Ian Robertson – Lionel Messi. Luis Suarez. Neymar. These are household names even to the most naïve of sports fans. FC Barcelona currently has all 3 players on its roster, and accordingly is the most well-known and arguably the most highly regarded soccer club in the world. Yet the pervasive interest and passion the club and the sport of futbol engender globally remain somewhat elusive in the United States. However, FC Barcelona, in expanding its recruitment not just throughout Europe but also the U.S., and is hoping to change this well-established of American soccer apathy.
FCBescola, which can be translated quite literally into FC Barcelona School of Soccer, is an organization directly affiliated with FC Barcelona that has shown its commitment to expanding the club’s methodology and passion for soccer by recently establishing permanent Barcelona soccer schools in South Florida, Austin, Texas and Charlotte. There are 33 FCBescola schools in total, with some of the club’s other global locations including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Toronto. The club’s overarching goal is to spread the Barca name and instill the club’s work philosophy and values to the rest of the world. As Pau Casassa, Director of FCBescola Charlotte put it, “We believe we have the best model for long-term success not just in developing extraordinary soccer players, but also developing extraordinary individuals.”
FCBescola recruits players as early as age 6 up and up to age 18, looking for youth with both a passion for the game of soccer and future potential in the sport. By placing equal emphasis on core values such as respect, teamwork, humility, and ambition, the program’s staff reiterated the hope that success on the field will translate to coinciding success off the field.
With such an ambitious model, FCBescola has a lot of work to do. Expanding Barca’s influence to the United States is a unique challenge, especially given the cultural differences between Europe and America that the club must overcome. Casassa stated succinctly, “The culture surrounding soccer is immensely different. If you throw a ball to a young American, he catches it. If you throw a ball to a kid in Barcelona, he kicks it.” Yet, Casassa also acknowledges that soccer is still growing in America, and that Americans have clear, untapped potential in the sport. FCBescola’s impact in the U.S. thus far has already shown immense promise.
FCBescola Charlotte’s U12 Coach, a Barcelona native, Lluis, noted that even within just his first 3 months of coaching in the Charlotte area he has seen “incredible progress.” While the methodology is challenging for players to adapt to initially, Lluis has confidence in the club’s long-term approach. “It’s not how much you win, but about how you play.” The Barca coaches have remarked on how often parents and other coaches compliment the style of play Barca emphasizes.
Although parents often look for immediate results, the transformation of a player into the caliber that FCBescola strives for requires patience and trust in the team’s methodology. Developing players with a high “soccer IQ,”; that is players who can apply skills to in-game situations and make rapid on the field decisions, can take years. As a result, FCBescola is here to stay and looking to expand their program in the Charlotte area.
Currently, there are 160 players in FCBescola Charlotte’s competitive program. To be eligible for the program, talent and potential are a must. But without an equally fiery passion for soccer and incessant desire to learn and improve, such potential will never materialize into real success. As evident in their backgrounds, many of the program’s players have already exhibited such passion through sacrifices they have made.
Alejandro Balseca, an 8-year-old living in the Charlotte area, travels an hour and a half just to train at FCBescola’s practice facility. Another 7-year-old, leaving behind both of his parents, is traveling only with his grandmother to Barcelona to compete in an international soccer tournament. FBCBescola’s coaches have made equally extraordinary sacrifices, with Jesús & Lluís, coaches of the Charlotte U8 and U12 teams respectively, both leaving Barcelona to live permanently in Charlotte. While Jesús admitted that the move to America was a bit of a culture shock and that it was “hard to leave everything behind,” his incredible passion for the game of soccer has superseded any hardships encountered as a result of the transition.
Coming up next for the club is the FCBescola’s 6th annual international tournament from April 10th- 13th, which features 20 countries and 33 different FC Barcelona schools from around the world. Sponsored in partnership with ISL futbol, more than 80 players of ages 7-14 are coming together to compete in Barcelona.
FCBescola Charlotte is sending a U8 and U12 team, giving them the opportunity to see the progress they have made by competing against traditionally stronger European teams. There are also teams from Austin, TX and Florida traveling to the tournament. The coaches are certainly eager to see the early progress they have made.
While the exportation of the Barca model to the United States has been a challenge, the American FCBescola teams are looking to develop players to their highest potential and showcase the style of play characteristic of one of the world’s most prestigious soccer clubs. When asked about the stark difference in ability and talent between European and American soccer, Casassa acknowledged that their efforts are certainly working towards bridging this gap. Lluis even noted that the development of American soccer players into international caliber talent “may not be as far off as you might think.” As FCBescola’s programs continue to expand, passion for futbol in America should continue to rise, potentially giving way to the astonishing level of talent Lluis alluded to. For now, we are left hoping the Barca methodology can help transform potential into concrete, long-lasting success to players both on and off the field.