press releases / Presse

Right hand man

With the media’s attention firmly set on Ernst Middendorp as the new head coach of Kaizer Chiefs, his introduction of his assistant, Frank Eulberg, went relatively unnoticed. However, Middendorp has made it clear that his success at the Club depends on his ability to establish a working relationship with the players. He believes Eulberg and Farouk Khan as his assistant coaches give him a tour de force in the coaching department, which will help him impliment his coaching programme and create the desired results. Eulberg comes to Naturena with a good reputation, having been successful at an amateur level in Germany and played an integral part in the creation of the German Football Association’s regional high performance centers, which have been at the heart of the development of German football in the past six years. Eulberg spoke to Yusuf Mohammed, highlighting his first month at the club and how he plans to incorporate some of the successful policies of the German system at Chiefs.

You have already had a ‘baptism by fire’ in the pre- season, experiencing your first Soweto derby in the Vodacom Challenge.

It has been a hectic first month! We had two weeks to work with the team and then came the Vodacom Challenge, which for us was a good learning curve as we got to experience a Chiefs/Pirates game early.  We know the pressure that comes with such a game as well as the tradition of such a rivalry. The first few weeks is really a “getting to know you” period and we have, thankfully, learnt a lot.  We have been able to use this time to iron out a lot of problems early on so they do not haunt us in the later stages of the campaign.

The coach took the decision to send all player trialists home and kept only the players who had been in the team last season for the first two weeks of pre-season. Why did he take this approach and do you think it has helped improve your preparations?

Yes, it was something we had to do because all the video material and analysis we did was based on players who were already in the team.  We could not have other players who were on trial mixed in with them. Doing this has obviously paid off as we have been able to assess the resources we have and what type of players we need to bring in to improve the team. As a new coach you cannot just come in and break up a winning combination. This team won the league two seasons in a row and to just come in and start dismantling the structures in place is not good for a number of reasons. You do not, as a new person, want to come in and make those who are supposed to be working with you, hostile towards you.

Was employing Farouk Khan as assistant coach part of the plan to maintain continuity, as he was here last season?

He is part of the team and it was important that we had someone who understands the players, the culture and home environments well. Farouk has been working with a lot of these players since they were very young and his insight into the local game is unbelievable.  There was no sense in losing a person of his stature and experience, particularly because he was part of a successful group of coaches who helped Kaizer Chiefs win the league for two years consecutively, after they had failed to do so for 11 years.

How have you found working with him and his insight as a coach?

Farouk has been to Brazil and has obtained his professional coaching certificate there.  He is now busy completing another coaching course with the German Football Federation. This shows that he is very ambitious and knows what he is doing. He’s like a doctor, the more they specialise, the higher their value. Obviously, since he is a member of the technical team, we sit down with the coach and discuss tactics for upcoming matches and we all contribute in this process.

You along with Middendorp and goalkeeper coach, Rainer Dinkelacker, form part of a trio of German coaches.  Does it make doing things easier and do you find there is more cohesiveness in training methods and systems?

Since we all come out of the same training mould it certainly does make things easier. The coach knows what he wants from us and we know how to deliver what he needs. With Rainer we understand what he is doing with the goalkeepers. In Germany we are taught to deal with specific positions in various ways and with his experience we know exactly what programme he will run with. His match preparation with the goalkeepers will be on par with the match training we might perhaps have for strikers or defenders.

How have you found working with this group of players compared to those you have dealt with in the past in terms of fitness, speed, tactical and technical knowledge of the game?

I find the current group of Chiefs players to be a very intelligent group of players.  Initially they were not 100 percent fit and needed some extra work. I think that this could be put down to the fact that they had just come back from the off-season and had not been able to train properly for about two months. Speed is an aspect of the game that players from Africa are gifted with and it is evident that we have some very fast players and the pick of the bunch I think is Arthur Zwane. When it comes to tactics, the guys listen and for the most part, they implement what they are told to do and that makes a coach’s life easy. The technical side of the game needs some improvement.  If you look at some of the players, they commit basic errors, which are the kind of mistakes that are made by very young players and this can be put down to bad training when they were young.

What other differences could you see between players you have coached in Germany and what you have found in South Africa so far?

What I have seen is that the players in Europe are generally physically better built than the players we have here. The players do a lot more physical exercise away from training and that helps them.  Also, other geographical and cultural differences makes the players naturally smaller in size. Like I said earlier, in Europe most youngsters are coached by a coach who has a professional coaching license from a very early age and that helps because mistakes in a youngster can be picked up early in their career and from the start they get taught to do things the correct way.

In terms of skill and creativity, have you seen players doing things that are different to what a player would do or even attempt to do in Germany? Do you approve of players entertaining the crowd with tricks and generally showing off with the ball?

There should be no problem with players making the crowd happy and entertaining them because people pay to be entertained and in South Africa that is what they are used to. However, a line needs to be drawn between being over excessive with trickery.  Guys have more spirit here and they will try different things, but as a coach, you don’t encourage players to do things that will not get results. It can happen that a player is too busy entertaining the crowd and forgets that the objective of the game is to score goals. If the team is leading and we need to hold on to the ball to wind down the time, then they can start playing around, that should not be a problem. Teams have used skill and flair to achieve results in major tournaments.  Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup is a good example, so players basically need to be responsible when playing about on the field of play.

In Germany you worked with many young players and assisted the German Federation in setting up regional high performance centres. Run us through that programme and what it has achieved.

The German national team did not do well at the 1998 World Cup in France and after the World Cup the Federation came up with a long-term solution with immediate results to remedy the situation. We realised that we were not producing enough young players in Germany and also, many quality players were not coming through on a general level, Bayern Munich had their systems, but we needed a national programme. So we started by improving our level of coaching and it became compulsory for coaches coaching at different levels to hold different coaching certificates. Secondly, we had an identification programme, whereby all teams could send their best players to a regional high performance centre. Players come to this centre for special training three times a week and then go back to their teams.  After a period of time, the players who showed the most potential, are moved onto a national academy and then onto the reserve or youth divisions of Bundesliga teams.

Has this programme worked and have there been any notable graduates from this programme?

There have been many players who have come through and we have found it to be a sound way to identify talent and hone in on the skills of potentially gifted players. It has made average players good and good players excellent footballers.  You are improving them week by week and they can go back and work out their problems and see what they are doing wrong when they are with their clubs. If you are talking about graduates, three players who have gone through such a programme, are Robert Huth of Chelsea, Bastain Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich and current national team player, Lucas Podowski.

With the infrastructure you have seen available at Kaizer Chiefs, would it be possible to set up such a programme?  What is available at the Clubs’ youth academy at the moment?

Anything is possible!  With the far reach that Kaizer Chiefs has, it is very possible to establish some sort of a national system where by the team could set up alliances with league teams who have a long standing tradition and history in their region. Then use these teams to send their best players to regional centres to work on a weekly basis and eventually draw them into your own youth system and into your team.  In this way you can widen your net and tie up more players to be linked directly with your team.

When the end of the season comes, what results and achievements would make you know that you have done a good job?

Ending off the season with the league title and perhaps another trophy would be good. That was the standard when we came here so to keep up the standard is important. I do not think that setting such an objective is out of reach or unattainable.  I think with the team we have and the improvements that will be made within the team we should reach these goals.