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Matthew Sim: Australia's football culture is wrong, kids need to be playing more

7:54 AM GMT+4 10/04/2018
Matt Sim Central Coast Mariners
The former Mariner is involved in youth development and says he knows what needs to change

Former A-League professional Matthew Sim says Australia's youth development issues hinge on cultural differences and lack of playing time.

Sim, who is currently playing for NPL side Sydney United, has been heavily involved with grassroots football since 2011.

The former Central Coast and Western Sydney Wanderers player is best known for scoring four goals for the Mariners in a 2014 FFA Cup match.

"Most talk is on the state of the game and where it’s at. At the professional level. At the FFA level. But it basically comes down to the culture and where the grassroots is at," Sim told Goal.

"Thirty years ago when we developed the ‘Golden Generation’ there was a different culture. It was a different time. Kids were allowed to go to parks and do what they want.

"Now, understandably, parents have a lot of concern with letting their kids go to the park without supervision – meaning young football players aren’t getting as much time to practice, kick around with their mates and play street football.

"Our grassroots isn’t on par with the rest of the world."

Sim founded an organisation called T3 Australia with fellow director Ehsan Popal and internationally acclaimed youth development coach Tom Byer.

The group are trying to empower grassroots football in Australia and bring it up to world standards.

As Sim explains, the idea is to produce more world-class players, and he doesn't believe the lack of talent developing has anything to do with the quality of coaching.

He is adamant young footballers aren't getting challenged enough to take their skills to a higher level.

"It’s no secret – our coach education programs are some of the best in the world. We’ve got great youth coaches and our facilities are getting better," he said.

"But we’re still not developing players. We’ve got one Aaron Mooy. We’ve got one Tom Rogic.

"We’ve got such high participation levels. Football at under 12 level is the most participated sport in the country.

"That level has some really good players but the gap between the best and the worst is huge. When you have got a gap that big, the players at the top aren’t getting better.

"You’ve got to make the standard better in general to push the bottom-up approach and create more better players. Hopefully this will create more talented players to go into the pathway for A-League academies and the elite overseas pathway."

Sim spent time in Japan at a under 12 tournament and he was stunned by the level of talent of display. 

He says Japanese academies are so strong that quite often local junior sides can beat J-League affiliated youth teams and one of reasons for the strength in the talent pool is because of the amount of contact hours Japanese youth are clocking up on the pitch.

"(Japanese youngsters) play 52 weeks of the year – they don’t have a break. Some clubs in Sydney only can use their ovals for 18 weeks," Sim said.

"Less football – what’s that doing to the development of young players? They have six months a year where they don’t have any training or games.

"A lot of clubs do have 40 week programs but that’s not until the players are eight-to-nine years old.

"Their first exposure to football is at the under six level and that’s only for 16 weeks – it’s not long enough.

"The kids need more football and more opportunities to play in games."

T3 Australia is holding a free presentation, featuring Tom Byer, on development and coaching titled Football Starts at Home - on April 11 on The Hills Grammar School, Kenthurst, NSW

For tickets, please click here.

For more information on T3 Australia, please visit their website.