Mongolia’s German Coach shares his unique football coaching experience in Asia, Africa & Manchester United
With 10 years of coaching experience in Japan, China and Philippines, German Coach Hans Michael Weiss is no stranger to Asian football. The UEFA Pro License holder is currently in town and will be leading
With 10 years of coaching experience in Japan, China and Philippines, German Coach Hans Michael Weiss is no stranger to Asian football. The UEFA Pro License holder is currently in town and will be leading Mongolia National Team in an upcoming International Friendly against Singapore. Junpiter Futbol sit down with the former Rwanda Football Association Technical Director for a coffee as he speaks about football and his unique internship experience with Manchester United & more…
You have spent many years coaching in Asia. Tell us more about your time here in this part of the world and also share with us your view on Asian football.
I first came to Asia 20 years ago and it has still been a very interesting journey thus far. I started coaching in one of the top Japanese High Schools, Kunimi High School where it is known to be a breeding ground for many top Japanaese footballers. One of them whom I have coached was J.League All-Time goal scorer Yoshito Okubo. After 2 years with the High School, I went on to work with former German International Gert Engels and spent 3 years with J.League’s Kyoto Sanga.
In 2004, I took on the assistant coaching role, assisting my football mentor and also former head coach of VfL Wolfsburg, Korea Republic & Tunisa’s Eckhard Krautzun with China U-20 and China Olympic Team. We did well to qualify and played in the FIFA World Youth Championship in Netherlands in the following year. I am also glad that many of our players such as Gao Lin, Feng Xiao Ting, Hao Jun Min and many more are still currently playing for China National Team. Thereafter, I was away coaching in Africa for 4 years but returned to Asia as the head coach of Philippines National Football Team in 2011. And now, I am the head coach of Mongolia U-23 & National Football Team.
Talk about Asian football, it was so different as compared to 6 years ago. Football in Asia, as in all levels, has definitely improved and developed rapidly. Just look at the World Cup this year, Korea Republic stunned the world by beating my country Germany and left many people in shock. But if you know how the football is developing in this part of the world, you will understand that victory of Korea Republic’s in Russia was no sheer luck. I wouldn’t want to say any team could defeat any team, that’s absolutely not the case. What I meant is with right tactics, good defense or by making the spaces tight, it will be hard for even big teams to penetrate the defense.
In addition, especially since I have coached in Africa, the monetary support in Asia is certainly much stronger. And it is getting stronger as we speak. In modern football, you can’t disagree that if the monetary support is in place, development tends to move more rapidly.
You have coached extensively in Japan for some years, what are the things that really make them stand out from the rest of the countries in Asia?
Japanese football is built up from a solid foundation of disciplined football. Their players are so disciplined that they would train and play to very specific instruction. Not only that, Japan also have a lot of hardworking people who are put in the right position in the Football Association and J.League to make things work. Everyone in the organization, regardless position, strives to make football work in the country. For Southeast Asia, the people here are tend to be loose in one way or another. Certain things or procedure need to be tighten up so that things can move forward faster and efficiently. Having said that, there is still good example. Look at Thai League, it was not exceptionally outstanding 6 years ago but now the League has boomed. Thailand is really the benchmark for all nations. They have a great system with different tiers of football in place, good players can be found all over the country with good scouting system, and they also have many good coaches in the League.
Please share with us more on Mongolian football?
In terms of infrastructure and facilities, Mongolia is light years away from everyone here in Asia. But having said that, the football development in Mongolia is already underway. And please do not underestimate the Mongolian players. The country naturally has got strong players – both physically and mentally.
Next, playing football in Mongolia may not be easy as the climate can be extremely harsh. Then again, this is not an excuse. What we really need is to concentrate on training and improve. If you ask me, I really see huge potential in Mongolian football. If not, I would not extend my contract there.
In addition, this is the first time Mongolia has qualified and progressed to Round-2 of the EAFF Championship. So to prepare the team for the next round, I have arranged many matches and also overseas trips for the team in order to expose them to more challenging opponent. After playing Singapore, we are heading back to my former ground, Philippines for another 10 days training camp.
It must be a great experience coaching in Rwanda. Would you be able to share with us more on African football?
As part of grassroots football collaboration between Rwanda and German Football Association, I was tasked to spearhead the project. I spent 4 years doing football development in Rwanda as the Technical Director and I also headed the National U-17 from 2007 – 2011. Back in those days, we had to build everything from nothing. It was absolutely tough. I could still recall when I first arrived in Rwanda, there was only 1 football pitch (grass). More or less, that was the only place where people played football. After I have left for Philippines, I know there are about 15 artificial pitches in Rwanda now!
So when I was there, we set up a youth development system to groom more young players. Next, we went through a lot to identify and appointed 4 football coordinators with the best football background. Thereafter, we deployed all of them to the North, South, East and West of the country to help coordinate football leagues, trainings and even helped to organize coaches’ education for the coaches in the provinces.
As a matter of fact, Rwanda or rather Africa is not as dangerous as what people perceives it to be. Yes, Africa still has many shortcomings but things are improving. I have spent 4 years of my life in Rwanda and I’m blessed to be involved in the football development there. And as far as football is concerned, Africa has incredible talents. By the way, do you know Rwanda is also known as the “Switzerland of Africa”!
You used to serve internships at various big football clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, River Plate, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and etc. Able to share with us more about your internship experience?
Yes, my football mentor Eckhard Krautzun connected me with Sir Alex Ferguson. Then I went on to spend 4 weeks at Old Trafford as an understudy. Not only in England, I landed a few more internships with other big clubs as well.
And among the clubs that I have been, the time spent with Manchester United has to be the most memorable. That year was 2003 and the club had the Neville brothers, Diego Forlan, Roy Keane and the young Cristiano Ronaldo had just came in. So everyday I would be studying how the team trained, what were their latest training drills and what kind of yoga & boxing training they would be having.
In particular, there was this peripheral vision training which really amazed me. That was a training to improve the players’ reaction on the pitch. So the players would be put in a cabin with one of their eyes closed. When the light at each of the extreme end of their eyesight was lit up, the players would have to tap on the correct one immediately. With this training, the players would react much faster on pitch as they could move or pass with just a quick glance on the color of the jersey that’s running by their side. Can you imagine that was already in place for those players 15 years ago!
How much do you know about Singapore football?
I used to study Singapore football a little during the time when I was leading Philippines National Team. I can see that many of the players who played against my team 6 years ago are still around in the current National Team. I can still remember the young Hariss Harun when he first broke into the National Team, Now, he is already one of the leading figures in the middle of the park. Together with him, the Fandis (Irfan & Ikhsan) are developing well. I have also done some research on your last two games and I have also spoken to Mauritius’ coach not long ago. I think Singapore is building a very competitive squad. Well, I am looking forward to play Singapore again.
Singapore will be hosting Mongolia in an International Friendly on 12 Oct 2018, KO 7.45pm at Bishan Stadium.