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Expert's opinion: Talk with Antun Bačić, one of the youngest futsal coaches

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In the coming weeks, here at FutsalFeed you will be able to read many interesting articles about various futsal topics written by futsal experts, coaches and players who will share their knowledge, opinions and their analysis of the most beautiful game. Or their critique in order to make our game even better!

We encourage all of you who would like to give an expert opinion about any topic regarding futsal to contact us through the Contact section on our website! Let your voice be heard!

One of our first experts is a young Croatian futsal coach Antun Bačić who already has serious coaching experience, as he was the first-team coach of the Croatian top division side MNK Square Dubrovnik. Bačić, now a 29 year old, took control of the team before his 27th birthday and managed to achieve notable results with a young squad.

Introducing the expert

Before his tactical analyses, however, it is prudent to introduce Bačić to our readers, so we have had a long and interesting talk about his career, successes on the futsal parquet and the general topics of interest of today’s futsal. First things first – how did Bačić get caught in the world of futsal? As most kids out there, I loved football. During my childhood, you could watch all the highlights from top five football leagues on one TV show, and that show was everything to me. I followed all the leagues and watched all the matches that were available to me at the time. Besides that, I spent every day on the playground playing different types of football, or futsal. Therefore, I started to play different tournaments with my friends in my hometown Dubrovnik and when we were 15 or 16 years old, we decided to form a futsal club. MNK Ombla is today in Second division in Croatia and that’s how I started my futsal career, first as a player then as a coach. It helped a lot that my good friend Dario Marinović was already a serious futsal player so he transferred a lot of his knowledge to me and helped me progress much faster.

Could you explain to our readers how did your futsal career progress from being a player for a lower league side to a first team coach of a top division side? I started my futsal career in MNK Ombla when I was 16 years old. We were a group of friends that could only talk about futsal. Ombla competed in the regional league, but we were a big ‘refreshment’ even in first season when we fell short of the 3rd spot only on goal difference. In the meantime, Ombla won the regional league three times and couple of more times took 2nd, 3rd and 4th spot and is now competing in the Second division of Croatian futsal league. Ombla’s first coach was Ivo Pavlović who thaught us all about futsal basics. After five seasons, due to personal commitments, Ivo resigned so I, as the captain then, became a player-coach and that was a start of my coaching career.

After another two seasons in which Ombla won the regional league both times, I received a call from Mato Cvjetković to join MNK Square(Dubrovnik’s first division club, authors note). My arrival coincided with arrival of coach Marinko Mavrović in Dubrovnik, and like everyone else in the team, I came face to face with modern futsal for the first time. I developed a lot as a player at that time, but also in thinking about futsal as a sport. I enjoyed the three season with coach Mavrović, although I missed almost an entire season due to the knee ligaments injury, I played in around 50 games and scored 7-8 goals.

When I was injured, I became a coach for our U16 and U18 teams and I enrolled for coaching license at HNS (Croatian Football Federation, authors note) Coaching Academy. As one of my biggest successes of that time, I would point out to the 3rd place on the U16 State Championship, but even bigger would be the fact that 4-5 youth players from that generation joined the first team the next season. After Mavrović left Square, I became the first team coach and I spent almost three full season at that position.

One of the youngest coaches in futsal

You decided to commit to coaching quite young. What was the trigger for such decision? To be frank, I never was some extra good player. I was a player that can help and can fight for his team. Besides, I was always interested in tactics, I loved when things were very well arranged on the parquet and I always loved to arrange them ‘in the right order’.  Very often, I would understand things happening on the parquet better in my head than I was able to do them physically or technically. Already then, I knew that I would be a better coach than player.

Honestly, I believe that I moved from position of youth coach to first team coach position a bit early and I thought the same thing at the moment when club board decided that I was the one to replace Buraz (Marinko Mavrović, authors note). I gave in then, because players and board urged me to do it and I went in to a new adventure, but most probably not ready for it at the time. I spent almost three full seasons at the ‘bench’ at Square and I believe that during this time the club, the players and myself, we all developed a lot and I am very pleased with everything I did as a coach.

What can you tell us about being the youngest coach in the top division in Croatia, or possibly even the continent because our research did not come up with any other such young coach at such a high level? What is it like and did you feel the pressure because of it or there was no pressure exactly because of it? I think the whole situation made me proud because I think it is really a great honour and I have had always experienced it like that. I am happy that I have a job that is really my hobby as well. I enjoy every second spent working on the parquet, in talking with the players, laptop analysis and everything else that makes this job what it is.

