El Centrocampista

NATURE AND NURTURE IN ANDALUSIA – The Real Betis approach to football

By David Smith

As everyone knows football has manifested itself into a game played by the strictest of professionals.

No longer are fans treated to the delights of a portly centre back winning everything in the air, or a chubby winger with seemly unrivalled ball skills.

No, football has changed; imagine Jan Mobly trying to man mark Messi now-a-days.

The backroom staff at most clubs far exceeds the playing staff and Real Betis are no different.

After winning the Segunda División the Betis board were concerned about the squads health and fitness and feared it was not up to scratch with others in La Liga.

Nutritionist Francisco Martin has been charged with educating and enforcing the new individual player diets.

This, of course, is nothing new.

Coach Pepe Mel has a strong backroom staff.

Since the turn of the millennium clubs all over the world have fast been improving fitness by employing nutritionists and medical personnel.

Betis, however, have gone one step further.

The recruitment of two new psychologists at Betis sees their tally rise to three.

Head psychologist Patricia Ramirez has been joined by Antonio Lopez and Federico Alatriste Cañestro Harrsch.

Given their rise in numbers the team will now be able to offer support to all areas of the club.

Something the board hope will reap rewards in both the sort and long term.

The new appointments mean that the youth setup will now have access to full time psychiatric help.

Developing the players mentally as well as physically, and giving the appropriate support, is seen as another step in the right direction after years of instability.

Youth set-ups are designed to breed the next generation of footballing stars.

With this being the sole aim it can create an environment of ‘survival of the fittest’.

With academies taking on youngsters as young as 10 years of age this environment is often too much.

Betis feel that with extra nurturing help more talent such as captain Arzu (who joined the club as a boy and made his first team debut in 2000) can break into the first team.

Currently seven members of the first team squad started their footballing career at Betis; something that both the fans and management would love to see increase.

There are doubters of course.

Questions are being asked of the necessity of increasing the already high wage bill.

Some sceptics believe unique talents could be striped of a chance to make it in the game and that this is just another opportunity to increase professionalism by psychological moulding.

How Reading and Cardiff centre forward Robin Friday would have reacted to an hour session with a shrink is an interesting, if not dangerous, thought.

However, Betis clearly feel that the extra support given to the team will aid in their transition from the Seconda Division to the much tougher La Liga and, therefore, avoid another relegation scrap this season. Only time will tell if the side’s mental attitude can really produce improvements on the pitch, but this is yet another interesting development in modern football nevertheless.

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