Mourad Seddiki

ALGERIAN football is on something of a roll right now. The national team has triumphed over adversity, rock-throwing Egyptian fans in Cairo and a tricky play-off in Khartoum to secure qualification for their first World Cup since 1986, and the Algerian diaspora has reacted appropriately.

Wild celebrations took place in Paris and in Algerian communities all over the world, but the news capped an excellent seven days for Tampere based Mourad Seddiki, who holds Finnish and Algerian nationality. Having been named as Tampereen Pallo Veikot’s new head coach on 12 November, the 46 year-old was not about to miss the country of his birth’s passage to the finals.

“I watched it at home, on satellite TV,” says the affable Sedikki over tea in a Tampere cafe. “The players had a lot of pressure in Cairo, with the rocks thrown at the bus, the Egyptian media and crowd and so on. A lot of these players have been in Europe for a long time, and they’re not used to that, but in Khartoum they played without so much stress and showed how good they are.”

The interminable World Cup draw ceremony in Cape Town drew blanket media coverage on 4 December, as Charlize Theron built up the drama of selecting eight groups of four teams to contest the group stage. Algeria ended up in a group with England, the USA and Slovenia, fixtures that are not impossible, but could have been easier too.

“I think they have a chance to surprise the other teams,” continues Sedikki. “Maybe not England, but against USA and Slovenia it’s 50-50 and they have a chance. I don’t say that it will be easy, but it’s not as hard as some of the other groups – Portugal’s group looks quite tough, for instance.”

Sedikki moved to Ylöjärvi from his native Algiers in 1984. He began playing for Ylöjärven Ryhti in the fourth division, and moved from there to Tampere side PP-70 in the Second Division.

After his playing career came to an end, he began coaching, studying at the well-respected coaching academy run by the Dutch Football Association (KNVB), and is a strong believer in coach education.

“Sometimes people think a great player will make a great coach, but I don’t necessarily see it that way,” argues Seddiki. “To be a good coach you need to demand a lot from your players, you need to be hard sometimes, you need a strong personality and the will to say bad words when they need to be said. It is a different job to the one players have to do, and you have to learn how to do it even if you have leadership qualities.”

He started off coaching youth teams, taking TPV A juniors (under-19s) into SM-Sarja, the highest level in Finland. Although they were relegated last year after their senior players graduated into senior football, Sedikki’s work was rewarded when TPV began looking for a replacement for former boss Juha-Pekka Mäkinen.

Given Finland’s continuing failure to qualify for a major tournament, confirmed once again this year with a lacklustre 1-1 draw in Liechtenstein, there is a stark contrast between the land of Seddiki’s birth and Finland, where he has lived for 25 years. Now a Finnish citizen, Seddiki has clear views on what differentiates Finland from major footballing powers.

“Finnish football has improved a lot, with coaching, infrastructure and tactical knowledge, but there is still something missing,” he explains. “In Algeria, Spain, and England, kids play football for two, three hours a day. There is a dirt pitch, but it doesn’t matter because football plays a big part in society and everybody wants to play no matter what. Here, people don’t have that experience, that constant presence of football in everyday life. It means that Finnish players have a lot to learn mentally, tactically and physically when they come to play organised football.”

“The ideal situation would be a balance between the instinctive play you see in Algerians, a short-passing game that is exciting and creative, with individual flair and confidence, and the European qualities of organisation, tactical awareness and physical strength. That’s what I will try to bring to TPV next season.”

Ykkönen games are played in front of a few hundred people, and Seddiki sees the lack of a crowd and the attendant pressures as something that could be better in Finland, as players may develop more when under a little pressure.

“In Algeria skills are more important, and individuals are creative within the game,” continues Seddiki. “They play for the spectacle, to put on a performance for the spectators. In Finland we don’t have that so much right now.”

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