Let’s talk a bit more about futsal tactics. What is your tactical philosophy and can we even discuss such things in futsal? Do you prefer more of an attacking mentality or do you believe that defence is the one that brings titles? Alternatively, is that decision based on the players at your disposal? I have not still made a philosophy for which I can positively say that it’s good and that it describes me as a coach. There is a lot of work ahead of me, many new things to experience and I am trying to learn every day something new and implement it in my work and the work of my team. I like to give my players a clear instructions what to do in certain situations, but I also like to give them a certain freedom for them to change the course of the match with their decisions and moves.

Without doubt, however, everything starts from the defence and that is the foundation of every team. As a coach, I like to have clear rules in the defence, on which I insist through training and I like to repeat them endlessly. That way I try to create the security and trust between players, which are incredibly important segments.

Offense is another story and a lot depends on the quality of player in that phase. Offensive phase is a long-term process and I think that that is the most challenging part for the futsal coaches. It is my opinion, anyway, that defence mostly depends on the coach and that offense is the part that depends more on the players. Certainly, one does not go without the other and I can’t say that one is more important than the other.

Futsal talks

Do you have any coaching ‘idols’ in futsal world? If the ‘idol’ is too strong of an word, are there any coaches whose work you follow closely and from whom you get new ideas for your team? Honestly, I don’t really have any idols among coaches. I try to take something good from each of them, something I like. I tend to follow as many world leagues as I can, watch as many matches on the top level as I can and develop. I also like to talk with many experts in the area and exchange ideas and opinions to upgrade my knowledge.

Quite often, we hear two different opinions when discussing futsal. One say that futsal is a ‘game of move’, while others say futsal is a game of patterns and templates. What is the truth in your opinion? Truth is most likely somewhere in the middle. Futsal, as every other sport, has its own tactical principles and its own rules, so I understand why people say it is very much based on repetitive patterns. Tactics are an important part of this sport and that is also true, as in any other sport.

On the other hand, individual moves quite often decide games and they are the ones which are unpredictable and which sometimes break down all tactics and match preparation. It is enough to see only one match of Barca or Inter and to fall in love with moves of Ferrão or Ricardinho. Or take a look at any match of Croatian national team and enjoy in the moves of Novak, Marinović, Jelovčić and others.

To me, futsal is a beautiful sport, filled with attractive moves and different tactical variables. A most dynamic sport there is. Sport in which so much can change in so little time and that gives it a special appeal because the match is usually fully open until the last whistle by the referee.

Do you think that there is still space in futsal for further development of the tactical aspect of the game or is most of it already said and done? I believe that futsal has a lot of space for improvement, on every field, including the tactics. I would be a genius if I would know now how and what to improve, so I can’t say nothing concretely. However, this sport is developing rapidly and everything that was worthwhile 2 or 3 years ago is not so good anymore, it has been read by other coaches. My guess is that most coaches bring new stuff each day through training without even knowing it and that is our everyday pace forward.

We discussed the competitiveness of Croatian futsal league earlier on our website. You had an opportunity to lead your team in that competition, what are your impressions about the league? What do you think it should happen for Croatian futsal to evolve on the next level? In my opinion, Croatian futsal league is the fifth best futsal league in Europe. Only Spain, Russia, Italy and Portugal have a stronger league than ours. Considering that competition this year in Croatia is fantastic, I can say that we probably have the most balanced league in Europe. Our senior futsal is in upward trajectory. Clubs are becoming more and more professional, foreign players who play in Croatia are getting better, domestic players are also getting better each year and the competition is great so the clubs and players are developing in high pace.

What worries me is the basis and with that I primarily mean the number of coaches in the clubs and work with the youth system. We have to improve our work with the youth categories, have to have much more coaches and much more trainings and what is more important, much more matches in youth categories. In addition, we have to create proper academies so futsal can attract talented kids of 7, 8 or 9 years old and not footballers in their teens.

I think that we in Croatia are lagging behind these four countries that should be a sort of a role model for us and those are the necessary steps that we have to take to catch up or even overtake them. If in the years that are ahead we have a good basis, with talent that our players undoubtedly have, we can start to catch up with the best leagues in Europe.

Corona virus currently put the entire sport in resting mode, but once the situation stabilizes a bit, what are your plans for the future regarding futsal? This situation with Corona is very unfavourable because we have no idea when this all might end and when will we be able to return on the parquet. I already had some plans and talks for the near future, but now everything is on hold due to this situation. However, I don’t believe I will be without work for long because I am already missing it heavily. It is less important to me is it the team in the first or second division, youth categories or seniors… I want to work and develop. Futsal is my life and all my plans are associated with futsal.

 

With that strong, but loving statement we conclude this interesting conversation with one of the youngest coaches in futsal and we look forward to his future tactical analysis of the game. Also, we would like to remind all of you who want to share your expertise on futsal topics to get in touch with us through the contact form on our website!