How Oman's new Juventus Academy wants to find the Sultanate's next football superstar
October 3, 2017 | 7:56 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan
What we are doing with Juventus in Oman is to see if some of the young players here are good enough.

With Oman’s brand-new Juventus Academy looking to train new players in the Sultanate, Senior Coach Gerald Lami, who will be spearheading the Bianconeri’s aspirations in the nation, says this will form the foundation for talented youth players in the future. “What I am doing with Juventus in Oman is to see if some of the young players here are good enough, because having worked in football, I could then give someone a ring and tell them about these players,” he said.

“It’s all about having the proper foundations, because unless you build your foundations, you can’t build your house.”

“Going into clubs like Juventus, who are definitely trying to expand their net, you have to be a very special player. This is about building the brand and giving back to communities,” he added.

“Being able to be coached by people who are not necessarily from the country means you get to learn new things and maybe play football in a different way, so that also factors in to what the idea was behind this Juventus Academy,” he said. While physical prowess is certainly important, Lami has always chosen to eschew that for the less tangible, but more impactful qualities that are required to win a game.

“Even when I was younger, because I did not have the required attributes like physical strength and power, I would always look at players’ technical attributes to see how they would position themselves,” he recalled.

“Growing up, I used to wonder how someone like Zinedine Zidane used to position himself because he was my favourite player. I always used to watch his positioning and the way he used to control the ball,” he added.

“If you look at someone like Ronaldinho, you are going to get excited when you look at his technical ability, his skill on the ball, and his showmanship but as a coach, I wouldn’t even worry about where the ball is, because it’s more important to watch the position of a player and look at how the teams are set up,” he said.

Born in Albania but brought up in London, Lami began his life as a promising player, even joining Northampton Town’s Centre of Excellence. Unfortunately, though, he didn’t quite make the cut as a pro footballer, but his experiences have taught him much about the game. “I was always intrigued by the tactical side of the game,” he explained. “I wish that someone would have explained to me that football, or any sport in general, requires mental strength because you have to be mentally strong to handle the criticism and the pressure that comes with professional sports.”

“The importance of mental strength is what I would’ve told myself. Of course, you do have to have some sort of ability and capabilities on the pitch, but being able to handle the pressure and take it on the chin, because there might be someone who says you are not good enough, but somebody else might be convinced by you and realise that you are working on becoming a better player,” said Lami.

He was also able to provide a quick insight into how the Premier League – arguably the world’s most popular football league – needed to promote youth players on a more regular basis. “I think the downfall of the England national team is that players don’t really excel to the highest level,” Lami revealed. “The youth system is a good one in England, but there is that barrier they face when they try to find a place in the team, because there is a lot of money coming in from abroad, where people would rather want to spend £30 million, rather than bring a young player into the first team.

“The pressures of the Premier League means there is no patience anymore,” he admitted. “You look at countries like Germany, Holland, and France, and they’ve gotten a new generation of amazing footballers right now. With the Premier League, it all comes down to just the money. The English system is a good one, it’s just that there needs to be some balance.”

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