On the 10th of April, the ECA Youth Task Force visited the training centre of AFC Ajax Amsterdam. The Ajax Academy called "De Toekomst" ("the future" in Dutch), enrols about 240 youngsters between the ages of 7 and 19. The aim of Ajax is a simple one: to form talented young players, raise them to top football players and bring them into the first team.
The youth teams are trained in exactly the same way as the first team and the youth players are therefore already accustomed to Ajax's style of play. In fact, since the 90's all teams at Ajax are playing the 4-3-3 system with the so-called "Total Football" approach, a tactic which was first created by Rinus Michels and then further developed by Johan Cruyff. Today, AFC Ajax continue to be innovative by implementing a new approach importing new technologies into the coaching methods through its Micoach system, a numeric tool taking into account various players' physical parameters.
The information gathered during this visit will form part of the first ECA Youth Academy Benchmarking Guide, which is set to be published in Autumn 2012. The aim of this benchmarking guide is to provide advice and share experiences from youth development strategies in order to improve the functioning of club academies. It will also help improve ECA knowledge relating to youth academies and allow members to learn from each other by offering examples of best practice. The ECA Youth Task Force comes to an end with the visits of the youth academies of FC Internazionale Milano, Arsenal FC, NK Dinamo Zagreb, R. Standard de Liège, FC Levadia Tallinn, FC Bayern München and Sporting Clube de Portugal, RC Lens, AFC Ajax Amsterdam.