender is to balance the defense by maintaining compactness or tracking attackers running off the ball.

The balancing defender should be able to maintain sight of the ball, have a clear vision of the whole pitch and to communicate verbally with the covering defender.

The roles performed by defending players are within the principles of defending. The pressuring defender performs immediate chase or delays the attacker. The covering defender offers depth while the balancing defender creates compactness.

It’s very important for all players to be capable of executing football defensive skills because at one point they will find themselves defending as a first, second or third defender.