The international break can be a lot of things to us football fans depending on an array of variables.
If you’re Scottish the hiatus is probably met with utter contempt, but for the rest of the home nations watching their team getting results can be welcome relief from the weekly slog of following their club sides.
The other debate is the timing of the international break after less than a month of the domestic season played and for those getting back into the routine of 6 am cans en-route to an away day or the bi-weekly use of their season cards, it can be a bit irritating to have your weekend rituals put on hold so soon after they started and potentially not see your team play in the flesh for 3 weeks.
However, as we were all watching England batter Bulgaria at pedestrian pace, Gareth Bale’s vital winner against Azerbaijan or Scotland getting an Ivan Drago style beating at home to Russia, one Englishman earns his corn from international breaks, in one of the unlikeliest of locations.
Part of Team Sparta, Jamie Brassington, who grew up in Warwickshire, is currently Taiwan’s Goalkeeping Coach and has this week been with the international side as they continued their World Cup Qualification campaign against Jordan and Nepal. We spoke to Jamie following the international break.
Q: So what is your footballing background and how has that led to a career in coaching?
A: I’ve basically been playing football since I was 3 or 4 years-old up until this stage. Whilst I was at North Warwickshire and Hinkley College in England , I decided to stay on an extra year to complete FA Level 1 & 2 Courses which allowed me to do my Level 1 & 2 Goalkeeper Coaching courses. The college hired me as a part time Goalkeeper Coach and that’s where my coaching journey began when I was 19.
Q: So you had spells with Burton Albion and Colchester United’s academy before moving onto Throttur Reykjavik in Iceland. How did that lead to a role on the international stage?
A: I had just finished a session with the first team in Iceland when I got a phone call from another Goalkeeping Coach in England, asking if I was interested in working in international football. It’s an opportunity most people don’t get, so of course I said yes!
Football is a small world and you get to know people quite quickly and that’s the case with the current Taiwan manager (and fellow Englishman) Louis Lancaster. After a few phone calls, Skype calls and face-to-face meetings, I was offered the role and was on my way out to East Asia.
Q: Now you have sampled multiple cultures in regards to football and otherwise, what is the contrast to the footballing set-up in Taiwan to the UK?
A: Football is probably the third choice sport in Taiwan (behind baseball and basketball) and the national league isn’t professional. The weather plays a massive factor as well due to the heat and humidity, even if its raining.
There are less and lesser quality facilities here but from what I’m seeing the demand for them is rising! Part our job is to inspire the next generation of Taiwanese players by raising the profile of football out here, along with the current players, CTFA and the fans. So far everyone is playing their part which is excellent to see & we all need to keep building on that.
Q: How are the team doing at the moment?
A: In terms of performance we have been doing well in the majority of games we have played and beating Hong Kong for the first time in Taiwan’s history was a very positive result, especially away from home.
We’ve just finished our first two games in World Cup/Asia Cup qualification against Jordan and Nepal where we are disappointed with results but the performance against Jordan was another step in the right direction.
Q: How did you come to use Sparta gloves and what do the lads think of them?
A: I had seen Sparta gloves on Twitter and they looked decent and affordable gloves. After speaking to Chris it was a simple decision to try the gloves out as his customer service was excellent. They have been fantastic for coaching so far.
A couple of players who play in Taiwan (both have trained with the national team and played in the AFC Cup which is basically Asia’s version of the Europa League and have represented the Under 19’s and Under 21’s respectively) are currently wearing Sparta gloves and have been really happy with their quality.
With more and more English coaches and players alike seeking employment abroad given the lack of opportunities domestically, do not be surprised to see many follow in Jamie’s footstep and ply their trade in far away lands. Hopefully Sparta gloves will be following them!