This year Spain won its first world cup. It did so against the Netherlands. The significance is that the Spanish style of soccer “tiki-taka” was created from the Netherlands greatest player, Johan Cryuff, while managing Barcelona – who was a product of the Dutch “totaalvoetbal” (Total Football) system. They share a history that has brought two countries to the top of the football world. Coincidentally, I see hints of this system at play within the “team” at Gangplank.
The tika-taka style has technically gifted, yet physically small players that have excellent touch, acute vision and passing, as well as excel at maintaining possession. Gangplank is in Chandler, AZ, a physically small market, but it has players that pursue excellence at their craft. As a collective whole, they have a very specific vision of what they want their game to look like and are selfless at passing the proverbial ball around the field in order to achieve their goals. They understand that controlling the game is far more important than being the most gifted athletically.
Tiki-Taka is all about small, precise and carefully executed passes working the ball through various channels. It takes an immense amount of patience and focus to maintain possession. Likewise, those at Gangplank aren’t in a rush to find the back of the net. Maintaining possession and building up for the right time to strike is perfectly okay for them.
The style is balanced by maintaining possession in such a way that attacking and defending occur at the same time – allowing for a flair of creativity and a brilliance of touch to be added. Gangplank has that sense of personality as it is always attacking and defending in the same motion, giving it the ability to be confident on the ball at all times and to add its flair at will. Defeated Germany’s Honigstein declared the Spanish style as “the most difficult version of football possible: an uncompromising passing game, coupled with intense, high pressing, relying on ball movement rather than switching of positions. Spain was able to control both the ball AND the opponent”. Gangplank has the same intensity and its spirit of “doing” is high pressure with a fast pace movement of the ball that keeps opponents under control.
In Total Football, a player who moves out of position is replaced by another member of the team, thus retaining the team’s intended organizational structure. In this fluid system, no player is fixed in a nominal role. Anyone can be successful as an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. The only player fixed in a nominal position is the goalkeeper. Gangplank similarly requires that each member be comfortable in a number of areas. They must have the ability to quickly switch positions depending on the on-field situation. This dynamic ability allows the relentless attack of opportunities the minute they appear.
This style requires the players to be confident and is physically and technically demanding. In the same way Gangplank requires players that are willing to work hard to be the best at what they do. Space and creation are at the center of Total Football. This is the essence of Gangplank. Every player is required to be able to create and use of space is at the heart of making opportunity happen. It is this spatial awareness and ability to create that allows serendipity to flow freely.
“It was about making space, coming into space, and organizing space-like architecture on the football pitch,” said Hulshoff. The system developed organically and collaboratively. Gangplank and Total Football both are successful because they self organizing and collaborative towards an end goal.
Cruyff states “Simple football is the most beautiful. But playing simple football is the hardest thing.” I find Gangplank hard to describe on so many levels, yet at its core it is the most simple thing I have ever participated in. A contradiction of sorts.
The biggest similarity, perhaps, is the importance that the Dutch placed on their youth players. In fact, the youth academy of the famed Dutch football club, Ajax, is called De Toekomst — The Future. Gangplank also understands that the future is in the youth. We have created Gangplank Junior to show young players that it is okay to create and self-organize – that possession of the ball, simple play and technical excellence allow you compete with the teams that are bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic.
10 Principles of the Gangplank System:
- Demand Technical Excellence
- Require Vision
- Be Dynamic and Fluid. Distribute Accordingly.
- Create and Use of Space to Your Advantage
- Be Patient, Yet Always Attacking
- Encourage Creativity and Brilliance
- Apply Relentless Pressure
- Be Self-Organizing
- Play Simple
- Training Our Youth is Our Future
What principles does your team adhere to?