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Pep Guardiola has had Manuel Estiarte (right) in his backroom team at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich

Coaches must be motivated to learn

 “An intelligent coach learns from all countries.”

Those seven words from Mirko Mazzantini, coach of the ACF Fiorentina U-14 squad, reinforce the value of constant learning to ensure the very best coaching experience for youth players.

If coaches expect young players to learn and develop, surely players should be able to expect the same of their coaches.

Young Aucklanders can benefit from this approach when two Italian coaches touch down in Auckland next week to deliver Soccer Italian Style – the coaching initiative founded and operated by Mazzantini.

The coaches visiting Auckland are Matteo Fazzini (ACF Fiorentina) and Alessandro Limone (Empoli FC).

Soccer Italian Style delivers a 5-day programme in Auckland during the school holiday period 6-10 July.  The course mirrors the intensity of the day-to-day experience of young Italian players.

The Italian coaches have the benefit of being embedded in a development system that has delivered four FIFA World Cup championships. However, the comment of Mazzantini reflects a desire to look outside national knowledge to glean as many insights as possible.

The proximity of elite clubs and coaches in Europe allows Soccer Italian Style coaches to interact with outstanding youth coaches from outside Italy – Mazzantini, for example, recently attended a conference delivered by Real Madrid coaching staff in Naples.

However, this is not such an easy option for coaches based in New Zealand given our geographic isolation.

Digital communications have a role to play in allowing local coaches to access knowledge, as does international travel.  But are New Zealand coaches missing the opportunity to learn from others sports in New Zealand?

Mazzantini believes Kiwi football coaches have an untapped well of knowledge that could accelerate player development in New Zealand.

“Look towards what rugby is doing,” he urges.

This seems an obvious opportunity.

Are New Zealand coaches learning all that we could from our best rugby coaches and those who have coached New Zealanders to success in a multitude of Olympic sports such as rowing, triathlon or distance running?

While sports landscapes change over time (once Africans got serious about distance running the Olympic and Commonwealth medals seemed to dry up for several countries) there is no doubt that learning opportunities exist within New Zealand.

Would one of the top club football coaches in the world turn to another sport for a guide on how to win tight matches?

Pep Guardiola, the famed Barcelona and now Bayern Munich coach, would say, “Yes.”

One of his closest assistants is Manuel Estiarte, a 578 game veteran of the Spanish water polo national team.  Estiarte’s guidance on penalty taking was successfully used by Guardiola to inspire his Bayern Munich players to convert five penalties and win the European Super Cup against Chelsea in 2013.

The relationship between football and rugby often seems fractious in New Zealand.  This seems to be based on partisan supporters from each sport constantly comparing each sport – often to the detriment of both.

A closer relationship, driven by a desire to learn could well be a far more beneficial situation, particularly for our young players who deserve the very best insights that coaches can provide.

Soccer Italian Style delivers a unique experience to young New Zealanders – the opportunity to learn from coaches embedded in the talent pathway of one of the world’s most successful footballing countries.

Soccer Italian Style is delivered in conjunction with Auckland’s Top Flight Football Academy.

For more information on Soccer Italian Style visit

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