The Future Stars Invitational U-17 Women’s tournament in Auckland is helping to raise the profile of the women’s game in the build up to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup hosted in
New Zealand October.
When talking about profile and Women’s football it is impossible to look past USA.
At senior level a FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy and two gold medal winning performances at the Olympics are complemented by a world ranking that has never dropped outside the top
two since the creation of FIFA’s women’s rankings. USA won the inaugural FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and it’s safe to bet their U-17’s are aiming to replicate the feat and once again complete
the set of FIFA trophies in October.
The USA U-17 Women’s team is led by Head Coach Kazbek Tambi who has been the U 16 National team coach since 2005 and took over the U-17 role last year. Tambi has also coached in
the New Jersey Olympic Development Program, and served as the head coach for several prominent club teams, such as the Arsenal World Class Women’s Team. Tambi holds a USSF “A” License, the
highest level in America.
Kazbek Tambi found time to sit down with OFC and discuss success, the US College system, and what brought his side down under.
Why did you decide to come to New Zealand for the future stars tournament?
Well the world cup is going to be here in New Zealand in and with it being so far away from where we are in the states we thought it would be a tremendous opportunity to get a
feel for the country, the climate and the whole soccer environment so that when we came here after qualifications for the world cup we would be ahead of the game and know what we had to look
Why is the USA so successful in Women’s Football while the Men find it harder to make such a dominating impression on the world scene?
The men have a pretty decent side and we got to the final eight two world cups ago but in men’s soccer there are so many other strong countries. On the women’s side of the
equation the game is relatively new, not only to the United States but also to the rest of the world and I feel that year by year the game is definitely improving. I think that the US had a
head start over the rest of the world in terms of when the game began more than 30 years ago whereas in other countries women weren’t playing the game. Now more and more strong countries are
coming onto the scene and you can see that based on the last world cup with countries like Brazil and Korea becoming such powerhouses and all the other countrie catching up.
In the US , top young talent progresses through the college soccer system where their athletic talents are rewarded with large scholarships to play and study at the same
time. Do you see this as an important part of developing US Women’s soccer?
The main advantage for any of these players who want to play in college is that they can get a free education at the same time which in the United States has become increasingly
expensive. Some institutions cost of around $40,000 a year without a scholarship which is incredibly expensive, so that’s the chief benefit.
As far as the soccer goes it can be hit and miss because of the vast number of colleges. There are many college program’s which are really terrific and will continue the development of players
but there are also colleges depending on the coach and the program that will hinder the development.
I have a mixed view of the whole thing; I’m actually a University coach myself at Seton Hall Univeristy just outside New York City so I’m pretty familiar with that scene. But the most
outstanding advantage is that they get a free education.
What advice would you give for some of the top players in Oceania who may be interested in pursuing that option into the US college system?
The first thing I would say is make sure you do your homework. There are a few hundred different programs out there and they vary tremendously in terms of the level of coaching
and the level of the soccer. Someone from Oceania with limited knowledge may go somewhere and not really have a clue as to what they’re getting into and I think they really need to do their
research and talk to people who are very familiar with the college scene before they go out and look closer at some of the schools out there. I would be happy to be a resource to any kids
in Oceania who are looking to head over to the states.
After watching New Zealand’s game against Germany what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in the New Zealand game?
I thought the game was more indicative of Germany’s strengths then New Zealand’s weaknesses with them being one of the top teams in the world. I felt New Zealand was very strong
and aggressive and they won a lot of 50-50 situations. They were also very positive and tried to keep the ball. At times it broke down but you could see that there was a conscious effort to
really play high level soccer. There were a couple of technical breakdowns and in some cases the Germans were a little bit sharper but I thought it was a good match and I think New Zealand is
one of those kind of countries that can be a whole lot better with good training and good work.
Who are the players in your current squad to look for in the future?
It’s hard to say because this is one of the first competitions that we’ve come to. Prior to this we just had some training camps and we haven’t even gone to our qualifications
yet which we’re expected to do sometime in the spring. I’ll probably have a much greater picture at the end of this tournament and in the upcoming weeks. We’ve got a pretty well rounded
group at the moment as far as I can see. As far as the ones who are a little more special we will be able to see over the next couple of months.
*New Zealand face the United States at 6.00pm on Thursday, january 31, 2008