The Austrian waltz

GEORGE GROSS

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Some time today we'll find out whether Paul Gludovatz would like to hear Johann Strauss's Blue Danube waltz or Charles Gounod's Funeral March.

Gludovatz is the head coach of the Austrian Under-20 team that will clash today with the U.S. squad in a FIFA World Cup quarter-final match in Toronto. Gludovatz, a development teacher for 10-year-old to 14-year-old youngsters, loves music and dancing.

Following a practice closed to outsiders at the Exhibition Park soccer stadium, the low-key soccer pediatrician was not too keen on predicting the outcome of today's big date with the Americans.

Instead, we talked about music and soccer development in Austria.

I didn't bring a Stradivarius to the interview, but I was impressed with his knowledge of famous musical composers and even more with his explanation of how an Austrian child can make it up the ladder from first involvement in the sport to the Under-20 team, then to an Austrian first division team and, finally, to the Austrian national team.

"We start young kids between 7 and 9 to participate in mini-tournaments," said Herr Gludovatz.

"Then, between 9 and 11 the youngsters start playing in organized tournaments.

"In the 13-year-old bracket, we bring together 30 teams of 18 players from all parts of Austria.

"We have for these youngsters special development coaches who are paid by the government and by lottery companies. They introduce the kids into the basic skills and tactics of the game."

What about the older young men, I asked?

"For juniors between the ages of 15 and 19, we hold 13 academies (seminars) under the control of a special sports leader and 39 dedicated coaches.

"The 15-year-olds play in a national championship and are being thoroughly scouted. At 16, the Austrian Football Association becomes involved with special seminars and abbreviated campuses that last three days."

The football mentor then explained that the 16-year-olds play international matches against youngsters from Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Germany, but continue with Austrian elimination tournaments.

Moreover, the selected Austrian all-star team of 19-year-olds takes part in an eight-nation European Championships.

What about Erwin Hoffer, the dangerous goal scorer of the Austrian team, I asked?

"Hoffer scored some important goals so far in this World Cup," said the 61-year-old friendly tutor.

"He played with our Under-17 team and also with our Under-19 squad in the UEFA European Championship. He is signed by Rapid Vienna and occasionally plays on the first team."

Does he have a chance to play for the Austrian national team, that had stars of the former Austrian "Wonder Team" such as centre forward Matthias Sindelar who played in the 1930s and the likes of sweeper Ernst Ocwirk, halfback Gerhard Hanappi, fullback Ernst Happel and goalie Walter Zeman, who performed in the 1950s in dramatic matches against England and Hungary, I asked?

"That's tough to say," he replied.

"The main thing right now is that he plays well against the Americans."

If he does and includes a goal or two, coach Gludovatz will order the local Austrian band to play a special rendition of the Blue Danube waltz - if not, it'll be the sad and lonely Funeral March of Gounod.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is expected to arrive in Toronto on Tuesday ... Today's Austria-US match will be televised live by CBC... Television commentator Dick Howard, who is a member of FIFA's Technical Group and chairman of the Ontario Soccer Association's Technical Committee, has organized a technical seminar for coaches in Toronto on July 21 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The registration fee is $50 and includes lunch. Register online at www.soccer.on.ca


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