By Jamie Thomas.
Having a successful youth career, travelling to Brazil – becoming a pioneer of English football in the process – and completing an education at one of the country’s best universities are achievements anyone would be proud of.
At just 23-years-old though, Seth Burkett has no plans to stop there.
Having released a book regarding his experiences in Brazil, he was happy to go one step further for The Offside Rule (We Get It!) as he spoke to Jamie Thomas on how those experiences can help push England’s youth development programme forward.
Where England are struggling:
Burkett thinks England’s key failings start with the training sessions: “It isn’t rare for over 50% of a training session in England to be conducted without a ball. It is a much more rigid style.”
The philosophy of his coach in Brazil was a simple one.
“Would a musician practise without his instrument? Then why would a footballer practise without a ball at his feet?
“Brazil’s fluid style is facilitated by a real focus on the beauty of the ball; they always train with the ball at their feet. Joga Bonita – play beautiful – is the Brazilian philosophy,” he added.
Burkett also thinks the lifestyle of English players causes problems:
“In England players are given everything and enjoy luxury accommodation. This, according to Brazilians, breeds a sense of entitlement.
“This does not work well on the pitch. The player has less desire to train hard and progress because he is happy with his current life.”
Where England can improve:
A key concept that kept popping up in our interview was Burkett’s belief that our youngsters are being over-coached, arguing that players need to be given freedom from an early age to express themselves. He said:
“If young players are allowed to express themselves and enjoy the experience without worrying about making a mistake then creativity should be fostered as a result.
“I’d stress the benefits of Futsal being played at an early age. We don’t want to create robots – we want to create skilful, spontaneous players, players who Joga Bonita!”
According to Burkett, Football Associations are taking some positive steps in developing coaches: “The focus on coach education is positive, though care does need to be taken.”
He also argues that more needs to be done to encourage English clubs to utilise homegrown talent: ‘More incentive needs to be given to play English players. The concept of home-grown players needs looking at.”
Where Brazil are getting it right:
Burkett thinks Brazil play with such flair because they aren’t over-coached: “Nothing is drilled into the Brazilians in training and that is the beauty of football over there.
“Their playing style is so fluid because they receive very little instruction: they are given the ball and asked to find a solution to problems they’re presented with”
He saw the benefits of Futsal first-hand whilst over in Brazil and is now actively involved in the sport, having been called up for the England Futsal squad previously.
“Most players in Brazil play street football and Futsal, where players do not have set positions and are expected to play everywhere until the age of 11, and are not taught tactics until 13,” he said.
This is where England are going wrong, in his opinion.
“Here a player is often assigned a position in which they remain throughout their career from the age of seven. How can you possibly tell where a player should play at that age?”
Encouraging others to play abroad:
Despite spending his time in Brazil living in a filthy converted garage with barred windows and 31 teammates who didn’t speak English, Burkett says he would jump at the chance to go back to Brazil.
“I would love to return to Brazil to play. The only trouble is that going back to Brazil requires me to speak with Brazilians. I am yet to meet an organised, time-conscious Brazilian,” he said.
He does, though, recommend going abroad to play: “I strongly encourage other players to go abroad to play football – you learn so much more about every aspect of the game.
“I think this is why England suffer – we predominantly have players who play in the English leagues. We are ignorant to other cultures and styles of football.”
He also argues that many of England’s top prospects could have benefitted from heading abroad, adding one youngster in particular would have benefited massively.
“It goes for every player but I when I look at Jack Wilshere I wonder just how much he would improve if he went abroad to play.
“I just feel that, in say Spain, where players need to be a bit calmer and more measured on the ball, he could add a lot to his game and take himself to the top level,” he added.
For more of Seth Burkett’s story, his recently released a book ‘The Boy In Brazil’ is available on Amazon. The book documents his experiences in Brazil and has been hailed as “an enchanting story” by football writer Patrick Barclay.
Link to buy Seth’s book: The Boy in Brazil is here