Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Coach-turned-electrician Withe wants to work on team's mentality

Zakki P Hakim Jakarta

After being assigned to take in charge of the Indonesia's U-20 team, Peter Withe says that the mental attitude of the team would be upgraded in order to make itself a strong team in the future.

The 52-year-old coach from Britain said that It was important for him to get to know the mental attitude of his team members.

"The right mental attitude should be that playing soccer is not just a game of kick and run. It's like all the jobs you do.., you need to use your brain. You have to think in playing soccer," he said.

"Soccer is not about always winning. You improve the standard of soccer all around, winnings will come along the way. You have to work hard to win," he told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.

After being rumored to take Vietnam's offer, Withe, a former English Premiership's Aston Villa striker, signed a four-year contract as Indonesia's head coach in March.

He has ended up in partnership with the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) after his five-year stint with Thailand from 1998 to 2003, during which he brought the Thai soccer team to finish fourth in two Asian Games in 1998 and 2002, to the Tiger Cup victory in 2000 and 2002.

The contract value is not known but PSSI says that Withe is paid about the same range with his previous salary in Thailand, where he was said to receive about US$14,000 a month.

Withe said that he had chosen Indonesia instead of other countries because he found tremendous desire and commitment from PSSI, support from the people and most importantly the soccer fans for their teams.

"As I noticed in last year's Tiger Cup in Jakarta, hundreds of thousands of people were watching their team. If the national team had this kind of support, it is the nucleus in making the team good," he said.

Withe's main task is to develop the Indonesia's U-20 team into a strong senior team in four years. His real test will come next September when he leads the team to the Asian Championship in Kuala Lumpur.

And Withe has around three years to polish his players in term of skills as well as psychological field. The team already looks tough when it held India to a 1-1 draw last week.

Withe said he had observed that the national team played as well as some of the local clubs in premier league. But he said that players were still lacking the knowledge of play organization.

"At the moment, the mentality here is I am defender and my job is only defending, you are striker and your job is only striving to score," he said and added that whenever the players did not have the ball, they to stand still and watch others play. "On the field you are players not spectators!"

For Withe soccer is a war that becomes into 11 battles. He explained that in the field, there were 11 players and they normally play a one to one challenge, where stopper play against striker, while left winger against right winger.

"There you have 11 battles. If you win all 11, you might get 6-0 result. You win only six battles, then you have a fifty-fifty chance of winning, while winning only four battles, you would definitely lost by big score," he said.

"I told the team: You have 11 strikers and 11 stoppers. If you are without the ball, you are all stoppers and if you have the ball, you are strikers," said Withe, who has 11 full international caps for England and was a squad member in the 1982 World Cup.

The players must constantly think and anticipate the game, not only kicking and chasing the ball, and therefore Withe is educating them on the art of soccer, apparently in a 4-4-2 format.

"Whatever happens, the picture of a match is constantly changing, not in every ten minutes, but in every second. While you are standing and watching the opponent made a score," he said.

Using the 4-4-2 format requires the players to constantly moving to fill in posts left by other players to do other roles.

"It is as if the players were attached on a string, so whenever one player move, the others will have to move to maintain the format," he said.

"No more spectators on the field."

Born in Liverpool, Withe started his professional soccer career as a late developer, when he was 18 years old, at Southport FC while keeping his job as an electrician working a port in his birth city.

"I played soccer in my spare time, when friends started suggesting me to play professional. So eventually I joined Southport," he said.

In his career, he had played for among others Wolverhampton Wanderers, U.S. soccer club Portland Timbers, Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Sheffield United.

He considered his key achievement while playing for the clubs was when he scored the winning goal for Aston Villa in the 1982 European Cup.

Withe recollected that playing for Southport he was paid 25 poundsterlings per week, while during his peak career as Aston Villa's top striker he received 600 pounds per week or an annual of up to 50,000 pounds plus bonuses.

"Nowadays, a player like David Beckham could earn the same amount in two days. I guess I was born in the wrong time," he said jokingly.