Reform of children’s football: revolution with mini-goals in full swing

Status: 9/9/2022 15:29

The major reform of children’s play management is already occupying many football clubs. It’s about costs, details – and the coach’s role.

The long-prepared reform of children’s play activities is occupying many football clubs throughout Germany. Although the so-called new forms of play are only mandatory from the 2024/2025 season, many state associations and circles already do without the classic seven-on-seven club duels.

According to the German Football Association (DFB), 60 percent of the 21 state associations are already changing the regular game operation across the board for the G-Juniors – also known as Bambini, U6 or U7. The children play on several courts in two-on-two or three-on-three on four mini-goals.

Breakthrough for Horst Wein’s Funino

This form of play has been known as Funino since the 1980s, an invention of former national hockey coach Horst Wein. With Funino, children have significantly more ball contact and a sense of accomplishment, as scientific studies have shown. In seven-a-side, on the other hand, weaker children are hardly involved in the game, and the two best players on a team have 80 percent of the ball actions.

The DFB is now reforming the game in the hope that the children will stop frustrated less often and develop so well that they will be available as talents for top football.

“Growing with the demands”

A guide to the future game operation of the E, F and G youth ensures a gradual transition to the game on the big field. The older the children get, the bigger the teams get, and the more often big goals and goalkeepers are involved – for the first time in the first F youth cohort. “The children can grow with the demands,” says Markus Hirte, head of talent development at the DFB.

In e-youth (U10 and U11), clubs can optionally hold six-on-six or seven-on-seven club duels. Secondary fields must ensure that the substitute players are also challenged.

Patchwork carpet with different variants possible

The DFB guide provides two game form variants to choose from for each age group. In practice, there will probably be significantly more deviations, because in many places the details of children’s play management are traditionally determined by the district associations.

The sports show has written to all 21 state associations about how they will implement the game forms. All replied that they would follow the DFB’s guidelines. But there are differences in the details. For example, the Football and Athletics Association of Westphalia (FLVW) recommends two instead of four mini-goals in three-on-three by Bambinis. The reason for this is, among other things, a lower organizational and cost effort, writes FLVW. Practice will show how well the kids can still score goals.

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Grassroots movement with pioneers

Several years of pilot projects and intensive discussions preceded the reform. In some regions, the new forms of play have been practiced for some time by grassroots movements or progressive officials. For example, Württemberg’s football association points out that it carried out the first pilot play days for children back in March 2011. In 2018, the association then decided to carry out Bambini and children’s play days according to the Funino principles.

In other regions, however, the new forms of play are hardly widespread. Some coaches or officials at the base reject the plans in principle because they think the changes are too drastic. Others are concerned about issues of detail. If you want to organize a game day according to the new forms of play, you ideally need 16 of the mini goals, which can cost up to 200 euros. “I expect from the DFB that when it prescribes new forms of play, it also contributes to the costs required for implementation,” writes Rainer Lauffer, youth leader of the Saarland Football Association.

Discussion of costs and organization

However, the DFB has not planned any direct financial support at this time. Among other things, he refers to creative solutions, for example that guest clubs can score goals, and to support from the state associations. Some have donated mini goals, others offer loan goals or discounts.

Another challenge for the volunteers in the clubs is the complex and labor-intensive organization of the game festivals. It would be useful, at least for the little ones, if there was a companion at each playground. The DFB points out that parents can also take on this task. Because they only have to make sure that all children are in the right place and that the game runs fairly smoothly.

New self-image for children’s soccer coaches

Loud calls and tactical instructions from the outside, on the other hand, are not wanted anyway, not even from the coaches, says DFB head of talent promotion Hirte: “The children do not have room to develop things themselves and gain experience. They always do what is dictated from the outside. This limits children in their development incredibly.”

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The coaches should therefore take a step back and let the children play as independently as possible – also in the training sessions. Hirte advises “to try more, to accompany more, to ask more questions than to give answers”.

The DFB would like to convey this self-image as widely as possible, also by introducing a children’s coaching certificate. This track is significantly cheaper and more compact than a classic coach license. The basic idea: street football must enter the clubs. “We want to create a framework where children can develop, where they can develop things independently and sometimes make mistakes,” says Hirte.

effect on training

Funino is considered to be the most suitable game form for this approach. The DFB is betting that it will be played more often in training. After all, Funino will be the preparation for the weekend for the little ones in the future – when all districts have switched to playing by 2024 at the latest.


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