Football: Interview with Reza Udwadia, holder of a UEFA B coaching licence | 23 June 2020
‘My dream is to use my career in football to travel the world’
It is a common trend for former football stars from various top leagues around the world to move into coaching. Seychellois Reza Henry Udwadia has also found his calling in the particular field, having recently completed his UEFA B licence.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) B Licence is a coaching licence mandated by the official governing body of European football. The licence is one level below the UEFA A licence and allows holders to be head coaches of men's amateur clubs, youths up to age 16, and assistant coaches for professional clubs.
Despite his busy schedule, coach Udwadia caught up with Sports NATION to walk us through his football journey which started over a decade ago.
Udwadia’s involvement in football began to spark back in 2008 when he was 13 years old.
He started out playing with my school football team – International School Seychelles (ISS) – and quickly developed an enthusiasm for the sport.
He took a keen interest in the position of goalkeeper and as at the time Edwin van der Sar was active for the Dutch national team, and due to his Dutch connection, regarded him (Van der Sar) to be his footballing idol and he would develop and replicate his mannerisms onto his own game.
“My ambition to challenge myself further on from a school team led to a brief stint with the Seychelles national youth team in 2009 and 2010, also known at that time as the Seychelles Pirates. I was involved only on a training basis but consider it to be one of the most integral moments of my development as a player. Further on from the Seychelles Pirates I returned to play for the ISS football team, and then went on to join SMB in 2012, Foresters in 2013 and lastly Victoria City in 2014. During the summer months of 2009 to 2013 I attended football camps abroad in The Netherlands, England and Spain which bolstered my technique and boosted my IQ of the game,” Udwadia told Sports NATION.
Transition to coaching
While he was at Victoria City in 2014 and doing his year 13 A-Levels at ISS, he was under heavy pressure to figure out his next academic move to university while trying to keep his involvement in football going. As he was already 19 he began to realise that he has a slim chance of making a career as a player due to the limitations of career progression in Seychelles at the time, and also as he considered himself to be a good player rather than an outstanding player, but with a genuine hard-working passion and knowledge for the game.
“The idea and interest of making the early transition as a player to coach was one which I had lingering on my mind and beginning to have serious consideration about. The motive was to change the focus of my career pathway to coaching as I felt I could be more successful going down that route as opposed to the player pathway, but while still maintaining my involvement of playing the game going,” said Udwadia.
“Further interest which fuelled the thought of transitioning was when I met and had a conversation with Bert van Marwijk, who was the coach of The Netherlands at the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, while on holiday in Greece the year before in 2013. I was interested to know the why, how and when he became a coach and his coaching career pathway. Additionally, local coaches of Seychelles such as coach Gerald Gonthier, coach Gavin Jeanne and coach Michel Renaud exhibited to me an interest in the field of coaching.
In 2014 while I was completing my last year of A-Levels, it became a consideration of mine to study something related to football at university, however at the time I did not know of any institution which offered a university education in the field of football, specifically coaching. The opportunity to study the generic fields of sport studies such as physical education, sports management, sports psychology, etc were available, however they were not to my preference. I was hesitant to commit myself to a study which I did not have a genuine interest in.
What followed next has been the moment from which my journey in football took off. A close friend of mine who was studying in Australia sent me a link over Facebook about a study at the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation in London. The course was a two-year Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Applied Football Coaching & Performance that was delivered by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation in collaboration with Tottenham Hotspur football club and Middlesex University London. As this study was exactly what I had been searching for, I sent through my application via UCAS and committed myself to doing the best I could to get a place on the course. On the day I got my final A-Level exam results I was devastated to learn that I did not achieve the suitable tariff points to be accepted onto the course. I sent an email to the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation quoting my under achievement of meeting the suitable tariff points. Upon their response I was thrown into exhilaration as despite my academic under achievement, I was granted a place on the course based on my none-academic achievements.”
Moving abroad and university studies
“I moved to London in September 2014 where I studied a Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Applied Football Coaching & Performance for two years at the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. The course was delivered by a Premier League club and professional environments such as White Hart Lane stadium, Hotspur Way training centre and The Lilywhite House were my course campuses. What was special about the course at the time in 2014 was that the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation in collaboration with Tottenham Hotspur football club and Middlesex University London were one of the first institutions in the world to offer an academic education in football coaching at university level. As a young student of the game having just recently made the transition into coaching, it was advantageous to have lecturers who were involved with the Spurs academy and first team, and of professional calibre to educate young coaches on the career pathway of coaching. The modules delivered during the two years on the course were the fundamentals of coaching, football fitness & nutrition, coaching & performance analysis, applied football science, professional practise & study skills, and professional practise & research methods.
