Date: 28th November 2007 at 9:41am
Written by:

This press release from the people who are running Simon Cliffords Socatots and Brazilian Soccer Schools raises some interesting points………what is

The Future of English Football

On a patch of waste land in Sao Paulo we find Roberto. He is twelve years old. His friends are aged between 4 and 14. They kick up thick clouds of dust as they chase and fight for control over a battered and bruised ball. They play all day. They sometimes play all night.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, here in Walsall the beautiful game has never looked so ugly. England’s precious team of pampered millionaires were left shell-shocked this week as they were dumped out of next years European Championships following a dismal performance against the might of … Croatia? Can it be that only now, after 41 years of systematic failure, the footballing authorities and general public are beginning to realise the true state of the national game. Scratch beneath the gloss of Brand Beckham and the polished shine of the Premier League and the truth is revealed. Our national game is rotten to the core.

Whether the decay has arisen from the winning obsessed ‘grassroots’ sector, with its venomous parents and coaches, or the hierarchy of the FA’s top brass, a boy’s own club of self-interest and back-slapping, is debateable. However, it is as clear that both have certainly played their part. As has 21st Century British society, with its fast-food, short-cut, lock-up your children mentality.

While young Roberto and his friends are out playing, learning, and being creative by passing, controlling and manipulating the ball thousands of times every day, our youngsters are at home, fighting aliens, conquering worlds and becoming world champions – on their Playstations! How can the simple pleasures of learning to juggle a ball, compete with playing a round of championship golf around a virtual Augusta with a high definition Tiger Woods? A generation of potential Bobby Moore`s are achieving greatness without having to leave their bedrooms!

The academy system in the UK has taken a public flogging recently, and rightly so. While Roberto and his south American peers spends 20-plus hours a week learning their craft, the top academy players from the Walsall region are training for as little as 3 and a half hour a week. To make matters worse for our young players, the vast majority of this time is spent without even having the ball at their feet. I wonder how a team of 11 Academy players would fair against a team of 11 Roberto’s. I suspect it would resemble the recent England Internationals (against Russia, Spain, Israel and Croatia), with the three lions being out-thought, out-passed and out-played. You see, Roberto possesses the `Holy Grail of football development`, the ‘T’ word – technique. He has it in abundance. He has it in abundance because of the thousand hours or more he spends every year, with the ball glued to his feet. The idea that the England team have the skills which are a prerequisite of winning a major tournament is risible. They don’t even possess the intelligence to play to their strengths, like the current European Champions Greece did in 2004.

However, it`s not all doom and gloom. There are a few players in the England set-up who, despite the academy system, have developed high levels of ball control and technique. Putting the undoubted, but waning talents of Beckham aside, Rooney, like our young friend Roberto, spent his formative years involved in daily competitive games that would often last beyond dusk on the streets of Croxteth in Liverpool. Owen, with the help of his father, famously worked tirelessly away from Liverpool`s academy on his finishing. Then there are the young talents of the athletic Micah Richards, who graduated from the global Brazilian Soccer School network, and the speedy Theo Walcott, the only Englishman who looks as if he has the tools necessary to fit into Arsene Wengers perfect philosophy of football. Interestingly, Owen, Rooney, Richards and Walcott hold the record for being the four youngest England International debutants of the modern era, and it appears they have one more thing in common.

You see, each of them have incredibly, been coached by the former head of Sports Science at Southampton FC, Simon Clifford and have therefore experienced the unique training methods used by his international Brazilian Soccer Schools and the South American game of ‘Futebol de Salão` that Clifford so passionately promotes. Clifford was the coach who wrote and stared with Owen in his BBC ‘Soccer Skills’ series and he has spent time at Southampton and Everton working closely with both Walcott and Rooney. But Clifford’s methodology has perhaps had the most effect on Micah Richards, who graduated from the Leeds Brazilian Soccer School before joining Manchester City’s academy.

Clifford started out as a PE teacher who, like hundreds of teachers across the UK, gave his own time to coach local children after school. However it was when the Brazilian international, Juninho, signed for his beloved Middlesbrough FC, that Simon Clifford’s true destiny was realised and by some quirk of fate he bought a season ticket a few seats away from Juninho’s father. One day, a chance conversation over a half time coffee lead to a blossoming friendship with the World Cup winning forward. Clifford convinced Juninho to come to his after school training classes to meet the kids and see the techniques he was using from Holland; he remembers: ‘He said to me, ‘this is a load of rubbish. It is like learning to swim on dry land’.’ Juninho introduced Clifford to ‘Futebol de Salão’, a smaller, heavier ball that is used in Brazil, along with a radically different approach to teaching football. All the Brazilian greats, from Pelé to Ronaldinho were brought up playing the game of ‘Futebol de Salão` and using ball-manipulation at the core of their technical development. With Clifford’s drive and enthusiasm and Juninho’s knowledge and experience of South American coaching techniques, the first Brazilian Soccer School was born.

