Just over one week ago the FA officially opened St George’s Park National Football Centre. The £100m coaching centre, in Burton-upon-Trent, is meant to help British football keep up with the likes of Spain, Germany, France and Holland in terms of producing the next generation of superstars. Only yesterday Borussia Dortmund showcased the latest training gadget that will make our ‘football centre’ appear like a cave stuffed full of Neanderthals wearing tracksuits.
Gone are the days when a fat man smoking a cigarette would nonchalantly toss a ball onto a waterlogged training pitch, instructing his player to ‘shoot’ at a large empty goal. Nowadays training techniques are a little more sophisticated. So much so that Dortmund’s new ‘Footbonaut’ machine appears to have taken practice methods into the space age.
Two years reigning German champions, Borruissia Dortmund, have finally revealed their secret, and it comes across as some kind of scientifically evolved version of ‘Whack-a-mole.’ You remember the game, a mole pops its head out of a hole and you have to whack it on the head with a mallet? The ‘Footbonaut’ applies a similar concept, essentially improving awareness, reaction speed, and accuracy.
The ‘Footbonaut’ is a four sided ball feeding machine made of targets. Basically the player stands in the centre, waiting to receive a stream of non-stop balls. Once in possession the player then has to pass/shoot the ball at which ever target (a large hollow square) lights up. There are 64 targets situated in a 360 degree environment. Try to imagine what it would look like if a footballer went into an empty ‘Flares’ nightclub to train. If you can’t you may wish to watch the video example instead:
So far Dortmund are the only club to use this fascinatingly impressive machine, and it’s easy to see how effective a training technique it is. The benefit’s are obvious and would no doubt assist England in producing the ‘Xavi’s’ that we so desperately crave. The question is, after spending £100m on a coaching centre why haven’t we got one of these? Especially since we, as a nation, constantly bemoan the fact that we can’t produce technically gifted players. Every time that it feels that we may be making progress another European power house simply pulls away.