Grassroots football "more important than academies" – Hamann

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.

This article appeared in The Clubhouse – the monthly newsletter from Club Website. To get the best grassroots news, offers and competitions straight to your inbox every month, sign up today!

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. Kiwalabye Ronald on February 25, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Well, i think ure right and wrong at the same time coz you are creating a picture that Academies have not done enough to produce quality players. The dominance of Barcelona in today’s football is not attributed to grassroots football but to the La Mercia Academy which has produced the likes of Messi, Iniesta and the likes. Academies play a big role n equipping kids wth skills like ball control, shooting,dribbling which help thm n future. Maybe i can agree with you that the best method would be Academies playing grassroots competitions.

  2. David bowes on February 25, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    The way football is going today I don’t think a kid playing football at academy or grassroots level has much chance of ever playing at a high level most teams are full of foreign players even though half of them couldn’t kick my arse and only last five minutes before they move on we have to go back to our own british lads and believe in them vardy has shown we have the talent but we need to believe in them stop signing cheap foreign players instead of home grown one’s .

  3. Paul Burke on February 25, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I totally agree with the comments made by Didi Hamann but the problems go further than this. The pro clubs do not really have the interests of the child at the heart of their decisions and have no problem “stealing” boys from the local clubs without any consideration to the boy or indeed the boys/team left behind.

    This is business and the development squads are now like trout pools where boys feel they are part of the club, yet they are penned in until somebody deems it appropriate to either invite the boy into the actual academy or tell them they are surplus to requirements.

    I coach an under 11s team who have been moderately successful and as a result scouts are taking players promising them professional contracts…this is often reinforced by the academy coaches; two have advised my players that if they don’t make it now, they never will therefore demanding commitment.

    Pressuring parents into thinking they have limited time to make a decision is wrong and show the clubs only really care about themselves…I do understand this is big business but it is staggering that the pro clubs have no consideration to the clubs that develop the players and give them a rounded experience.

    I may sound bitter but it seems to be increasingly worse as everybody appears to be a scout or a friend of a scout; we even had a ref recently pick out two of my players and said they could have a pro career.

    We are now at end of Feb and one of players has been forced to miss a final as a pro club wanted him to play for them as part of a trial. In losing this boy, my team were obviously weaker and we lost the final; the boys froze as their captain is having a trial that may or may not be successful. Why could there not be more communication between the clubs and maybe they should wait until the end of the season…I would accept this, but to totally disregard the grassroots club is, in my opinion a little disrespectful.

    I cannot understand why the FA cannot enforce some control here and maybe introduce some ground rules.

    The pro clubs will continue to use everything in their powers to ensure they do not allow the next Rooney slip through their fingers and I know of pro clubs who actually charge boys to play for their development squads.

    Like Didi has said, there are too many boys being released from clubs at 12/13 which makes them feel like they have failed. They then end up missing out on playing with friends for their informative years.

  4. sue sampson on February 27, 2016 at 10:46 am

    i would just like to say my husband runs a youth football team the lads love playing and grass roots football is the best place for kids to be unfortunately these are declining in numbers as a result of the lack of pitches so we should all back or local teams and praise those that give up there spare time training our football stars of the future we all need to get behind the save grass roots football

  5. Ken Inckle on March 2, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I applaud Didi for his comments. I have seen good quality players join academies, boys taken away from their friends. In many cases these boys lose confidence, lose their skills and end up leaving the sport we all love. Academies do more harm than good, leave the boys alone until they are 14 ish.

  6. Sarah on March 10, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Football and sport generally are great for children and for development socially, physically and is enjoyable. I have three boys who play football. Two at grass roots and one who has been at an academy for years since a young age. All three boys love football and all are equally happy at their clubs. The academy runs regularly parent workshops advising parents of their training, staff set up, diet advisories for match day etc..and do frequently tell us only approximately 1 in 100 boys who come through the youth system academy makes it to top level football and my academy signed boy knows this and wants to be a PE teacher, but you never know. Academy training is free expertise training and they get to fly out on tours, make new friends and have some fantastic experiences. The latter two of course is also enjoyed at grass roots. As long as my boys are happy in their football long may it continue Grass roots or Academy level. Fan of both.

  7. Conor delaney on March 15, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Grassroots football is massively important for the future of football in this country but the timing of the Grassroots season is what hampers the development of kids .
    For most of the winter pitches are unplayable and children miss out on a huge amount of playing time .
    If the FA want to improve Grassroots football and compete with the rest of the world they need to change the time of the season into the spring and summer months and not coincide it with the big leagues and there expensive pitches because small clubs haven’t got the resources to look after pitches like they do , either that or invest more in the building of artifical pitches . This is the biggest problem for Grassroots football !

  8. shaun on November 6, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    I love grassroots butit depends on the quality of the team. No child will learn to play football in an enviroment where children lack understanding of the game. A talented child can be killed in a grassroot team or end up as too indiviualistic if the required quality isnt on show. How will that child combine with the others? That child will be better off in an elite environment. Many grassroot teams just hoof, crunch and run. Academies provide children with the game intellignce that they’ll need to progress.

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