Life at the Shakhtar Academy never stops. Recently, trainings for all the mentors of our talents were held by Marco von Logem and Arend Reger representing the Netherlands Football Federation with our young players having the opportunity to practice their skills with their counterparts from Zenit (St. Petersburg) and Dynamo (Kyiv). The Director of the Shakhtar Academy Patrick van Leeuwen summed up all these events in the interview granted to the Club’s press office.
– The Academy teams proved to be decent in duels against Zenit. How do you assess these games?
– It is important that we managed to organize such an event. This is a good opportunity for our players to test their abilities on the international level. Not all of the academies in our country can afford that. We need some competition every week. Unfortunately, not every opponent in Ukraine can provide a proper level of competitiveness. Therefore, we try to find additional opportunities to prepare our players. And we can afford it, thanks primarily to our excellent infrastructure and, of course, our ties with other clubs. Matches against Zenit became only the beginning. I think we succeeded in these meetings. On the pitch, we saw good, equal teams which work in one direction especially with the desire to play football, with an emphasis on work and players’ development , rather than on a specific result. It was absolutely clear. According to the results of matches played by our U-15 and U-16 teams we can say that we were better. But it is youth football, it is impossible to predict even what will happen in six months with these teams. The task of our coaches is to maintain the quality of players at the same level. We will certainly continue to organize these games. Our plan is to invite Moscow outfits. We will try to do it as soon as possible.
– What do such convincing scorelines in the meetings with Zenit mean?
– The quality of our teams. There were some great goals and having analyzed these encounters we can conclude that our Academy is stronger at the moment.
– What can you say about the games against Dynamo?
– Here, first and foremost, we need to talk about the rivalry between two giants of Ukrainian football. In these matches we focused on the game of football, while the Dynamo’s priority was not to lose. During the match you could witness the vast majority of the Dynamo players on their half of the field. Obviously, this was the instructions of their coaching staff. As a result – three draws in four matches and our only win. We have not converted all the clear cut chances. But, on the other hand, Dynamo players did not seize on a few good opportunities either. In general, we can say that these Academies are equal, but, I think, in terms of the quality of football we upstaged the opponents. Matches with the Kyiv club were certainly useful and revealing. Dynamo concentrated on different elements of the game than we did. And for our players and their mentors it was very interesting to solve certain problems which they perhaps had not previously encountered. Such games allow our players to demonstrate all that they are capable of, they teach them to make independent decisions on the pitch.
– Could you single out any team from the Academy on the basis of the results?
– I liked all our teams. All of our players and coaches have the same opinion on football. We prefer technical, attacking style of play.
– Do you agree that the Academy is a place where not only the players develop but also their mentors do?
– Certainly. Not only the coaches teach the players but the coaches are also taught from the players how to respond to some situations, what decisions to take. This makes our mentors think on and off the field with being able to find contact with the boys. Therefore, our coaches become experts in any particular age, they are clearly aware of the problems which may arise from the players in this year’s development.
– How much do you think the lessons from Netherlands Football Federation experts have been useful for the Academy?
– It is always an important event when any visitor comes to our Academy as there are different levels of coaches. There are specialists who work in our branches with different age-groups. All guests who visit us, bring with them useful information for any of our coaches. I think that at this point, all our mentors have enough information and developed well. But each invited expert brings something of his own, even if it is a little nuance. He presents specific information, conducts special training. It is important for our coaches to understand how they can implement in their work what they have seen at practical or theoretical trainings. I try to invite to the Academy the people who have something to share.
– You said that much depends on how coaches perceive the information received. Have you noticed that someone from coaching staff changed his approach to training during your spell at the Academy?
– It can be observed continuously. In addition to those guests whom we invite, we also attend foreign Academies. It constantly brings some information for coaches. When our coaches return from other academies and try to apply some kind of elements, which they saw there, the result can be seen immediately. Our guests’ trainings are more informative, so this process can not be traced so quickly. I do not want us to simply copy what we see somewhere. It is important that we could add some exercises to our training sessions aiming to make them more efficient and productive. We have a training plan, but at the same time, we can always bring something new, change it adding some elements. If we compare our Academy with other leading institutions of its kind, I can say that we have significantly improved, having achieved a lot lately.
– What impressions have our guests from Holland, Marco von Logema and Arend Reger got following their visiting our Academy?
– The program, which they made up enables to evaluate the work of our coaches. In the morning there were theoretical studies with information referring to the process of licensing in the Netherlands. For practical activities they chose some interesting moments. After lunch, the guests had the task to see how our coaches embraced the new information, what conclusions they made with the way they held training sessions. Von Logemu and Reger liked what they saw on the pitch, they appreciated the interest and enthusiasm with which our mentors perceived the information on the theoretical lessons. Mark and Arend were delighted with the infrastructure and the training facilities where our boys master their skills. We have indeed created excellent conditions for the players’ development. In addition, they noted that this experience was for them really special compared to what they had seen in other teams.