Australia finds its Romeo

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According to sources close to Football Central, Football Federation Australia is set to announce its replacement for outgoing technical director, Han Berger.

It is believed the man chosen to takeover from the Dutchman is former Dinamo Zagreb youth academy director, Romeo Jozak.

Berger, who has been in the role since 2009, completed his duties once Australia’s World Cup campaign in Brazil came to an end. Earlier this year Berger became a director on the board of A-League club Sydney FC and will leave having seen the implementation of the second edition of the National Curriculum, last year.

Talks between Romeo Jozak and the FFA have been ongoing since before the World Cup with the final interview said to have taken place on the 12th of August.

The value of the contract is estimated to be around 2 million for the duration of his contract, and given the nature of the position it is likely to be a four year deal.

This would prove to be quite the coup for the FFA to snare a man who has turned down Arsenal and the Irish FA for similar roles in the past.

Last December, the Croatian visited Australian shores and at the time talked about these offers whilst dropping a not so subtle hint over his future direction.

“Maybe in the future I’ll think about going elsewhere. Maybe even Australia,” the 41 year old who spent ten years in Canada told the Australian press.

“I’m here to help Australian players and to pass on my experiences and insights. I think I might have some ideas for you.”

Having a PhD and a thesis on football, the relatively young Jozak is more than just a football academic, he has hands on experience with tangible results.

In his role with Dinamo Zagreb’s academy he oversaw the development of players such as Luka Modric, Eduardo da Silva, Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar, and Dejan Lovren.

As the Croatian Football Federation technical director and chairman of the technical committee he was responsible for all the age teams from U21s down, leading Croatia to be the only European nation to qualify for both the U17s and U20s World Cups in the 2013 editions.

In May last year, Jozak talked to BBC’s Guy de Launey about the secret to Croatia’s success in developing such quality footballers despite having a small population of around 4.5 million people.

“You have to start with a unified vision at the age of 12,” he explained. “Four years ago we came up with a curriculum, a technical strategy from the U14s upwards.

“Every generation must follow that. It’s all about being talented, having a vision and clear selection criteria.’

He believe with the right system in place it will not matter if players leave at an early age for overseas destinations, which happens regularly in Croatia as well as Australia.

“The major window for making technical implementation is from ages 12 to 16. So when they leave the country it’s not a big issue.

“They already have the the core implemented in their bodies.”

Earlier this year while in the US, the Croatian gave an in-depth interview to soccerwire.com on issues in football such as player development, and coaching. Here is a collection of his thoughts from that interview:

On Coaching & Accreditation

Selection of coaches is just as important – even more important than – selection of players.

We quite often talk about the quality of players and the requirements for the players to have in order to be a good player. We don’t often talk about the requirements the coaches need to have in order to be a good coach. A license is not one of those things.

I encourage licensing. I encourage education, but this is not enough. You have to have something more. You have to have talent as a coach. You’ve got to have intelligence. You’ve got to have personality. You’ve got to have sense for the play. You’ve got to have an ability to enforce your demands. All these things are genetically determined.

On Player Development & Long-Term Success

I think it’s important to not necessarily play the same system – 4-3-1-2 or whatever – but have the same philosophy.

Technique is important, but the application of technique to be functional is something else.

When you have functional technique, this technique should solve problems on the individual tactical level – if I open my body this way, I open that way, my angle of vision is going to be this much bigger.

Unless there’s guidance – unified, strong guidance from above – saying we need results, but above all, we need to look after this skillful guy, don’t get rid of him, don’t forget about him…they’re going to pick those strong guys that are going to play good soccer, as opposed to those kids that in the long run might actually do something better.

On Access/Player Fees

First of all, you have no limits. You don’t filter the guys by their budget. Everyone can play.

Below is a presentation and demonstration from this year that Dr Romeo Jozak gave while in America on his “Dynamic and Functional Technique – Phases and Progression”

Adam Howard

Adam is one of the founders of Football Central and the creator of OSAussies.com.  He has followed the career paths of Australian footballers playing in leagues all over the world.  Born in Adelaide and currently residing in Hiroshima, Adam brings a unique perspective to Australian football.  He is an ardent supporter of Australia's domestic competition and national team.

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