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Ryan Jago; makes history as Namibia’s First-Ever Futsal Head Coach
Recently, Futsal Focus received news of Ryan Jago’s appointment as Namibia’s inaugural futsal head coach. Intrigued to delve deeper into this milestone, we reached out to him and were delighted to engage in a captivating conversation about futsal, English futsal, and his historic opportunity with Namibia.
(Main picture: Ryan Jogo in the middle with his players at Kent United after winning the FA National Futsal Series Tier 2 Plate – all pictures provided by Ryan)
Six years ago, in 2017, futsal was a foreign concept to Ryan as he dedicated his time to coaching toddlers and children’s football at a Leisure Centre. It was an unexpected turn of events when the Centre’s Manager proposed the idea of participating in a futsal match. Ryan’s initial response was a simple, ‘What is that?’ Little did he know, this encounter would mark the beginning of a transformative journey.
From an initial lack of familiarity on the court, the joy experienced during that futsal match and others sparked a profound passion within him. This newfound enthusiasm led him to recognise not only the entertainment value of futsal but also its unique benefits and distinctions from traditional British 5-a-side and football. Beyond mere recreation, futsal became a catalyst for enhancing a player’s skills, providing a versatile set that could be applied to football or further pursued within the expanding domain of the futsal industry.
The firsthand playing experience seamlessly kindled a desire within him to delve deeper into the intricate playing methods of futsal. This passion propelled Ryan to pursue the initial coaching qualifications in futsal at the foundation level.
Armed with this newfound knowledge, he strategically curated a select team from a Primary School where his active involvement allowed him to identify and nurture emerging talent. This select team was destined for a challenging match against a squad hailing from the prestigious Millwall Academy. Following an intensive week of futsal coaching sessions, the transformation in the players was palpable.
During the session and the match, unsurprisingly to Ryan’, the kids’ immediate reaction was one of pure enthusiasm. A sentiment that endured as they swiftly adapted to the new techniques introduced during the coaching sessions as their education continued. Their progress was evident in enhanced decision-making abilities, a deeper understanding of supporting runs, and their adaption to rotation play. This impactful experience with the young players fortified his belief in the versatility of futsal. He could now vividly see both facets of the sport – as a captivating game in its own right and as a valuable contributor to the development of football skills.
Almost three years ago, in 2021 another pivotal decision unfolded, unlocking a cascade of new doors and experiences for him. Opting to pursue his UEFA B Futsal License marked an experience he fondly looks back on even today. Eager to ascend the coaching ladder, Ryan took the proactive step of reaching out to Kent United Futsal Club. His enthusiasm, coupled with a genuine desire to learn and contribute, resonated with the club, ultimately resulting in his appointment as the first team’s assistant coach.
His inaugural season proved to be a revelation, an experience that might have deterred others, but not Ryan. The outcome, however, was relegation, marked by a daunting goal deficit of 116 in the fiercely competitive FA National Futsal Series Tier One Division.
In the subsequent season, the head coach left after relegation which allowed Ryan to stepped up. Reflecting on the challenges of the prior season, he recognised a critical issue during training sessions – a lack of intensity. While players were absorbing the fundamental methods of futsal, the absence of pressure in training sessions left them ill-prepared for the heightened tempo, limited time on the ball, and the necessity for rapid decision-making encountered against more advanced clubs on the courts.
In Season Two, a notable shift occurred in the team’s performance, culminating in a competitive season that concluded with the Series Tier 2 Plate. This achievement not only signified success but also provided a valuable opportunity for Ryan to further refine his coaching skills within the English futsal landscape.
Determined to elevate his coaching acumen, he meticulously studied the matches of Tier One top clubs, including Bloomsbury, Manchester, and Helvecia. Going beyond the domestic sphere, he cast his gaze abroad to futsal powerhouses such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Through a comprehensive analysis, he sought to discern the distinguishing factors that set these players and clubs apart. Ryan’s objective was clear: to translate the insights gained from these observations into tangible strategies that could enhance the performance of his own players. And to a certain degree, it did just that.
As the season ended, he felt the coaching commitment demands clashed with family priorities. Recognising the need for a change, he decided to pivot and return to his roots. Reflecting on his time as head coach and observing English futsal, Ryan explains where it thinks English players are still adjusting to futsal. Players in England he says, face the challenge of comprehending diverse roles and positions, as well as grasping the expectations associated with 1v1, 2v2, and transitional play. Mastering first touch and gaining control of the ball are paramount skills. Futsal, akin to chess, relies on movement to dictate subsequent actions. Players must discern how to react when a teammate moves in a particular manner, anticipate and thwart off-ball movements by opponents, and effectively close down potential passes and space openings.
A key aspect is understanding shared responsibility and fostering a cohesive unit where players operate collaboratively rather than rigidly adhering to fixed positions. This adaptability is crucial for navigating the dynamic nature of futsal and enhances the overall effectiveness of the team. He recognises that this developmental challenge is not unique to England; indeed, developing nations worldwide are also striving to enhance the understanding of futsal’s requirements among their players and coaches.
For Ryan, this meant redirecting his focus to the grassroots level, driven by his belief in the burgeoning opportunities for futsal in England. His vision involved nurturing pathways for young players at the grassroots level, aligning with the shared aspiration of numerous coaches to establish a robust foundation. The ultimate goal was to contribute to a sustained pipeline that could, over time, significantly enhance the talent pool available for the national team and league clubs. This strategy aimed to ensure a constant influx of adept and knowledgeable individuals capable of thriving at the pinnacle of English futsal competition.
