The Esler Soccer Field was filled with lakecity and Cariboo players last week for the 15th annual Williams Lake European Football School.
Hosted by the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association, the school affords lakecity athletes the chance to learn fresh, new and exciting techniques from veterans of the sport. This year around 73 youth from U7 to U17 took to the fields from July 16 to July 19 for an intense four-day camp.
The soccer pitch was alive with laughter, the sound of feet connecting with balls and the ever-present and familiar coaching style of EFS head coach Saibo Talic. His tiny frame and laugh-lined face hides a deep and burning passion for soccer, better known around the world as football, and coaching it.
Talic has been coming to the lakecity since 2004, save in 2017 due to the wildfires, after a former player of his suggested he connect with the WLSA. He started with around 60 youth and has loved coming to the lakecity ever since, bringing in different coaches from across Europe over the years. Every year Talic also takes players from across the province on a trip to Europe and often selects players from Williams Lake to fill out his squad.
“We more work on skills, to me skills is the number one thing. The tactical part you can improve so quickly but skills is so important especially for players,” Talic said.
Passing on the skills and knowledge he’s built up since his youth playing professionally in Yugoslavia has been an important part of Talic’s identity since his mid-twenties. So much so that when he came to Canada in 1993 he worked as a coach for various universities before eventually founding EFS in 2000. Today around 13,000 Canadian players go through his program every year which has led to many of Talic’s former mentees going on to play at the national and international levels.
Finding raw talent in communities like Williams lake is always exciting for Talic and something he enjoys nurturing and encouraging. While these players have the potential to go on to play professionally with the proper coaching, Talic said the biggest obstacle in their way is how short the soccer season is across Canada.
In addition, he feels that more coaches should embrace his European-style coaching techniques other than the ones used by the English coaches.
“Soccer is my passion and my love. I have 164 books of soccer, just soccer, tapes and videos, but what you have in your head, all the skills to improve soccer (is there),” Talic said, encouraging coaches to tell their players to expect the unexpected and act unpredictably.
Something he hopes to introduce to his lakecity EFS camp in the future is a two-hour session where he sits down with the coaches and passes on his methods and skills. While he has a Canadian A Coaching Licence, Talic admits his English is not the best and feels they may have an easier time passing on what he knows in his brain and his legs to the players.
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The WLSA as a whole has around 900 players registered in it, Talic said, while he only gets the chance to coach around 50 of them at the camp. By getting a chance to sit down with the coaches, he feels he’d be able to indirectly help more of the club.
The Tribune asked several of the players at the EFS camp about what they thought of the proposal to build a sports complex with an indoor field for the winter. All said that they would definitely use it if it was built and supported such an action.
“I live in 100 Mile House, but if they had a sports complex here, I’d travel here just to use it,” said Ella Birtwistle, one of the players.
These same players all confirmed they were enjoying the camp and said they planned to attend it again next year when Talic and the EFS return.