Interview with Felix Magath
Felix Magath played professional soccer from 1972 until 1986. After that, the 57-year-old worked as club manager and began his coaching career in 1992. We met Felix Magath "on Schalke" and talked about his attitude and modern, professional soccer.
BENEFITS OF EXPERIENCE AS A PROFESSIONAL
Mr. Magath, you worked for various professional associations as player and coach. Which experiences do you use today ?
As a player I played in one of the best club teams in the world. With Hamburg SV we won three German championships and two of four European Cup finals. At the time I learned how to bring players and teams to the top under coaches Branco Zebec and Ernst Happel. These insights I try to implement in my teams as coach.
What is the basis of your work and therefore your success as a coach ?
My success in the past years is based on intensive work. Although this fact is increasingly pushed into the background in soccer through increased marketing, the event character and public attention, the basis of our performance is still sports. And if you want to improve, you have to reach for performance limits.
GAME SYSTEMS OF COACH MAGATH
Do you have a system you rely on, or do you form a team, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the players and a system ?
Both. On the one hand I have a clear vision of a system. On the other hand I adjust to the possibilities of the players and the team. Basically I watch the players and analyse: "Which abilities does a player have, how does he play and where should he be integrated into a system?" From this information, we develop the game-system for a team.
Once you have assessed the potential of the entire team, you only need train the system diligently...
... well, that's more complicated. Quite the contrary, I want to argue that soccer is the most complex game of all. Everyone thinks chess would be difficult. But in my mind, it's relatively easy, because the abilities of the characters are always the same. These parameters do not change.
Felix Magath & Chess
COMPLEXITY OF SOCCER
Why is soccer more complicated than chess for you ?
In soccer, the skills of the players not only change from game to game or from one month to another, but they even vary during a game. In addition, there are uncertainties due to external influences, for example, due to referee's decisions which may affect the performance of each player, parts of a system or the whole team.
If you list the influential factors, one might think soccer is unpredictable.
Yes, and this unpredictability is part of the essence of the game. The result is almost always open, and you can never be sure how a game ends. In this respect, it is also difficult to assess our own actions and to evaluate what was right or wrong. In such a complex structure like a soccer team, many things can go wrong.
COMMUNICATION - INFLUENCES
How do you talk to your players ?
The answer to the question is difficult for me because I am careful with generalizing. Situations in a soccer teams constantly change and therefore you have to handle the players and influences with flexibility...
... which influences do you mean ?
Players live in a sportive and personal environment and are exposed to many influences. Among the difficulties a coach has to deal with, are Illnesses, injury or even private problems like lovesickness. Because of these various factors, I cannot follow a long-term training plan for soccer teams, instead I plan in the short terms only, sometimes from day to day.
Felix Magath & Coaches
TEAM RULES - TEAM TRAINING
Is there any other behavior or thinking that you teach your players aside from the team rules ?
I want to train with smart players. They should understand that soccer is a serious profession or not a pastime. Therefore one must be willing to work and always try to reach the performance limits - that is part of my way of working. Players are able to assess their situation realistically, and I show them ways to succeed.
How do you speak with the players, do you use many individual conversations ?
I try to discuss most things in the group. In those common conversations I clearify that we belong together, and in the group anything can be said. In addition to the different origins, which partly caused by language problems - misunderstandings can arise through individual meetings.
TRUST - TRAINER PLAYERS
If I was player, would you be available to talk to me at any time ?
Yes, I am available for everyone. But players rarely accept this offer. I don't think, it's because of me, since all coaches in team sports are concerned, rather, the inhitions are on the side of the players side.
What is the reason for these inhibitions ?
A trainer can tell a player "You do not play". In this situation, players don't know where they stand or whether they will play. That's why they probalbly rarely confide in coaches. And often I have to make decisions for a game position. I don't decide against anyone, but for an alternative and with the team in mind.
Pfaff, E. (2010). "Soccer is the most complex game ever." Competitive Sports (Leistungssport). 40 (2) pp 25-30.