Henk van Stee: “We’re moving in the right direction”

The St. Petersburg youth team football championship has finished. The championship included teams from FC Zenit’s Football Academy. The Academy’s director spoke about the results of the city competition in a conversation with a correspondent from “Our Zenit” newspaper.

– If we speak in general, what kind of impression did you get from this season?

– All of our teams played with opponents who are a year older. Practice shows that this was the right choice. I have to say though, I’m not happy that the season ended in the first half of October. I would like the boys to play until the end of the month, and maybe even a little bit longer. Overall we lost three weeks of game practice. As for the level of play in the city youth league, it’s entirely up to par with European peers. I was particularly surprised by the quality of the referees’ work. But I wasn’t so happy with the behavior of coaches at the matches I saw. There was too much negativity shown towards the young players. Football should give happiness and pleasure. This means that the coaches and the players’ parents are putting too much pressure on the players. That’s not good, and that situation has to be changed immediately. I’m going to talk with the referees, and the players, and the parents on this topic. We need to give our footballers a good example. I don’t understand why the referee doesn’t punish the coaches for swearing at the matches. But overall everything is going well. I noticed several things that we have to do differently: we have to make the tournament longer, the coaches have to follow watch their mouths, and the referees have to help them do so.

– So you mean that you’re happy with your first months of work in St. Petersburg in general?

– The most important thing is that the people working in the Academy believe that the development path we’ve chosen is the right one now. That’s probably my biggest accomplishment so far.

– How did you manage to do that?

– I can talk a lot about it, but it won’t be so interesting to everyone. It’s a lot better if we can see the results of my work in practice. My assistant took our coaches to internships in such famous clubs as Juventus, Sampdoria, Monaco, and Feyenoord. And we held so many international tournaments! It was clear from all of these events that I’m speaking the truth. And in order to reach new heights, we need to do some things differently.

– What’s the Academy’s main goal?

– Like before, we want to become a top academy in Europe. But we can’t execute this goal fast, so we’ll need some time. We’re going to develop in all directions. More precisely, we’re going to continue everything that we started this year – branches, special classes that allow the players to train twice a day, and new infrastructure. We’re going to look for new coaches. In a word, we’ve got a lot of work ahead. The important thing is that we’re moving in the right direction.