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From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 52: HIRATA Reiji Head of Youth Development

22 June 2021

From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 52: HIRATA Reiji Head of Youth Development

Fourth season in the Philippines

This is my fourth year since I was assigned to the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) in February 2018, and I have become completely accustomed to the culture and customs of the Philippines. I was blessed with great friends and feel fortunate to be able to build a trusting relationship with many people. The PFF staffs and coaches of the youth national team have been especially helpful, as they are always cheerful and kind to me. As the Head of Youth Development my main job is to plan, establish, and expand the Training Area of Development (TAD) programme, which is equivalent to JFA’s Training Centre system. I am also in charge of selecting the coaching staffs for the national team at the youth categories, player selection, analytics, supporting training camps, creating and sharing game models, all of which are allowing me to spend a very productive time here. The first two years in the Philippines went by quickly. While concurrently serving as a coach and assistant coach for national teams at the youth categories, I spent my time touring around the Philippines. Through many activities such as briefing sessions for the TAD programme, local football festivals, and major tournaments, I was able to analyse the current situation of Filipino football, which allowed me to solidify the details of the TAD programme and take the first step.

Filipino youth football during the pandemic

The TAD programme was launched in two regions during 2019, and although it was decided that the programme was going to be launched in eight more regions in 2020, all football activities were shutdown from March 2020, due to the spread of COVID-19. We had difficulties communicating with the suburban areas for a while, and struggled to make any progress, but in 2021, we managed to launch the TAD programme in eight regions online. In-person classes at schools have not resumed in the Philippines, and minors are still severely restricted from going outside. All team activities and competitions involving contact sports have been cancelled, and the Filipino players have not trained or played in matches for more than a year and three months. The only thing we can do now is to send out positive messages to the players so that they don’t lose their passion towards football. While we wait for the resumption of football activities, we have been incorporating lectures held by nutrition experts and physical coaches into the TAD programme’s online webinars. At the same time, we are continuing to try to hold online selections for youth national teams (Men’s and Women’s U-19 and U-16) who will be participating in international competitions held at ASEAN and Asia. Although we are limited to what we can do online, I have been actively working with other coaches to take on the challenge.

Bright future ahead for Filipino football

Filipino football has been greatly affected by this corona-pandemic. However, I feel that we were able to deepen the understanding and gain more cooperation for the TAD programme through our online activities. For the youth national team, I was able to spend a lot of time sharing my philosophy and game model for youth football with other coaches. I am hoping that once the vaccination process progresses and in-person classes resume at schools, we would be able to play football on the pitch. We can visit the regions where we established a connection online and hold our player selections for the youth national team. I'm really looking forward to meeting the players and coaches from each region. Many great talents are being left unfound in the Philippines, so we hope to discover, develop, and produce great players through this TAD programme. In addition, we are seeing better understanding towards adapting group stages in domestic tournaments, which is a movement we have been seeing even before the pandemic, so that is one of the bright spots for the future. We still need to be patient with this pandemic, but I am feeling that Filipino football has great potential and that they have a bright future ahead of them.

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