Barca’s Futbol Base – Dreams Made Into Reality

Barca’s Futbol Base – Dreams Made Into Reality

That motto is rooted in the basic belief that young Irish athletes are every bit as passionate about the sport they participate in and, more importantly, as capable of achieving as their European and international counterparts.

The television age has brought modern sport to incredible new heights and Irish children are seen on a daily basis showcasing their admiration for the role models that inspire them.
It may be a schoolboy soccer player in Dublin wearing a Barcelona jersey with the famous name Messi (left) on his back to training on a winter’s Wednesday evening and attempting to replicate the majestic skill he watched the famous Argentinian show off on television the previous night.
Or it could be an underage rugby player in Limerick throwing a ball around with his pals on the street while proudly showcasing the brand new All Blacks jersey he bought earlier that day after witnessing the Southern Hemisphere giants first-hand in a November Test at the Aviva Stadium.
Either way, top-class professional sport has a positive effect on the lives of most of us – especially children.

But, at the same time, does sport’s new global image make the possibility of our elite young athletes reaching the international pinnacle of their sport just that: a dream?
For example, do Irish schoolboy football players really believe that can be as good as the Spanish World and European champions they watched humble their own national team in the summer?
At DBSportsTours we are not looking to answer that question. Instead we simply want to ensure it is not true.

Go out to watch the first training session a schoolboy team has following a weekend away in either Manchester or Barcelona on one of our tours and you will see true inspiration.
Ask their coach are they as focused this evening as they ever have been for a training session? Did every single one of them come up to training with renewed belief in their own ability and their potential to improve.

We think the answer will always be yes because since we began working with Irish clubs and players, DBSportsTours has seen firsthand that dreams are only a short trip from reality.
So, with the launch of our brand new website we are also proud to launch our new blog, which will aim to compliment our services, ie tours and match-day experiences, with a weekly exclusive insight into international sport that everyone can access and enjoy.
We hope that our blog can be a help to coaches looking to inspire and educate young athletes and a source of information and direction even for those young athletes from some of the biggest sporting institutions and names in the world.

So, where to start? There is really only one topic: FC Barcelona.
The already successful short history of DBSportsTours is linked with the emergence of FC Barcelona as perhaps the most inspirational sporting brand in the history of sport.
Never before has the unrivalled success of one club or sporting organization in a generation combined with the fundamental basics of how that success was created down to the smallest detail inspired the world in such a way.
It’s not just that the current Barcelona team are one of, if not the best teams the world has ever seen, but the fact that their success has come about as a result of a set of principles being implemented and stuck to.
Our grandfathers will remember the great Real Madrid team of the 1950s, while our fathers will recall the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides that dominated Europe in the 1970s.
But like all great teams, they came and went, but Barcelona’s success is not based on any one team, or players or even the manager – it is based on principles.
“The one thing which can never stop at this club is the cantera.”
European Cup winning player and manager with Barcelona Pep Guardiola.
La Cantera, or La Masia as it is better known, is the academy system at Barcelona set up over 30 years ago and based on footballing principles that are now flourishing like never before.


Graduates ingrained in the club’s success like former manager Guardiola (left) and current first-team stars Messi, Xavi and co are household names in every country in the world.
But is the model simply a pipe dream for the rest of us? Could an Irish schoolboy club run by volounteers for example really make good use of the principles Barcelona are built upon and achieve success?
Well, through our Barcelona Tours and the Barcelona Coaching Clinic we hosted in Carton House in 2010, DBSportsTours has got to know this famous club pretty well and we believe Irish clubs, coaches, players and even parents can learn a lot from them.
In 2010 we visited La Masia and below is a brief video showcasing an exclusive look at some of the work done with their age-groups. Take a look and ask yourself again does it look world’s away from what your own team does.

The first thing to point out is yes, these are the best young players scouted from a large area – Barcelona’s zone of recruitment is Catalonia and Andalusia – who probably have the advantage of living in the 10million euro a year run academy full-time and train all week.
To be exact, academy teams up to 13-years-old train three times a week for one-and-a-half hours at a time and four times after 14.
But that is not what we are focusing on here and certainly not what anybody should be trying to sell to anybody in Ireland.
What caught our attention while filming this video is the focus, concentration, dedication and enjoyment that each and every player – no matter the age – shows in this video while doing the most simple drills you are likely to see any Irish schoolboy team doing.

It would be easy to take for granted the fact that the ball never leaves the U13 player’s foot as he gently jogs around the cones but how many times do we see young Irish players lose concentration in that situation because they don’t see it as an important drill and lose control of the ball?
Well this has got to do with direction. Every Barcelona player knows how important keeping the ball under control is, even when not under pressure, because the club is based on that one principle from top to bottom.

