Daniel Berdejo-del-Fresno Interview
England Futsal Senior Strength and Contioning Coach and Head of Coaching & Sport Science at the International Futsal Academy, recently appointed Loughborough Futsal Head Coach speaks about club and country for this season.
This season you have taken over as Head Coach of Loughborough Futsal Club, what attracted you to the role and what are your feelings going into the newly re-structured FA National Futsal Super League?
Soon after accepting the role of Head of Coaching & Sports Science for the IFA and Head Coach for L’boro United in Div 2 last season I knew that next step would be to take over Loughborough Futsal Club. I had a conversation with Michael Skubala halfway through last season when we agreed that he will step down to look after his family and oversee the programme and he offered me to take the team during the season 2015-2016. We also planned the new infrastructure for what I am sure it will be an amazing futsal season in Loughborough. In fact, it has been a progressive transition since I even took some games last season with Loughborough Futsal once my season with Loughborough United was over.
This 2015-2016 season is going to be difficult for Loughborough. We have created an amazing programme in the city, we have youth development centres, and we will try to do our best in the new Super League. But we have to be realistic; we have lost very important players in the squad, players that had great experience in futsal competing in Division 1 and even internationally. That is going to be a handicap. The 85-90% of the squad this season will be the same as the one I had last season in Divison 2. It is a squad very young, very energetic, with a lot of potential, in fact, they won the title in Division 2, but with a huge lack of experience. None of them has experience playing in Division 1 or Super League and they only have one year under their belt playing National League. However I am sure that my lads will compete well. Club’s target is to keep the Super League status, but my players and I want to be more ambitious and we want to finish in the Top 4.
What impact do you think the re-structure will have on the standard of competition throughout the country?
I do not really think that in the short term we will see any big difference. I think we have to wait a minimum of a couple of seasons. Teams now have to have a structure, a performance plan, a proper facility, a long term development plan so hopefully in the future we will have stronger clubs and therefore stronger league. But do not forget that at the moment futsal is an amateur sport in this country, we have to look after it and make the right decisions without any kind of rush. In the long term, I think the re-structure that the FA have put in place together with all the hard work from the Clubs will pay off and we will have a better league.
Previously you have had success with teams including Manchester Futsal Club, Sheffield FC and Loughborough United. Does Loughborough Futsal bring any different challenges that you are looking forward to?
I always have challenges. That is the beauty of the sport. During my first year in Manchester we won the FA Cup which was the first silverware for the team. The season after, we won the first League title for the Club. Those two they were great challenges. Then, I moved to Sheffield, and I found a team totally destroyed after their worst season ever. They did everything I asked them to do, they believed in me and we won the title and finished third in the country after a very cruel semi-final against Baku, 2-1 down with 0.4 seconds on the clock. That is a season that I will never forget. Those players taught me a lot, and they will always be in my heart. They are my friends. Next season in Sheffield, it was a difficult one. With the departure of important players in the team and the arrival of youngster players we had a very difficult challenge. At the end, I think we did a great job, with 5 U18 players we lost the title in the last game of the season against a great Manchester team and we qualify for the Finals in the U18 Championship. Then, I received the offer to coach Loughborough United in Division 2, a big challenge as I did not know the Division, the rivals, the city, the players also I was told that the objective for the team was to win the Division 2. That was a great challenge, but I was lucky enough to have a great bunch of players that did everything I asked and gave me everything they had. This year, Loughborough Futsal is giving me a new challenge: to be competitive in the top division with players without experience and very young. It seems that every year, new challenges arrive, but I could not pick or say which one is the hardest one. All of them are different and help you to develop and improve as a coach.
England Futsal have recently announced the newly re-structured Performance Pathway Programme with continuing as Strength and Conditioning Coach and with the England Under 23 Squad. Do you believe the changes will be beneficial to the sport and has the if talent improved over recent years?
I have been working for the National team almost 5 years, in that period of time I have seen so many changes and improvements. We have moved up in the world ranking almost 50 positions, we qualified for the first ever time to a Main Round, we have been unbeaten more than 10 consecutive matches so all the credits must go to the players. The staff have been lucky enough to have a group of players that sacrifice their family times, annual leave, holidays, even money to represent their country and make history. They really work hard and believe in the staff. At the same time, we have know at the moment there is a lack of talent and numbers underneath. The new Performance Pathway with the new U23 and U19 national squad will try to identify those players that can be the next generation for the England Futsal team. Also, I think that the new Performance Pathway put us in a stronger and more serious position inside Club England, now we have a route for the players, and that is something really important for the future of the sport.
During the summer you spent time in America including involvement in the Professional Futsal League SuperCopa 2015, featuring well known Brazilian Futsal star, Falcao, how did you find your experience?
Orlando was amazing. It was an experience that I will never forget, both professionally and personally. I was lucky enough to be involved in my second PFL event after the one in Dallas in March when we played FC Barcelona and Mexico, to spend 5-6 days with Falcao and his family, to have the honour of having Falcao’s sons playing for us; Enzo in our U12 and Luigi in the U10 teams in the World United Futsal Academy. Futsal wise, we won the SuperCopa in the penalty kicks after a very even game in front of a decent crowd and with the kids we finished 4th with both teams in the tournament. However, the most rewarding aspects that you take on board are the personal ones. In Orlando, I met great people, I did great futsal contacts, I spent 24 hours a day working with my friend forever Vava (USA futsal assistant coach) and I discovered how important somebody that I did not know 2 months ago can be in your life. I worked a lot and I did not sleep much; by the end of the tournament I was so tired, but it was so worth it and I do not regret any second in Orlando. Therefore, the 12th August 2015 is a day that will always be in my heart.
You also won a gold medal at the USA National Futsal Championships in addition to a bronze medal, how did the standard of Futsal compare in comparison to England throughout the age groups?
In July, I took two teams to Los Angeles for the USA National Futsal Champioships, as you have mentioned previously we finished 3rd with the U10 and we won the U19 beating the favourite team and current champion 5-4 in a very tense and dramatic final. That was a great experience too. When I saw the participation numbers I was in shock. The tournament lasted 3 days since 8am to 8pm in a venue with 8 courts hosting games at the same non-stop for male and female teams from U6 to Over 35. It was amazing. The organisation was perfect, players and coached must be registered and checked before every game. If we talk about the standard I have to admit that it was low, especially in the grassroot level, but probably better than here, just because in England is very difficult to find kids that play futsal often. In the adult spectrum, standard was good, mainly because in USA there are so many foreigners from countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, Venezuela, Ecuador, Costa Rica… that know futsal. Also, it is a huge country with a massive population so it is easier to have and find more decent players.
England have been drawn in Group E of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Preliminary Rounds and will face the hosts Israel, Denmark and Wales looking to gain qualification to the Main Round and proceed to the World Cup Play-Offs. What is your view on the current squad and do you think qualification is realistic?
I think we have to be realistic and admit that it is going to be difficult after the departure of some of the players, the injuries of others, the level of the rivals, the order of the games (Wales, Denmark and Israel), and the recovery time that we have between games. After having said that, that does not mean we do not believe or we do not think we are able to do it. I think that I can talk for everyone in the squad (players or coaches); if we did not think we were able to do it we would not be in the National team. We had a camp last weekend and we have a couple of more camps before we travel to Estonia for 2 friendly games the week before we travel to Israel. Also, the start of the Super-league this weekend is going to help us and our players to get back into the game and improve the fitness level of the players after the summer.