Jordan youth development: 'No children pay to play'


When it comes to Asian youth development, the eastern side of the continent tends to hog the headlines, but there are moves afoot in the western edges to redress that balance.

Alexander Zwiers knows this better than most. The well-travelled and well-respected coach is the technical director of the Jordan Football Association but has worked at academies and clubs all over the region.

In the United Arab Emirates alone he has coached at Al Wahda, Al Nasr and Al Shabab. Throw in significant spells with Saudi giants Al Ahli and Qatari titan Al Gharafa as well as the famous Aspire Academy in Doha - not to mention time spent in Mexico and Kazakhstan - and the Dutchman has quite a resume.

He also knows better than most that there is no common ‘West Asian’ philosophy when it comes to developing young talent.

“Each country does it differently,” Zwiers told The World Game. “Many federations, they give the coaches basic knowledge but a lot of the development actually comes from the clubs.”

There are exceptions however: “The youth system is more centralised in Qatar and they also have the Aspire academy.”

Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup triumph shows that there is plenty of talent in the 2022 host nation. There is a pathway there for young players.

It was also noteworthy that a number of the standout stars from the continental title-winning team had come up through various youth teams together and the massive Aspire Academy, which is a sight to behold, plays a major part.

Such success is what Jordan would love to emulate: “We are trying to implement an overall style in Jordan, one that fits the philosophy of the country and the history.

"We are working together with the clubs too and we are all part of the same system.”

What exactly that style has yet to be completely fixed but after plenty of clashes at the senior level with the Socceroos over the years, Australia fans may have an idea of the result.

“They are still working it out. The playing style is very intense, forward thinking and dynamic with players that like to penetrate the spaces. Defensive control is the foundation needed to have a positive outcome and we also focus on emotional strength and consistency.”

“The individual players make the difference in the collective and in Jordan society has a strong group culture and they are committed to working as a group and we are trying to implement this.”

The country is divided into three regions for development purposes. “We have our scouting departments in each of them and they watch games.

"Starting from the U-12s, we select the best regional players and we have monthly sessions with them and then they go back to the clubs and when they are 15, they can get involved with the national teams.”

The federation is currently working on designing and then implementing a national curriculum that will be circulated to all coaches. “It is going very well and things are starting to change.”

As well as implementing a more uniform style of play, the key in Jordan is, according to Zwiers, the relationship with the clubs. “We have to deal with their involvement and they have accepted what we are trying to do. The players come to us for two days then go back and work there.”

“There is still room for improvement at the grassroots level. The pyramid is still quite small and not as wide as it could be and that is something we want to improve but no children pay to play, unless they attend a commercial football school.”

What really stands out for Zwiers is the passion.

“The people here love football, there is a lot of intensity and lots of people who want to get involved. We are getting involved more in schools and younger kids but this is not fully implemented yet.

"We can reach a big group of young players at schools. The future is bright.”