Balague: learning lessons from Juan Mata and Eddie Jones at Soccerex

Guillem Balague.
Guillem Balague.

Be it Biggleswade or Barcelona, I have always known that football has the power to change society for the better and improve people’s lives, but if I ever doubted it, a wonderful week at the annual Soccerex Convention has re-affirmed what I have always known to be true.

I was privileged to be invited along as one of the interviewers for the convention and also to meet up with my chairman, Chris Lewis who was there in a networking capacity for the club but also found time to take part in a discussion on non-league football that I chaired. More on that next week.

I was humbled to speak to Juan Mata, one of the nicest and most articulate men ever to play the game, about his decision to sign up with Common Goal which will see him as just one of 12 stars committed to pledging one per cent of their wages to the Berlin-based charity streetfootballworld, which currently invests in more than 120 football-based charities in 80 countries.

“We’re not trying to change football but hopefully help as many people as we can through football, which makes sense because football is a big force for unity and good in the world,” he explained.”

“It’s not about how much, it’s about bringing it all together. My one per cent can’t help a lot but add another one per cent and another and another and we can help much more – that’s what we’re trying to do.”

There are currently thought to be 12 players who have signed up to the plan, two of who will be announced next week with more to follow.

It was also humbling to speak to the England rugby coach, Eddie Jones, probably one of the greatest coaches in the world yet still more than prepared to listen and learn from all sports in order to become even better.

Speaking about a training session he witnessed under Pep Guardiola he told me, “It changed the way I coach.

“It was just really enlightening how hard they worked in that 20 minutes and how he was embedding his philosophy on that team and how the players had bought into it.

“I remember them coming off and they had sweat pouring off them. I have watched many football teams train and they were down here and he was up there.

“It definitely changed the way that I coach. I work the players a lot harder now.”

In one of the most enjoyable interviews I can ever recall doing, Eddie talked about all manner of things related to coaching, not least how failure can make you more hungry and how if you want to be a part of something special you have to find that purpose, desire and motivation to move out of your comfort zone, to go where you are uncomfortable.

I shared a copy of the interview with our chief coach, Cristian Colás. My overriding feeling is that if a man as great as him has shown that he is prepared to learn from others then surely we should also be ready and willing to learn from him. Inspiring stuff and you can pick it up by following the link on my twitter site. I urge you to listen to it.

Back to business and it’s FA Vase time. On Saturday we travel to Norfolk for a first qualifying round game against Downham Town who play in the Eastern Counties League Division One. Then on Tuesday it’s back to league duties when we welcome St Margaretsbury to Second Meadow.