“The Beautiful Aim”

We like to start 2009 with a story which offers hope to all frustrated Sunday League footballers.

We have all done it. You wake up on a crisp, cold, bright Sunday morning, nursing a hangover from the night before, forcing yourself to head out to the local playing fields to play Sunday league football. And on the way, with your head cooling under the digestion of two Panadol, you dream of beating the opposing fullback with a Messi-esque turn or bursting the net with a free-kick which will remind the one man and his dog on the touchline (if that) of Roberto Carlos in his pomp.

However, once the game begins so the fantasy bursts, as we are reminded that our ball control mimics the touch of a rapist. Which brings us neatly onto the story of Arton Baleci (pictured).

Arton is a 23 year old who, like most people, harbours ambitions of playing in the Premier League. Like us, he is not very good at football. In fact he gave up playing Sunday League football five years ago and readily admits that he is an “average recreational footballer.” Nevertheless, he has given himself 12 months in which to turn himself into a footballer able to play at the highest grade. This project has been titled as “The Beautiful Aim.”

Experts have calculated that most footballers by the age of 16 have put in over 10,000 hours of practice. This, coupled with talent which most people believe is innate, seems to place insurmountable obstacles in Arton’s way.

Arsene Wenger, who has become a specialist at nurturing diamonds in the rough to achieve superstar status, has argued that “if a player doesn’t have the technical ability by the time he is 14, if he doesn’t have the physical capability by 16 or 17, the tactical ability by the time he is 18 or 19 then he will never make a really good footballer.”

Arton (an Arsenal fan) is using a novel three pronged approach to try and prove one of the great doyens of English football wrong. The approach consists of: (i) conditioning; (ii) Neuro Linguistutic Programming; and (iii) the Feldenkrais Method.

Over 18 months a backroom staff has been put together that would rival that of Andy Murray and a rigorous conditioning regime has been imposed. Nick Grantham, a former British Gymnastics Team fitness coach has been entrusted with providing a plan to enable him to attain the necessary level of fitness required to perform in the Premier League.

Northumberland University’s Sport Science Unit will scrutinise the progress of his speed, power, agility, reactions and endurance. This will also be complemented by a nutritionist who will monitor his diet.

The footballing aspect revolves around NLP. This is a process that teaches people to learn the skills of others by means of repeated imitation in the way children would learn habits from watching and learning from their parents’ actions.

NLP has been successfully used by Morten Gamst Pedersen to help his free-kick taking and former world middleweight champion boxer Nigel Benn and athletes Roger Black and Mark Richardson also used it to advance their careers.

In his bid to become the complete player he has decided to clone the best parts of some of the top pros in the game. He will look to imitate Roberto Carlos’ free-kick taking, Van Persie’s turns, David Beckham’s crossing and Ronaldo’s (new and old) step-overs.

Finally he will utilise the Feldenkrais Method, which seeks to allow the body to grow in the direction the mind takes it through body alignment and an improved efficiency of movement.

World leading specialists in body movement are responsible for eeking out every ounce of performance from Arton. He sates that “they have a system that is based around the principles of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire itself and communicate with itself in different ways. It will help me to align my body and optimise the quality of movement so that I can realise my potential for elite athletic performance.”

Will Arton reach his dream of becoming a Premier League footballer? If he develops as theory dictates, he should be awesome to watch, a Frankenstein with the combined ability of Carlos, Van Persie, Beckham and Ronaldo.

We wish Arton every success. If he succeeds we will have to re-evaluate how we perceive the boundaries of human potential and how we unlock it. On a more basic note maybe thousands of dreams can become reality and with the right training innate ability can become superfluous.

A trailer explaining “The Beautiful Aim” project can be seen here, and an interview between Arton Baleci and Tim Lovejoy can be seen here.

For more footage, “The Beautiful Aim” has a YouTube page with regularly updated videos here.