Maltese Futsal: national team head coach interview
Courtesy: Times of Malta
Hermans keen to leave lasting legacy
by Kevin Azzopardi
Vic Hermans walked into Maltese football without much fanfare last summer but in the nine months he’s been plying his trade here, the Dutch coach has become synonymous with the game of futsal.
Universally acclaimed as one of the leading futsal experts worldwide, Hermans had initially been sounded out by Malta FA president Joe Mifsud to help him earmark a suitable candidate to take over from Czech Michael Striz as coach of the national futsal team.
“I met Dr Mifsud at the 2008 U-21 Futsal Championship in Russia,” Hermans recalled when we met for an interview at the Corradino Pavilion, the country’s hub of five-a-side football.
“Dr Mifsud asked me if I knew someone who could develop futsal in Malta. Having been to countries like Iran, Hong Kong and Malaysia as FIFA instructor for futsal, I said to Dr Mifsud that this was what I specialise in.
“The MFA president told me something like ‘I don’t think we can persuade you to work in Malta’ but I replied: ‘We can talk about it’.
“In February 2009, I met Dr Mifsud in Malta. During my stay here, I watched Malta play in a UEFA qualifying tournament.
“We decided to speak again and in August I signed a three-year contract with the Malta FA with an option to extend it for another two years.”
Before venturing into coaching, Hermans had a glittering career as a futsal player. For 12 years, he was a key member of the Dutch team and in 1989, he was named Most Valuable Player at the first World Championship, held in Holland.
In the early years of his coaching career, Hermans had spells with Dutch club Roda JC and Lommel in Belgium before deciding to devote all his attention to futsal.
For nine years, Hermans was in charge of the futsal sector in his home country where he implemented a new programme aimed at boosting the level of the game in Holland. He also masterminded the country’s qualification to the 2005 Euro Championships.
Hermans revealed he had received offers to coach five-a-side clubs elsewhere but opted to take the Malta job instead.
“I had offers from clubs in Russia and Spain but I chose Malta because I prefer to coach to a national team,” Hermans said.
“I’ve been involved in coaching on a national level for 20 years. For me, coaching a national team is a long-term project whereas with clubs, you’re pushing for results straightaway.”
Given his remarkable CV, Hermans’s appointment as national futsal coach ought to have been given significant exposure in the local media but his unveiling was overshadowed by the announcement that John Buttigieg had stepped in as Malta coach after Dusan Fitzel had to relinquish his duties because of health problems.
Unflustered by the lack of publicity surrounding his appointment, Hermans set about the task of improving and strengthening the structure of futsal in Malta.
“One of my main challenges is to improve the organisation of the futsal teams,” Hermans said.
“The Division One clubs must work harder to bolster their technical set-up which should be made up of professional people like coach, assistant coach and physiotherapist.
“As for the level of the game, there is certainly room for progress but I’ve been heartened by the response of the teams. In domestic games, I’ve seen teams adopt certain tactics and moves that we practise in training with the national squad. This shows that teams are learning from the experience of their national players.
“I’ve seen some positive developments over the past eight months. Recently, I was watching a local game when Paola Downtown took off their goalkeeper and put in another outfield player.
The players in the national squad train twice every week with Hermans.
“At present, I have a squad of 20,” Hermans said.
“The idea is to foster stronger competition among the players. From the previous squad, I only retained four players and one of the newcomers is Jonathan Magri Overend (a former Malta international).”
Hermans is keen to raise the level of Maltese players in a tactical and technical sense but he’s also championing radical changes to the game’s overall structure.
“There are many areas I would like to improve,” Hermans said.
“The collective movement of players, set-pieces and the ‘flying goalkeeper’ option are important areas but I also want to improve the competition structure. There are 84 teams in four divisions but players need permission from the Malta FA to play futsal.
“What I’m suggesting is that, to aid the development of young players, we should introduce a futsal competition for youths who are registered with local football clubs. Once a week, the youths will play five-a-side at an indoor venue. There is certainly room for more co-operation between football and futsal.
“We need to start grooming futsal players early. There are 881 registered futsal players in Malta and 50 per cent are over 30. It’s an inverted pyramid but I want to change things. The existing rules make it difficult to attract youngsters but reducing the average age of futsal players is one of my top priorities.”
Like every other coach, Hermans also wants to leave his mark by leading his team to new heights.
“My first target is for Malta to win a competitive game in futsal,” he said.
“I also hope that the national team win a preliminary tournament during my time here. It’s difficult, I know, but I believe we can do it.”