After my two-year Foundation Degree study, I went on to complete a one-year top-up Bachelor’s Degree (BSc) in Football Science at Middlesex University London in 2016. During my Bachelor study Allianz Park stadium was my course campus and was equipped with state-of-the-art sport science equipment which serves to provide an environment for students to apply theoretical knowledge to practicality. The course modules of football coaching science, performance analysis, and research methods & dissertation were delivered by a well renowned team of lecturers that are experts in their particular sports career field.
“I then went on further another year at Middlesex University in 2017 to study a Master’s Degree (MSc) in Sports Performance Analysis. I chose the field of performance analysis as I believe that it has an integral role in modern day sport, therefore acquiring an education in the field of performance analysis at a university Master’s Degree level would positively complement my previous three years of University education in coaching. The modules on the course were performance analysis, biometric modelling & performance profiling, and research methods & dissertation.
My dissertation thesis was titled ‘Investigating The Relationship Between Ball Possession And Shots For Tottenham Hotspur Over The Course Of The 2014/2015, 2015/2016 And 2016/2017 Premier League Seasons’. The data collection process for the action variables used in the study took me around two months,” explained Udwadia.
He added that aide from academic education, during his time in London, he completed coaching licenses and awards with the English FA. He completed his Level 2 (UEFA C) coaching licence along with other licences and awards such as the Level 1 goalkeeper coaching license, Level 1 talent identification award and level 1 psychology award.
Living five years in London granted Udwadia the opportunity to attain a vast amount of experience to complement his academic learning. He invested his time and effort in multiple university placements which were compulsory on all three degrees to complement theoretical learning with practical experience, but also in work opportunities outside of academia. A few of the clubs and academies he was involved with are the Wolverhampton Wanderers development centre in London, the Tottenham Hotspur Women’s first team and the SuperSkills academy. He also took up the role as a cover supervisor in an array of London high schools which granted him the opportunity to gain classroom-based pedagogical experience.
“While I was at university I would come back to Seychelles for holiday and in the summer months of 2016 and 2017, invested my time and effort locally to work alongside coach Gerald Gonthier and chairman Marlon Naiken at Victoria City. Victoria City were one my favourite opportunities to have been involved with as at the time the club had a good vision for their project, was on the rise, had an excellent club culture, had good administrative structure and boasted a talented group of players,” claimed Udwadia.
Moving to the Netherlands
In September 2019, he moved to The Netherlands in search of an opportunity to get involved in Dutch football which is renowned worldwide. The move was a culture shock in terms of leaving the metropolis of London to a small town in the province of North Holland known as Hoofddorp. He managed to get an opportunity at Koninklijke HFC which is a club located just outside the city of Haarlem and plays in the third division of Dutch football. HFC is the second best amateur club in The Netherlands and a partner club of Ajax Amsterdam, therefore making it a good environment to be involved in as not only a player but also a coach.
“The club has a strong local culture as most players attend the same school, live in the same neighbourhood and play in the same team. My position at the club during the 2019-2020 season was as a youth coach for various teams of the club and also the assistant coach for the U15-1 Saturday team. There were challenges that I faced such as the language difference, particularly with players between the ages of eight to 12, and not being socially acquainted with the local area and people. However, over the course of the past nine months I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and I believe that has helped to a certain extent in making my integration into The Netherlands smoother,” he noted.
View on COVID-19
By now everyone worldwide should have a reasonable degree of knowledge in regards to the COVID-19 virus and the colossal effect it is having on the world. It is also having effects on numerous fronts in football.
