Feature: Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal backs growth in grassroots across city
It was on the streets of Braga where Carlos Carvalhal learned his craft.
He started playing football on a regular basis at the age of 11.
“I wanted to play all the time and there were a lot of benefits to playing street football,” said Carvalhal.
“In my generation, street football was very important to develop the players.
“There is no grass so you don’t go down. If you planned on dribbling, you had to develop that side of your game as you didn’t want to damage your body.”
Carvalhal spent his playing career largely in the Portuguese top-flight with hometown club Braga.
“The culture of the club was to play good football with lots of passing and to connect the game,” said the Owls head coach, who used to be a centre-back before retiring at the age of 32. “I was born into that.
“When I wasn’t training, I would follow Braga and go see them at weekends. They would play good football and with good support.
“It was the environment I grew up in and that, of course, helps you to create your philosophy. It developed my football and mind. It had a big impact on me.
“When you are at a club, you are not just there to play football. You learn about their rules, values and traditions. You are working with each other to achieve something.
“You learn about yourself growing up and the values of the club.
“These kind of things make you a better player and man.”
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While Portugal continue to bask in the glory of their European Championship triumph, England’s national team is arguably at the lowest ebb in all its history.
Minnows Iceland knocked England out at the last-16 stage in France and Sam Allardyce was sacked in September after one match and 67 days in charge following a newspaper investigation claiming he offered advice on how to “get around” rules on player transfers.
“People have a big passion for football in this country,” said Carvalhal. “I don’t know why England have struggled.
“They have players who have fantastic abilities.
“I expect more from English football in terms of the national team and more boys playing in the Premier League.
“England have big potential so it is strange to me why they haven’t done better at tournaments.”
He believes England can take inspiration from what Portugal, Spain and Germany have achieved over the last decade.
Carvalhal said: “Carlos Queiroz changed everything when he was in charge of Portugal. We are a little country who have created a lot of talent and developed footballers.
“Spain have done the same and Germany are a phenomenon. They have done a revolution in youth football and now it is time for England to do the same.
“A lot of things must change for the national team to do better and develop better talent.
“If you don’t enjoy playing football, you don’t have a chance of being a footballer.”
There has been a big push to boost the grassroots game in this country.
The Football Association has joined forces with a number of partners to promote a £200m scheme, named Parklife, designed to build 30 all-purpose football facilities in towns and cities by 2020.
The St George’s Park Sheffield Graves centre, which was built with Parklife project funding, was opened by FA chief executive Martin Glenn and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch last week.
It is hoped the new state-of-the-art hub will help to further develop the next generation and offer qualified coaching opportunities in Sheffield.
Speaking at the official launch, Carvalhal said: “Society is different now and everybody want their kids to be in a safe place. It is very difficult to play on the streets now for security reasons.
“There are fantastic conditions to play football in this facility and it is a place where the kids can play with a safe environment.
“The pitches are fantastic, and so are the facilities and this should be a very proud moment for Sheffield and the FA.
“If we are to produce the footballers of tomorrow from the city, we have to give every single boy and girl the opportunity to progress their talent. It is a place where boys and girls can play often and develop their abilities.
“The FA have clearly invested a lot of time, money and energy into this facility and they deserve to see many successes in the future.
“As we know, football is a game that unites people around the world and for me, I say it is very, very important that this unity starts at grassroots level.”