The AZ Youth-coach who played all over the worldPublished on 17 april 22, 14:26
ZAANSTAD- Sylvano Comvalius was 21 years old when he started his career as a professional football player. He began in Malta and eventually played for seventeen clubs from all across the globe. The former attacker – who ended his active career last summer – now shares his experiences with the youngsters of the Youth Academy from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
Comvalius is still the only player who managed to score 37 goals (34 matches) in the Indonesian Liga but he isn't recognized very often in The Netherlands. The professional career of Comvalius was one with many detours. Last summer his journey ended after completing another season at Geylang International from Singapore. He then set his sights on a new career: that of a youth coach.
After his adventures in Malta, Schotland, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, China, Germany, Ukraine, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore he had seen enough. Comvalius returned to The Netherlands and committed to an internship at the AZ Youth Academy. Currently he is the assistant coach of Bas van Baar of AZ Under 14.
You returned to The Netherlands after a long career abroad. Then what?
"I never earned my spurs in The Netherlands. After their active career most players return to a club they played for in the past, but in a different position. For me it was different. Yet I had a clear goal and wanted to stay as close to the sport as possible. That’s where my heart is. In Indonesia I played with Nick van der Velden and after a fantastic year we stayed in touch. I kept a close eye on his development as a youth coach. This motivated me to make a similar step."
How did you end up at AZ?
"AZ is a huge club and I saw the names of several other former players who did an internship here: Khalid Boulahrouz, Mounir El Hamdaoui and Ron Vlaar. They are well known players in international football. I was interested as well and Nick took it up to Paul Brandenburg, the head of the AZ Youth Academy. A week later I was invited for a chat. AZ is a top club with a high quality academy. At first it was intended for me to do an internship starting January 2022. After a good and positive conversation with mister Brandenburg he asked if I’d like to come in earlier. He was confident that my background and career would be a good addition to the staff and environment of the AZ Youth Academy."
In what environment do you find yourself at AZ?
"I notice everyone is focused on developing the club and it’s players further. It’s very easy to identify myself with this state of min and idea of football and that’s something I’ve been looking for. When I came here I thought: this is how I see professionality. A good organization, a professional staff, a vision and the conditions to keep on growing."
In hindsight you benefit from your long career abroad. What was your motivation as a player to go there?
"After I left the Ajax Youth Academy I was given the opportunity to become a professional player at the age of 21. As a youth player I had to deal with many disappointments and injuries. The path I walked wasn’t what I originally had in mind, but it helped me become the person I am today. It offered me the opportunity to start from scratch. That’s how I managed to excel in my first year. Suddenly, clubs were lining up and that’s something I could only dream of before. The train started running afterwards and only stopped last summer."
What experiences from your active career do you take to the profession as a coach?
"When you ask coaches what they want, most will say they want to make their players better. I think I have more to offer. Making players better can be done by teaching the philosophy of the club. But the practical experiences, the setbacks and beautiful things I’ve experienced can’t be taught. The road to becoming a professional player is long and often uncertain. In the end my persistence and discipline in wanting to become a professional is what pulled me through. Being talented alone isn’t enough, you have to work for it."
It sounds like becoming a coach is a personal mission of yours.
"It is. Though I have to say that only developed within the past months. Being a coach suits me, because as a youth player I missed out on a lot of things. The philosophy and organization of AZ suits my ambitions. I currently work with a group of players that have loads going on in their lives. They are growing, coming into puberty, have homework to do and have to deal with their personal environment. To me it’s very relatable, because it reminds me of when I was fourteen myself and played at Ajax."
What do you want to achieve at AZ?
"I want to grow into a high qualified coach. I’d like to share my experiences and be a real addition to the club. In addition I hope all players from AZ Under 14 take the step to the next age category. As a coach you feel responsible for the players and want to help them become the best version of themselves. Should some players be dropped out, I at least hope to have inspired them as much for them to realize this is not the end. I of all people should know, since it happened to me as well. Some teammates were better than me, but didn’t make it in the end. Yet I had a fantastic career. I took a detour, but that doesn’t matter. I achieved my goal of becoming a professional player. It’s clear what I want to achieve as a trainer: to teach these talented kids to never give up."
Text: AZ Media / Cas Broxterman
Photo: AZ Media / Jarrik Bijsterbosch