From March 12 to the beginning of May all football in The Netherlands was called off. The amateur football leagues were cancelled with no promotion or relegation of clubs. However, since the beginning of May training resumed at HFC but with strict conditions. For players aged 13 and above in The Netherlands, the 1.5 metre social distancing rule has to be applied on the field while training. 1.5 metres is the minimum length to be observed however when players begin to breathe more heavily it would be wise to increase the distance. Football is a contact sport with physical duels which give the sport its flair, therefore not having that contact element has had an impact on how players, especially the youth, adapt to the game. As coaches we have had to adapt our practises to incorporate the 1.5 metre distancing rule and that has posed numerous challenges. Planning a session which incorporates distancing is easy however delivering the session is the main challenge as often players may forget about the distancing rule. As a coach it is our duty to keep players in check but a lot of empowerment to be compliant is also required from their side.
“At elite level the virus has had a catastrophic effect on the economy of football. In the Premier League in England when the season was paused, clubs were not generating any income they usually get from ticket sales and game broadcasts. Players had to take wage cuts and many club staff were offloaded due to insufficient funds to pay salaries. Since the Premier League resumed games are being played with no supporters present which poses a challenge to players of not having the element of a crowd present. For supporters each game feels more like watching a training session. Revenue has somewhat picked up due to games once again being broadcasted, however it is only a small compensation to the enormous financial losses sustained.
“Clubs which have financial superpower backing such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are at an advantage to sign players in the transfer market as despite the financial losses sustained, they have large sums of money in reserve and can turn to their owners for additional funds. Clubs which are not so fortunate in this aspect lose out on signing players and rather find themselves having to sell players to generate income. Clubs have had to turn to virtual alternatives such as having large screen monitors installed behind the goals in stadiums to broadcast to players the fans that are watching the game from their television, laptop, phone or tablet to give a feel of their presence within the stadium,” explained Udwadia who added that “until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed football may well remain how it currently is. Let’s all hope that the experts of medicine can find a solution to the pandemic.”
Those who have supported me
On his journey so far, Udwadia has had support from many people. “My family has supported me from the beginning while my friends have also been there along the way. My girlfriend has also supported me in my journey thus far. There are numerous people who have given me support, motivation, kind words and opportunities. It could take a whole day to write their names down. All of them have played and some still continue to play a part in my development. I always believe that it helps to have a trusted group of people I can turn to for a broader perspective of opinions on a certain matter which helps me to make more informed decisions.”
Acceptance on the UEFA B coaching licence
Two months ago in May, Udwadia received confirmation that his application with the Scottish FA for the UEFA B coaching licence was accepted. Since then he has completed the online theory learning and is currently working on assignments for the course. Due to the COVID-19 virus the theory learning of the course was moved to be delivered online via Zoom instead of in person at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
“The UEFA B coaching licence is a huge step forward in my development as a coach and is further broadening my education and knowledge. Despite the credentials I have attained so far, I still keep that open-minded approach to absorb new information as was the case on day one at the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. The UEFA B coaching licence with the Scottish FA is giving me plenty of that. The B licence spans for a period of one season. The course is delivered by the Scottish FA, however I will be based in The Netherlands with HFC whereby I will complete the course assignments and final assessment with a team of the club. Part of the course involves on-field learning in Glasgow so I hope at some point next season I will be able to head over to Scotland to complete that part of the course, and meet in person the Scottish FA lecturers and fellow candidate coaches that I have so far met over Zoom,” noted Udwadia.
Plans for the near future and next season
Currently the football season in The Netherlands is over and is expected to resume in September.
The season never did finish but was rather cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus. Over the summer months, Udwadia said he would like to turn his attention to his business VIWA Football Performance Training which he set up in The Netherlands. The business aims to support players away from their team involvement by developing various aspects of their game such as their technique and physique for example. The business also offers online training programmes therefore players in Seychelles who want to be supported by having their own personalised training programme can get in touch despite being afar.
Udwadia also noted that next season will be his biggest year thus far. “I will be continuing my learning on the UEFA B coaching licence while aiming to develop players at HFC to assist them on their player journey. Coaching is about putting players first and helping them to develop, but in order to be able to develop talented players, coaches also need to invest in their own progression. My dream is to use my career in football to travel the world. I would love to travel to different countries to work by teaching the game. A return to Seychelles in the future for more than just the occasional vacation period does cross my mind. For that to be realised in footballing terms and other than my own decision, a club with a solid structure, good project, good training field, reasonably well funded and has committed members and players needs to be available and express genuine interest. Seychelles has a lot of potential and I would be delighted to further contribute my part to its development under the fitting conditions,” he concluded.