In Conversation with…. Hector Quijeiro

Currently sitting midtable in the Hungarian NBII, Győr ETO is one of Hungary’s sleeping football giants.  However, under new ownership, ETO has ambitions to return to the top-flight sooner rather than later.

Part of their ambitious plans includes establishing a leading youth academy, supplying the first team with the best local and national talent, as well as developing the next generational talents such as Milos Kerkez who can be sold for multi-million Euro fees.

Heading up the Academy, and charged with developing the next generation of talent coming off the conveyor belt at Győr ETO is 45-year-old Spaniard Hector Quijeiro.  I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Hector and discuss his role and vision for the future, not just at Győr but for Hungarian youth football at large.

Hector, thanks for taking the time to speak to me today. Can you give an introduction and some background on how you came to be here at Győr ETO?

I am 45-years-old and have worked in football for many years.  I started working with a lot of small clubs in the Metropolitan area of Vigo, and in 2005 I started working with the Academy of Celta Vigo– Celta is my team back in Spain, so this meant a lot to me.

It was a difficult time for the club as they had just been relegated to the Second Division, but the Academy had some very good players that I was able to train and who have gone on to play in the First Division or abroad – Jonny Otto (Wolves), Denis Suárez (Manchester City, Barcelona, Villarreal), Borja Fernandez (Asteras Tripolis), amongst others. 

I was then approached by the owner of Celta Vigo to start an Academy in Campeche, Mexico and developed the Academy there for four years.  When my time in Mexico was up, the owner of Celta asked me to start another Celta Academy, this time in Brasov, Romania with our partner club there.

After one year in Romania, I took up a new project with La Liga working in China.

In February (2021) the opportunity to work in Győr was presented through an agent friend.  I was surprised by the quality of the facilities and infrastructure at the club and knew about the history and previous titles.  Győr is not a Second Division club, so I accepted the project.

Can you explain your role as Academy Technical Director and what that entails?

The role of Academy Technical Director does not exactly exist in Spain, the role is completely new to me. In Spain, the position is very similar to the Methodology Director but here I have more responsibilities.  I have to prepare the model of training; the model of the game; the training sessions.  I need to work hand-in-hand with the coaches, control their work, and check the style of the teams so that all teams (in the Academy) work to the same style and methodology.

I check the development and performance of our players, but also control the work of the coaches as they are very important to our success – not only in ETO but in Hungary in general.  Hungarian football needs very good coaches who can teach the players how to play the game.

In my opinion, we have a problem in Hungarian football because the coaches don’t help the players to think about the game.  Coaching in Hungary is very cognitive.  Coaches tell the players to move left, to move right, and the player does as he is told; the coaches do not help the players to think about the game and what is the best decision to make either in the training scenario or in the game.

The coach in Hungary likes to have control and for his players to act like soldiers and follow his orders.  In Spain, the players have more liberty to find better solutions on the pitch and freedom to create.  This is something I want to introduce at ETO.

You have spoken before of creating a “football philosophy mix” at Győr. Can you expand on that?

In my opinion, we need more coaching congresses in Hungary and we need coaches from other countries to come and speak about other ways of playing football, to help change the coaching mentality in Hungarian football.

Hungary is a very closed country because of the language and it can be the same in football. We (Hungarian clubs) like to bring in coaches from other countries but expect them to work with and act like Hungarians; there is not a willingness to embrace change.

In my opinion, if Hungarian football wants to improve its level, it needs to become more open to other methods and other people; and then decide on a method that it likes.

For example, in the national team, we have an Italian coach for the men’s team and a German coach for the women’s team.  In the same Federation, we have two different coaches from different football schools with different methodologies.  There needs to be a single approach.

If we look at the men’s national team under Rossi, they play in a 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 system – even though most teams in Hungary play in a 4-3-3.  However, at the youth international level, the teams play 4-2-3-1, or 4-3-3.  There needs to be consistency in style and methodology through the age groups.

