FC Barcelona “more than just a club” Youth Academy
9pm just packing my bag for Barcelona, flight leaves Dublin at 6.40am
Monday 22 November Flight left Dublin just after 7am and we arrived at our Hotel 10.20am.
The Nou Camp was practically sitting on our Balcony, I could almost touch it. At 11.30am we took at walk around Travessa de les Corts, had a quick Coffee and then we jumped a taxi for our first meeting with RCD Espanyol Agents.
Great to meet like minded guys, who have a total love for football and a mind for business. We discussed various topics and exchanged ideas, then we went for lunch and sampled some local food and the Estrella Daura beer (Which was really nice and is actually a gluten free beer and therefore coeliac friendly).
After Lunch.. we go to the Nou Camp
After Lunch we headed back to our hotel. At 4pm we meet with our good friend Juan, who had arranged our meeting with FC Barcelona for 5pm. I, David and Juan left the hotel at 4.52pm and arrived at the stadium at 5pm, thats how close we were. We were welcomed by Enric and Franc, two of the FC Barcelona Academy Coaches. They brought us into the Stadium offices and took us down a long corridor and into one of the boardrooms.
Contracts are signed
After some discussions and a bit off chit chat about the forth coming FC Barcelona Coaching Clinic which is coming… to Carton House, Kildare in February 2011, we signed the contracts, shook hands and with smiles all around, we proceeded out of the offices for a tour around the Escola, followed by a tour of The Ciutat Esportiva (FC Barcelona Academy) Joan Gamper (The Founder).
The Escola – Located at Camp 3 next to the Mini Estadi (Mini Camp Nou)
Just as we arrived at Camp 3, hundreds of kids were pouring into the Camp 3 area (this was the old Barcelona Academy), all immaculately kitted out in Barca gear. There are currently more than 300 boys and girls aged between 6 and 11 years that are enjoying the emotion of training twice a week (Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday) and playing only 7 aside football each Saturday morning in small groups and always at the FC Barcelona grounds against FC Barcelona teams.
Enric and Franc told us they are divided into the following groups
Initiation stage: Boys and Girls aged 6 and 7 years. At this stage there are 8 groups working mainly on the coordination and motor aspects of football. Pre-training stage: Boys and Girls aged 8 and 9 years. At this stage of the course there are 12 groups working on basic football skills. Training stage: Boys and Girls aged 10 and 11 years. At this stage there are 10 groups working on simple tactics and skills development.
Objectives of FCBEscola
The objectives of FCBEscola are centred on two basic ideas: teaching the basic concepts of football and transmitting the values that represent Futbol Club Barcelona, such as tolerance, respect, solidarity, companionship, citizenship, integration. The Escola acts as a feeder system for the Academy and if Barcelona see potential in a player who may not be good enough for the academy, instead of letting him go they will get him to spend some time learning at the Escola and try and develop him the Barca way, the great thing about the Escola is that kids have a chance from 6-11 to develop, before they are progressed to the Academy or not!
FCBEscola Technical school
This almost unbelievable thing about the Escola is that any kid of any ability can actually play at the Escola and develop the Barcelona way. They have an FCBEscola Technical school and All boys and girls aged between 6 and 14 years that want to improve their technical skills can attend sessions every Fridays at the FCBEscola. The players? levels are not important, just the desire to learn!
So Barca is giving an opportunity to all the kids. Enric told me that Barcelona also has five FCBEscolas in Mexico (Monterrey, La Loma San Luís-Potosí, Guadalajara, Puebla and Mexico City) and one in Egypt (Cairo).
FC Barcelona Ciutat Esportiva
After the brief stop at Escola, Dave and I were brought by Franc in his car to The Ciutat Esportiva (FC Barcelona Academy) Joan Gamper. Sport City is about 15 minutes and just 4.5 km away from the Camp Nou and is directly connected by the road between Barcelona and Sant Joan Despí.
Covering 136.839m2 it is used by all youth teams for training and matches as well as, Barca Ladies, Barca B and the Senior team. There is also the multi sports arena for Basketball, Handball and Futsal. This is a truly amazing facility.
