More time in grassroots football would aid young players' development, says ex-Liverpool player
Former Liverpool star Dietmar Hamann has thrown his support behind grassroots football, claiming that the breeding ground for future footballers is more important than Premier League academies.
Hamann, who played for Liverpool from 1999 to 2006, has called for the UK's most talented young footballers to be allowed more time to develop at grassroots level, before being swept up by professional clubs.
"At some stage the kids at grassroots level get to academies and I think that's where the bigger problem is. I'm not sure the academies prepare the kids the right way," said Hamann.
"I think that grassroots football is more important than any academy football because you need to develop your skill and ability, make mistakes yourself and find solutions to change [things].
"At times they don't get that in academies, which is why I think grassroots football is the most important time in a kid's life. This is where you follow your instincts, where you try things, where you find solutions."
Hamann was speaking to the Business of Sport podcast in his role as McDonald's football ambassador, promoting the 2016 Community Awards, which are now looking for nominations from the grassroots football community across the UK.
The former German international, who played junior football for Wacker München before joining Bayern Munich as a 16-year-old, is concerned that British youngsters today are taken on by professional clubs too young, often with harmful consequences for the many players who don't make the cut.
"At times, there are kids who are taken into academies at 10 years old," said Hamann. "They get released when they are 12 or 13 and their dream is wrecked, when they may have been better off staying where they were, keep playing grassroots football and enjoying the game until they are 15 or 16, which I did.
"I think there's a lot of work to be done, but let's not forget how important grassroots football is. All of the guys who play in the Premier League today and those who walk out at Wembley playing for England, they will have started at grassroots level at some stage.
"This is why we've got to support this cause. I think grassroots football is more important than any academy in the world. This is the most important time for a kid and I think the longer they play grassroots football, the better they'll develop."
You can listen to the full interview with the Business of Sport podcast via the player below.