Now, a few years on, Clifford has 1 million kids in 61 countries attending and his graduates, like Micah Richards, are beginning to work their way into top flight clubs and the international stage. Clifford’s ideas are starting to influence people in the game across all levels. It is amazing to think of the consequences of that one fateful encounter with Juninho’s father. As Clifford puts it; ‘English football has benefited so much from what we’ve done already. If it wasn’t for Juninho coming to Middlesbrough then none of this would have come to pass. People will be amazed by what we achieve! In the near future I would expect the entire England team to have come through our Brazilian Soccer Schools. This may sound unrealistic to some – but look how far we have come in just a few short years. I believe that we have not even really started yet in terms of what we will accomplish. Our aim is to have 10 players educated at our Brazilian Soccer Schools in the FIFA top 50 World Players by the year 2016.’

Not content with solely using traditional Brazilian coaching methods, like the traditional game of ‘Futebol de Salão’, Brazilian soccer schools are also improving young players physical attributes, using training ideas from other sports including Cuban boxing and Kenyan long distance running. Micah Richards acknowledges that; ‘My Dad, Lincoln, who helps runs the Brazilian Soccer School, used to help me with the Brazilian training which was really good for teaching me skills. It played a big part in my development.’

The pursuit of excellence in every area of youth coaching and football development is what drives Walsall Brazilian Soccer Schools Head Coach Ian Lowndes. Ian, commented; ‘No stone is left unturned in our quest for perfection. For example, as is obvious with Micah Richards, developing the ability to play a variety of roles and positions within the modern game is at the forefront of our ideology. We really are changing the way that football will be both coached and played in the future, these are exciting times for all involved in our work.’

Clifford has also stretched the boundaries of football coaching in another way by developing SOCATOTS® – the worlds first soccer specific pre-school programme. Aimed at giving children their first start with a ball, children become two footed, learn to use all six parts of the feet and use football as a developmental tool and has to be seen to be believed. SOCATOTS® has also fascinated the academic community too with Leeds Met Carnegie University becoming an academic partner in order to study the programme and ascertain why anecdotally the programme leads to children going to school ahead of their peer group for not only football and physical activity but also literacy, numeracy, colour and shape recognition.

Football is undoubtedly England`s finest export, but for the past 40 years we’ve stood back and watched as the tide have slowly turned against us. As a result, we are now light-years behind the rest of the world, in terms of youth development. Our game needs less pantomime horses at the FA and more radicals, like Simon Clifford, ready to shake up the system. The time for internal reviews and inquests at Soho Square has passed. It’s time to put up or shut up. Gone is the Turnip, the Swede, El Tel and now the latest villain, the ‘Wally with the Brolly’. Let’s just hope that whichever caricature may take over the reigns in the future, he has at his disposal an army of England’s very own Roberto`s, schooled the Brazilian Soccer Schools way.


Futebol de Salão is a exciting and fast moving 5-a-side game of South American origin, played on a hard basketball court-sized pitch using a small (size 2), weighted and specially manufactured ball. The game is cited by Brazilian legends such as Pele, Rivelino, Zico, Careca, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho amongst others, as being the game that made them the great players they are.

The brain-child of sports scientist and former Catholic Primary School teacher Simon Clifford and Brazilian international Juninho. The original BSS was established by the pair in Leeds in 1998 and was designed as a way of improving the technical ability of local players from deprived areas of the city. There are now hundreds of Schools around the world, in destinations as varied as San Diego, Singapore, Sydney and Staffordshire.


Developed by Simon Clifford in 2000 SOCATOTS® is a soccer specific pre-school programme using football as the medium for play and learning, there are 50,000 children attending regularly in the UK alone and it has spread to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Holland. It is fully parental participative, classes are much smaller than other pre-school programmes and both these factors lead to enhanced development of the child.
SOCATOTS® is about a great deal more than just developing a child’s affinity and control with the ball, it is about giving them a well-rounded start in their physical, social and educational development and developing the ‘whole child’.
More information can be found on the website below or by visiting a SOCATOTS® class in your area


Your Comment