The facility consists of:
- 5 grass pitches
- 4 artificial grass pitches
- 1 multisport pavilion
- 1 grandstand building by pitch 1
- 1 service building
- 1 dressing room building
- Different training areas for goalkeepers and technical aspects
Barcelona Sport City
The Ciutat Esportiva eventually cost 68 million euros (when you think of some of the money wasted in Ireland for bail outs etc 68m seems like pennies), of which 25.6 corresponded to urbanisation and 42.5 to the total construction costs. The club apparently sold two plots of land, for the values of 29.7 and 15.9 million euros, respectively to cover part of the costs of the operation. The rest of the money was invested directly by the club, an amount of 22.5 million euros.
1st Team move to Sport City
When Barcelona’s 1st team moved to the Facility in 2009. Incredibly this brought to an end a 30 year history that the first team had of training on the small pitch (known as the La Masia pitch) annexed to the Camp Nou.
Pitch 1 dimensions were changed by Pepe Guardiola to match those at the Nou camp. The first team train on this pitch now which is enclosed at the Sport City.When we arrived we were told that there was a trial match on for 4 players who were making the progression from Barcelona Escola, they were trialling out for the Barcelona Academy team.
The Club taxi’s were pulling up every few seconds with droves of players exiting them and only boots in hand. I asked Franc, where is their gear? he said ,”All Players arrive and go to the changing areas, they collect their gear and drop it back after training”.Franc, tells me that; the players only need to come to training with is their boots, everything else is provided for them.
Players who live more than an hour away and who can’t get transport to training are collected by the club and dropped back after training. Players who live more then an 1.5 hours away are also collected, however the must drive to a pick up point, which has to be no more then 1 hour drive to Sport City. Barca spends over 4k a week on Taxis for youth players.
Who was training?
Almost every area at the facility was being used. We saw Barcelona 7’s, 14’s, Youth A & B teams, Barca Ladies & U16’s Goalkeepers training. Barcelona’s basketballers were also out running.
Franc asked us would we like to take a look at the trial and without hesitation we proceeded over to the pitch. The kids warmed with the ball and everything they did was with the ball.
Always with the Ball
Franc told me that, 99% a training session is always with the ball. Parents were watching from a distance and all the coaching was coming from the Barca coaches.
The Youth Teams
There are 19 different teams at Sport City, that includes Barca B, Youth A, 13 lowers category teams and 4 ladies and girls’ teams. That’s over 330 boys and girls and around 40 Coaches.
We were told that Barcelona is not actively looking for kids outside of Catalunia; they will only allow foreign players (who are good enough) to join the under age set up if they have relocated to Barcelona. Barcelona no longer relocates family for football until they are at least 16years of age.
After watching the under 7 plays, I was excited to be able to compare them with our under 7’s and believe it or not there was like for like, however where we fail is the competitiveness in our game and the transition from 7 aside to 9 aside to 11 aside.
The Catalunia way
In Catalunia they play 7aside football all the way until U12, (last year it was until U10) they use bigger goals then the Irish small sided games but slightly smaller than full size. This allows kids to develop technically, every players gets plenty touches of the ball and this is why Barcelona players are all so confident and assured on the ball. Only at U13 do they move to the 11 aside game. Cup Competition is not introduced until U14 level.
This was a truly breath taking experience and one i will never forget.
A big thanks to Juan, Enric and Franc and all at FC Barcelona.
I hope you enjoyed my short Journey to FC Barcelona “mes que un club”
I am delighted to confirm that FC Barcelona Coaches are coming to Ireland in 2011
Next February 5th & 6th 2011 FC Barcelona Escola Director Albert Benaiges and 2 Academy coaches Franc Carbo Pujol and Enric Duran Diaz, along with Juan Mari will come to Ireland for the very first time ever, to teach Irish Football Coaches, Barcelona’s most successful training methodology. The 5 star football facility at Carton House will provide for this amazing attraction. Details to follow.
Barcelona coming to Carton House February 2011
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