Small changes can lead to big results in the game of football. Many times, it is not the fancy skills learned but a good knowledge of the basics that differentiates good and outstanding players. We asked some football players for their handiest tips for beginners to improve their game.
Being fit is the first step
Football, especially at the novice level, is heavily weighted toward good conditioning and endurance. It is a physically demanding game so maintaining your speed, balance and strength is vital. It is important to note that your body structure can dictate the position you play at.
“The basic thing required for any footballer is fitness,” Nigel D’souza says, whose initial hockey training stood him in good stead. “That is why we have a training programme that requires a year of training in athletics to join. Build your stamina and sprinting speed. If you know which position you want to play you have to be built accordingly. Defenders need to be strong; goalkeepers need to have good reflexes and forwards need to be quick. Remember football can be tough so as a beginner it is important not to lose hope at the start.”
Get comfortable with passing
When mastered, passing can elevate your team’s performance by leaps and bounds. At its bedrock are vision, judgement, technique and communication. Beginners need to get comfortable with passing as early as possible and moreover, know the best position to be in to receive the ball.
“In football I believe most important is passing,” says Nigel, whose football career began 8 years ago. “You can be a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder or forward but games are won or lost through passing and the distribution of the ball. In my personal experience, always try to pass with both your left and right feet so that you can take shots from both sides and it is very important in today’s football world.”
Gearing up right
The beauty of football is the minimal equipment required to play. A single ball shared amongst two teams is the bare minimum but the right clothing and equipment help you achieve optimal performance while avoiding injuries.
Anthony Fernandes has been playing football for nearly two decade. “Football is not an expensive sport to start with," he suggests. "Initially, all that is required are a pair of shoes and a ball. Later, you can get a proper kit, including studs, socks, shin pads and gloves if you are a goalkeeper.”
He also has some advice on the types of studs to choose from. “Ideally, on mucky ground proper studs (cleats) are needed for grip. On turf, you require a softer outsole. If it is a hard surface like a basketball court, there you can wear indoor shoes like canvas shoes and still manage. The choice of shoe depends on where you are playing.”
Defence is the backbone
Players new to the game might be tempted to play forward but working on defence can be the fastest way to improve. A strong defence is the basis for a better offence and is a great way to build camaraderie with your teammates.
Clive Hortha has been playing for over ten years and says “The defensive line is also known as the backbone of a football team. During a match, the attack always begins from behind, that is your defensive line. If you are a beginner, it is easier to play defence rather than attack as it is easier to understand where to play the game and how to fit in. As Alex Fergusson says ‘offense wins matches, defence wins championships.’”
Learn team tactics
It is easy to focus on improving individual skills but a good football player also has a strong grasp of the tactics involved. In fact, the faster you understand the working of your team, the faster you will improve. It is important to be aware of the gaps in your team’s formation and plug them.
Dexson D’souza has been playing football for the past 8 years. He says “From a beginner’s perspective, a game plan is one of the most important things. A beginner should know how the team is playing and stick to tactics. It will help you be at the right place at the right time when off the ball. A good way to learn is through a good coach or watching matches to understand the player’s perspective.”
The right mind-set ensures you play at your peak, enjoy the game and learn quickly from your mistakes. Enjoying yourself is key to continuing to pursue the game with the added bonus of your teammates appreciating having you around.
“A good attitude to me is not being nervous and having faith in your team,” says Dexson. “Don’t think about mistakes, just be confident and play a passing game. Never become angry, have a cool mind and play. Never forget the team game plan and stick to your team and play.”