Jury’s out on whether size matters

2011-09-17 15:19

Are we ever likely to see Andile Jali, Oupa Manyisa, Thulani Serero, Daylon Claasen, Kermit Erasmus, Steven Pienaar and Siphiwe Tshabalala all together in the Bafana team?

These are some of the Bafana players who are deemed “short” by way of their height.

In fact, the new Orlando Pirates’ sensation, Manyisa, may possesses a powerful right foot, but he is the shortest of them all – at 1.63m.

This leads to the contentious question: does size really matter in soccer?

While it is a known fact that the standard requirement for basketball or American football players is that they are tall, this has always been viewed differently in soccer, depending on positions.

But it seems that gone are the days when coaches prefer heftily built players, as Spanish and European giants Barcelona have shown recently.

In fact, Barcelona’s engine room comprises diminutive players – Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andrés Iniesta.
Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane says it’s all about having a perfect balance in the team.

According to him, height will not win you games, but will help a team defend.

Mosimane says: “About 40% of goals in a year are scored from set pieces and that is a fact. Size – height, in particular – matters as it can decide the game, but it is all about having a perfect balance.”

He said further that a team must at least have four tall players to compete for aerial balls in offensive and defensive situations.

“You win or lose games through set pieces and you must have a good balance to help in this regard,” says the Bafana coach.

But former Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs’ league-winning coach Ted Dumitru believes that size is of far less significance in soccer than in to other sports.

According to him, in winning the Fifa Women’s World Cup, the Japanese women demystified the widely held belief that being short was a disadvantage.

Dumitru says: “There is no theory in football that says you need power and height to compensate for other aspects. In fact, the latest research shows that players of short stature are more dynamic, can change directions fast, and have better take off and ball touches than tall players.”

He says sometimes it is about the ability to jump, not necessarily height, that is important.

“The dynamics of a modern footballer is intelligence, creativity and individual brilliance.

“The moment you ensure the movement of your skill, the size of the opponent is not relevant,” says Dumitru.

The days of clubs using “big animals” as strikers, according to him, will soon be gone as the Japanese have already come up with mobile strikers to compensate for their lack of bulky players.

“You no longer need a big, strong receiver of the ball and this is a very interesting new dimension of football
and the way to go, in my opinion,” Dumitru says.

Former Chiefs’ coach Paul Dolezar, who believes in “big animals”, will not concur with the Japanese on this one.

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