Although he chose this pathway, he has left the door slightly ajar for adult futsal, acknowledging that any potential return to the men’s game would be contingent on the right opportunity presenting itself.
Revisiting the past, Ryan reminisces about his time in Namibia, Africa. His initial exposure was as a volunteer for a company called PAY, where he dedicated his efforts to an orphanage. The profound impact of this experience led him to return for a holiday with his wife, deepening his affection for the country.
During his UEFA B Futsal License course, Ryan’s curiosity about global futsal grew. Eager to delve deeper into the world of Futsal, he conducted online research. This exploration led him to a Futsal Focus article that covered futsal development in Africa. To his delight, he discovered that Namibia was featured in the article: https://www.futsalfocus.net/exciting-times-africa-futsal-development/
Motivated by a thirst for knowledge, he took the initiative to follow the Namibia Futsal League Facebook page—an expansive league boasting seven diverse divisions and over 80 teams. Inspired by their efforts, he reached out to the league, articulating his connection to the country, applauding their commendable efforts, and extending an offer to contribute. He expressed a genuine willingness to share information that could contribute to their league, player, and coach development. The league reciprocated by following him on TikTok (https://www.tiktok.com/@jsafutsal?_t=8jT74EIBDI8&_r=1), where he regularly shared insightful videos showcasing his sessions and engaging in discussions about futsal.
Building a relationship with the league and Futsal Namibia’s vice president and co-founder Andrei Tirtirau would result in an opportunity Ryan was not expecting. Futsal Namibia became a member of the Namibian Football Association and due to this association has received money from the FA and from sponsors, their most recent sponsorship was announced two days ago. The association announced that the Futsal national team had secured sponsorship of N$300 000 (£12,576, UK, or $ 15,982 US) from JSB Sports Betting earlier at the Namibia Football Association Technical Centre in Windhoek.
On the preceding Friday, Ryan received a call from Andrei, extending an invitation to become Namibia’s inaugural futsal head coach—an honour he couldn’t refuse. Since that moment, it has been a whirlwind of preparations to ensure he is ready to embark on his journey to Namibia this upcoming week.
Ryan has diligently reviewed highlight videos from the Namibia Futsal League, seeking to comprehend the current style and skill level of the players, who form the initial pool of twenty-two national team selections, with further reductions underway to reduce the squad to 16.
Anticipating his arrival in Namibia, he recognises the impending challenge. Acknowledging that it is still a developing futsal nation with evident knowledge gaps, he sees this as a foundation to begin shaping their understanding of the game. He eagerly anticipates the opportunity to educate the players, introducing them to various systems and set plays to elevate their futsal knowledge.
Namibia is poised to enter the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for the first time, engaging in a face-off with Tanzania. The initial leg is scheduled in Windhoek on Feb. 3, followed by the second leg in Tanzania the subsequent week. Currently, Tanzania’s national futsal team is managed by an entity associated with the FA but operates independently. Despite limited information about their opponents, Ryan remains unfazed. His primary focus is on preparing his players to create history for their country, eagerly anticipating the moment when the national anthem plays while standing on the court.
Reflecting on his journey from working in an orphanage years ago, the honour of such a role was beyond his imagination. The excitement to contribute further to Namibia and its people propels him, fuelling his ambitions to assist the nation. Simply advancing to the final tournament would be a monumental achievement for the country and a testament to the dedicated individuals who have nurtured futsal in Namibia for many years. Recognising that they’ve provided him this opportunity, he is committed to doing everything in his power to repay them for their trust and belief in him.
Drawing inspiration from admired role models, Ryan points to Damon Shaw, a globetrotting English futsal coach and trailblazer, as a significant influence. Damon’s coaching ventures across Europe, Asia, and Oceania have illuminated the possibilities in futsal, serving as a beacon for coaches like Ryan.
Expressing his deep passion for the sport, Ryan envisions making it his full-time vocation. Reflecting on this upcoming experience and the potential for success in his new role, his aspiration, if the doors continue to open, is to climb the coaching ladder as high as possible. The ultimate goal includes being considered for coaching positions in other countries, especially in Europe.
“I wish to continually challenge myself, enhancing my experience and knowledge, with the hope of inspiring another generation of English coaches to view futsal as a remarkable opportunity,” Ryan articulates.
While careers undoubtedly involve aspiring to realise personal dreams, Ryan emphasises the importance of coaches not losing sight of their role in nurturing and developing the next generation. He accentuates the profound impact that actions in the coaching realm can have as sources of inspiration for young players. These emerging talents, often the future coaches, are the ones most likely to step into coaching roles. By doing so, coaches can awaken possibilities, ignite hope, and demonstrate that with unwavering dedication, others can embark on a similar path of fulfilment and achievement.
You can follow Ryan and his journey to Namibia along with his efforts to help the nation qualify for their first-ever Africa Futsal Cup of Nations final tournament via his TikTok channel on this link: https://vt.tiktok.com/ZGerhBqCP/
Author of the Article
Stephen McGettigan was born in the Republic of Ireland but grew up in Belfast. He is the founder of Futsal Focus, a Football Industries MBA graduate from the University of Liverpool Management School, and he has worked in the Football and Futsal industries for 15 years.
Futsal Focus is a supporter of Dáithí Mac Gabhann and his family’s campaign to raise awareness of Organ Donation. We encourage our readers to learn more about Organ Donation: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/
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