Michael Skubala Interview

International Futsal Academy Director, England Futsal Senior Assistant Coach and England Futsal Under 23 Head Coach, Michael Skubala, speaks ahead of the new 2015/2016 season, set to be one of the most exciting for the International Futsal Academy.

The International Futsal Academy is entering its fourth year and has established itself as the Leading Independent Elite Futsal and Education Programme in the United Kingdom. What are the main objectives and philosophy of the International Futsal Academy?

The objectives of the academy are quite clear for me. Its giving the most opportunities for young people who are around the IFA programme to have as many doors open to them when they finish studying or being involved with the IFA, whether that be a further studying route, working route, playing route or coaching route. The philosophy is also simple, we try to develop people first, students second and players third and we don’t compromise that order. Its a special programme as on the face of it competes with national league clubs or football clubs but in reality is more special that that as of what it can do for a young person immersing themselves in the IFA and Loughborough.

The IFA has a great reputation for developing young gifted and talented players, what benefits and support does the programme offer that you feel gives players the best chance to succeed both on and off the court? Are there any new changes ahead of the 2015/2016 season?

The programme is a full time training programme and the only one in the country at the minute for futsal. So this in itself is a benefit to player development. Contact time with a futsal ball is important and with the programme built like a professional football club academy it allows that contact time around studies. It is also partnered with the best sporting institutes in the UK, Loughborough University and Loughborough College, amazing places to develop sporting players, coaches and people. Professional football clubs do not even have facilitates like we do. I have also tried to bring in staff that know and understand futsal – not football doing futsal, which gives us a core quality grounding environment. Daniel has a great background in the game, with other NL clubs and with England and so does the other coaches such as Marc and James.

We also try to develop an environment that is supportive yet not clinical. We will not wrap players in cotton wool and we won’t stop them failing from time to time. We try to develop them as people which means sometimes there has to be tough love and if they come out the other side they are more self efficient, self motivated and detected to the task in hand. Usually resulting in a holistic person that develops. We know that on the whole better people become better players in my opinion at least in my opinion but what I mean is in terms of reaching their potential, better people generally reach more of their playing potential.

There are a few slight tweeks to the programme this year but nothing much different. Other than Loughborough University and the IFA have created a super club called Loughborough Futsal club with Daniel taking over the Head coach role and myself taking a backseat in competition days due to England commitments. We are pretty much the same programme that gives the opportunity and experience for players to develop and also complete.

The FA National League One from this year becomes the FA Futsal Super League following a thorough application process, what impact do you think this will have on the standard of competition throughout the country?

In all honesty I am not sure. I do think each game will be tougher and in time this will increase quality so its a good move, but this year I’m not sure much will be different.

Clubs have become increasingly active in getting young people involved in Futsal from an early age with youth participation continuing to rise in England, the International Futsal Academy have a number of Youth Development Centres. What benefits do you feel Futsal provides young people?

Wow this is a massive question. What aren’t the benefits would be easier. We are running centres for kids and looking to open quite a few this year in different areas, at different ages. The biggest benefits for me I put in my book (Michael has a futsal book called ‘Developing the modern football through futsal’), decision making, quality contact time with a ball not in bad weather and speed of everything…not just thought and also the game is unforgiven which subconsiuosly develops attention to detail to players…and lets not forget for kids its just FUN and thats enough sometimes.

England Futsal have recently announced the newly re-structured Performance Pathway Programme with you appointed England Futsal Under 23 Head Coach in addition to being England Senior Assistant Coach, following on from your previous role as England Futsal Under 21 Head Coach. Do you believe the changes will be beneficial to the sport and has the depth if talent improved over recent years?

Yes agree with the changes made and really think the programme is moving in the right direction. We always want things to more quicker in the game of futsal and I am no different but the direction is just as important. Having a clear, competitive performance pathway with the England futsal principles is important. This pathway must be the elite end of the game and I feel this does that. It also adds performance and development for coaches which is again important to moving in the right direction.

The first ever FA UEFA B in Coaching Futsal has been announced and will begin next month, another landmark moment for Futsal in England. What are your thoughts on the new course and the effect it will have in supporting coaches in this country following the Level 1 & Level 2?

I think this is a massive step for Futsal…for me the biggest in the UK to date. The fact that you need module course also the level 1&2 futsal is great. I am a big fan of that spine and believe it is huge in futsal also. Obviously we need to meet criteria set by UEFA to get this course online and the way its been built together reflects this and what we need as a futsal culture moving forward. Its important the futsal people today lay a path for others to walk on in the right direction and there is no doubt the UEFA B does this.

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?

The current squad deserve all the accolades they have achieved over the recent years. Some players playing with professional clubs in spain and big clubs in England have really developed which is testament to the clubs but also the individuals and their commitment. We are an amateur sport and to do well in any sport you need to make scarifies and I personally feel like the players do this to try to become better. For me there is still a massive gap between international and domestic futsal, the game is more tactical and unforgiving as you would expect as its the top level. This means that every game no matter who we play is a final…just because we have done well does not mean we are at a stage where we can just team up and roll teams over like Brazil or Spain. Every game will be tough, but winnable. If the lads prepare well, commit well and give everything they have been up until now and the end of the qualification phase and a bit of luck in our favour we are confident we can do well. But lets see.

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