Do Irish clubs have a principle or a style of play that they insists on and therefore spell out to their players or do player just turn up to play and the best shine and consequently win the game?
It is very common in Irish football to hear that there is too much emphasis on winning and not enough on development – as if one does not follow the other in the real world and even more worryingly, as if Irish clubs have too much to lose by trying to play football.
Well consider this mantra that one of the most successful sporting institutions in the world, whose club membership of 100,000 people plus demand national and European success regularly, live by.
“Unlike many other football clubs, FC Barcelona’s first team is not the reference for the youth academy in terms of a model for the style of play. In fact, it is the opposite – the first team follows the style of play of the youth teams of the club.”

Now that is what they call putting your money where your mouth is – literally, as the combined cost of running everything under the first team is 20million euro a year.
And that is what it is all about. How Barcelona play football is cultural, it is about having a unique idendity different to others and that is a choice any club at any level can make.
So, lets go a bit deeper and back to the beginning to be clearer.
La Cantera – Spanish for a diamond mine – or La Masia – a stone farmhouse like the one that famously housed Barca’s academy players before being replaced in 2011 – are famous titles.
However, Barcelona’s youth system is most accurately called: futbol base – which means basic football education.

Why, because Barca don’t want to find the best young players in the world, they want to make them – their joy is not the result, it is the creative process.
For a footballing country like Ireland that has little or no results or achievements of note in the grand scheme of things, surely getting the most out of the doing would be more fruitful that looking towards the finish line all the time.
So what is football education than? Basically, in every Barcelona team every player has jobs/responsibilities that he must fulfil so that the team can play football the way they want, to achieve the result the way they want.

“If you have released the ball as the centre-half to the right midfielder, what do you do next? Where do you move to? What are your responsibilities.”
Spanish journalist Graham Hunter describes
Responsibility is a key word here. Do Irish take responsibility on the pitch, or are they even told what their responsibilities are? If you put 22 youngsters on a pitch with no more instructions than to chase the ball when you don’t have it and kick it when you do, how can there be any pattern to what happens?
Most of the time the only pattern is the strongest, fastest and most confident players have most of the ball – Irish football in a nutshell.

But, do you need top UEFA A coaches with international experience at every age group in every schoolboy club to create such an organized system?
No. An official Barca definition of the required characteristics of for their academy coaches is:
Coaches are usually very young and do not necessarily have past experience at high levels.
Amazing when you consider the value put on coaches with badges coming out of their ears in Ireland.
But does a player not need complicated drills and training sessions that would confuse a mouse in a maze with cheese at the end?
No. Barca’s official definition of excercises used during training is:
The same for every team, always with the ball and at high rhythm. Intercepting and passing drills.
Sounds remarkably like a 3 V 1 or piggy in the middle drill and in fact it is. The most important drill used is the rondo – a possession drill, where a circle of players keep the ball from two defenders in the middle.

It teaches players how to receive and pass the ball under pressure, press if you are in the middle, builds fitness from being in the middle and promotes team spirit through the accomplishment of the group goal – keeping the ball.
But, above all else, it teaches players to think.
“One thing which stands out about the futbol base training at Barca is that they want all their players to think more quickly than their opponents (the rondo forces you to do that).
Former Barca Barca B star Arnau Riera
Because this is a cultural drill held in such high esteem for so long, it would be pointless to expect youngsters outside of Barca to perform this drill as effectively and with as much style and control.
But, how often do we see it not taken seriously in an Irish session, with the defender allowed to win the ball with ease and no consequence?
That is something we can change and focus on, because it Is about attitude. At Barca, giving possession away is as much a broken rule as having a tattoo, wearing an earring or your shirt being out of your shorts.

These are basic at the world’s best academy, the same as manners, values, respect and education are even placed above football ability – the club believe only the combination of all these factors can make a top athlete in the future.
So, the final word goes to a close friend of DBSportsTours, Albert Benaiges, who took up the role as director of the Al Wasl youth academy in Dubai after putting on the Carton House clinic in 2010.

In a message to every club, at any level, in the world Benaiges insists:
“What you can import is the order and discipline we always imposed in the Barca youth academy. There are other teams who use this model, like Ajax or Santos, and they have had great success with it over the years, too.”
So, to summarize, words like skill, technique and talent have not been mentioned above as road signs for the future of Irish football, instead being disciplined, thinking, taking responsibility and educating are the principles we can learn from FC Barcelona.

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