New Zealand Football: INVESTIGATED

There are always going to be many different perspectives when it comes to talking about the best or most worthy individuals in whatever sporting code.

It begins with bias, then the hard knuckle approach followed by a softening of standards. Often, the selection process is almost identical across the globe. Things aren’t hard to predict when human nature plays such a significant role in the supposedly objective process. We are human after all.

This is where New Zealand Football comes in.

In a recent interview, New Zealand U17 Coach Danny Hay claimed that ‘New Zealand needs to make their footballing talent identification process more streamlined and thorough.’ He was stating this in regards to selection methods for the U17 squad alone.

Auckland Youth Coach Callum McKenzie however, understands the controversy at hand lies much deeper. He has stated that the debate over ‘club vs school’ is a cause of the overarching talent misidentification issue, with some coaches letting players take part in one, but not the other. Consequently, while this continues, McKenzie believes Hay’s comments to be redundant.

Interestingly, if players want to be selected for higher honours such as full national team selection, they must be involved with the NZF Federation Talent Centre, and for them to be selected for that – they must be playing for a club. This is not currently the case for U17 squads.

The atmosphere in Secondary Schools Football has become one of high competition and, at its essence, this is perfect for the game in New Zealand. But such an utmost thirst to win at all costs comes with its own issues. The playing style might go out the window, the coaches might be parents or teachers who, in McKenzie’s words, ‘don’t always know what they are doing.’ Such losses are in contrast to a club situation where, generally, there are better coaches and resources to put into players – therefore getting more out of them.

And yet it is certainly understandable that coaches, from either club or school, do not want to overload their players. No manager wants someone in their starting team absolutely knackered from a game played for another team on the same day. Priorities they would say.

But the system needs to get better.

Fact is: if clubs, schools, and federations are always in a battle to get the best players they can for their respective teams – how can New Zealand Football ever develop? And how can teams such as the All Whites or Football Ferns expect to improve? Currently, it’s a stagnant cycle.