My role at ETO is to develop the style and method that we play across all age groups, to develop the coaches to think for themselves and make sure they teach the players to think about the game.  We want to integrate Spanish thinking with the discipline and physicality of the Hungarian players and develop something unique in Győr.

The Academy at Győr already has a reputation for developing good players.  What is the primary aim of the Academy; to develop players for the first-team at Győr or to develop players to sell on to top European Leagues as happened with Milos Kerkez?

Our first objective is to develop players for the first team.  I am here to help develop better players for the first team.   Our second objective is to sell players for good money if it is possible, but the first is always to develop and improve the level at Győr.

We have 22 teams at Győr (both men’s and women’s) across three sections: Gyermek (6-11); Pre-Academy (12-15), and Academy (16-19).  Each section has different objectives but each uses the same methodologies and style, scaled for the level, to develop players for the next level and the first team.

We are trying to change the approach at ETO but we need time and patience to see the progress and watch the project grow. Remember, if a player starts at the Academy at 6 years old and finishes the Academy at 19, he has been with us for 13 years.  That’s a long time, and we need patience to see what we implement now working in the first team in the future.

The owner and the people who control the club understand that this is a long-term project and I hope to be here for many years to see the results.

How do you rate the Elite Academy set-up in Hungary?

It’s a fantastic project and, in my opinion, it is unique in Europe.  The investment from the Government in the Elite Academies has been very important and we have a lot of responsibility; the future of Hungarian football is in our hands.

The different Academies work with different methodologies of scouting, and training, but in my opinion, we need to work more closely with the coaches and inside the organisation of the clubs to change the performance of the Academies.

We also need the Federation to help the Elite Academies because the Academies are going in one direction, but the Federation is going in another direction.  We need better and more competition for the teams to help the players develop.

For example, our under-19s had a 13-week break in between the last game of 2021 and the first game of 2022, that is too much time.  The winters are not as bad as 20 years ago and we now have synthetic pitches to play on.  If we can clear the pitch to train on and play friendly games, then we can play official games. During this time the rest of Europe is playing official games, but we are only playing friendly games.

In Hungary, the Elite under-19 teams play 25 games, in Spain it is 34; that’s 9 games more. In France, Germany, and Italy when they play games (in winter), we are in pre-season here. In my opinion, the Elite Academies need to change their level, and the Federation needs to help us with stronger competitions, more games, and more minutes.

If the domestic competition doesn’t help, then you need to play international games and tournaments in other countries to increase the number of competitive fixtures.  We are very close to Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, and Croatia, we need to go to play against teams from these countries to help with the development of the Elite Academies.

Now I am working on taking our under-12s to a tournament in Spain. Imagine being under-12 and playing against Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester City, and Porto.  In these three days (of the tournament), you can play and live different experiences that you cannot get in your local competition. It is great for the development of the young players and the coaches too.

Also, in Hungary, you only play against players the same age as you. For example, under-10s only plays against under-10s, but in Spain, a player in the under-9 age group plays in the same category as under-10 and it is the same all the way up the age groups.

What this means is that the younger player needs to play better against older, more physical opponents and to run more to compete.  This changes and challenges the attitude and the mindset of the players.

Who should we be looking out for to make the grade from the Academy?

We have two young players in the first team already, one is (Milán) Vitalis. He is an interesting, athletic, offensive player, a number 8 or number 10. He is very interesting and can become a better player if he improves his mentality and sharpness.

Another interesting player is Máté Tuboly, he is an international player with the under-18s and has played a lot of minutes in the first team for his age.

One player I like a lot in our under-19 team is Milán Erdei. He is playing between the first and second teams at the moment but has a big future, in my opinion. So has Milán Klausz who is also a very good player.

After spending over an hour with me, Hector graciously arranged for Technical Manager Ádám Nagy to give me a tour of the stadium and Academy campus before heading off with the first team for the fixture against Pecs. Unfortunately, Győr lost that game 1-0, but if the team on the pitch can start matching the ambition of those working off the pitch, it won’t be long before the good times come back to Győr.