“The FA is more than just the men’s team,” explained Schoettle, and, as sporting director, introduced his six (partly new) specialist departments into the directorate, which has 45 full-time employees. In addition to the eleven national teams, these teams also include grassroots football, talent development, girls’ and women’s football, coaching and science education.
“We want to develop every area of football further,” said Schoettle, who followed Willie Rottsteiner as sporting director in 2017 and has now introduced the new structures after the evaluation. The Department of Science, Analysis and Development, headed by former game analyst Stefan Osen, is new since fall 2021.
Popular football will initially introduce reforms next season. In the fight against high drop-out rates among children and youth, UEFA is relying on new forms of competition. From next season there will be no tables in competitions until U12, the focus should be on individual development. In addition, smaller teams will compete on smaller stadiums.
Football reform for children
According to ÖFB information, about 110,000 children and young people are currently playing football in Austria. However, according to a study conducted by the European Football Association (UEFA), more than every other player has played their game before their 18th birthday. “This is a number we want to improve as an association,” said Stefan Gauge, head of the grassroots division of the Austrian Football Association. One in four children will lose it again within the first year after admission.
As a measure, new forms of competition and rules of the game have been launched for the youth sector based on the current results of Sports Science. In order to enhance ball movement, up to U10 level, players must play against each other on several pitches at the same time – ideally tailored to the respective performance level. For this purpose, dribbling is provided instead of a throw-in or a kick-off. There is a rotation requirement for a more balanced participation of all players. Details can be found on the Wirliebenleder.at website designed by the Austrian Football Association – the reform will be implemented by all clubs across Austria for the new season.
ÖFB is increasingly reliant on science
In the future, ÖFB will also rely on the scientific component. “Ten years ago, I could not have foreseen the value and the dimensions that this would take so quickly,” Schoettle said. This was taken into account. Oesen and his team process massive amounts of data on a knowledge platform from the SAP provider. In addition to video analytics, diagnostics and training, data-based control of an individual’s work at a scientific level is also made possible, the department head explained.
According to Oesen, the recommendations for action that the ÖFB makes to players through the concept of “player first” are also examined on the basis of the data. ‘Players first’ is not a game philosophy in terms of formations and principles, emphasized Thomas Edler, Head of Coach Education and Training, now called the ÖFB Coach Academy. Edler spoke of a “paradigm shift” – from the platform and attitudes to the behavior and functions that individual players must perform.
Need to catch up in other areas
In terms of talent promotion, the general manager, Martin Scherb, sees the necessity of catching up, especially in the field of goalkeepers. There, with Günther Kreisel being the “goalkeeper’s head”, the first pegs were tied. Scherb said Project 12, which several prominent footballers of the Austrian Football Association took on as an individual support programme, had “changed in a revolutionary way”. “The biggest lever was that we designed the jug watering system differently.”
Isabel Hochstuger, as director of women’s and girls’ football, hopes to use the European Summer Championships in England as a catalyst. Currently, only seven per cent of those active in Austrian clubs are women. “We have not yet succeeded in increasing that number significantly.” In popular sports, the primary focus is on keeping children in the sport for longer, explained Gog, who is responsible for this at the Austrian Football Association.
Schoettle was content to retain the most important players, who would have been eligible to play for several countries, with the Federation in the recent past. The Viennese named Sasa Kalajdic and Yosef Demir, among others, but also Dejan Ljubicic, Junior Adamu and Ercan Kara. According to Schoettle, even superstar Luka Modric made a home run for Adrian Gerbic to win it for Croatia – without success. However, Rapids Conference striker Vitesse Arnhem has not been called up for the ÖFB team for nearly a year.
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