the ball during the match, always attacking and touching the ball a maximum of two times per player, all to win control of the system is built around triangles of ball movement, a simple but elegant geometry familiar to any Bulls or Lakers fan. The triangles are hard to actually see in a basketball game, but as you watch (or its players on the World Cup Spanish team), any novice can see the cascading triangles begin to appear on the static green canvas. kind of like staring at one of those 3-D Magic Eye posters. Such a disciplined scheme requires rigorous development and a long, guiding legacy of success. According to Laporta, Barcelona to play when the great Dutch defenseman Johan joined the team in 1973. Afer he retired, returned as manager, further developing his aggressive, always-on-theattack philosophy of and led the team to its Champions League title with the in 1992. It was around the beginning of the era, in 1979, that FCB started housing its youngest players in La Masia, an 18th-century country mansion that had served as the training social headquarters. Surrounded by a well-manicured lawn, with a Spanish-tile roof and wheat-colored stonewalls, La Masia looks out of place in the shadow of Camp hulking concrete. With its own kitchen and dining room, a computer lab and classroom, La Masia can house 60 children, ages 10 to 18, serving as the home and symbol of ambitious youth program. There are 12 youth teams in the organization, with boys ranging in age fom to 25. And while they hail fom more than 10 countries as well as fom all over Spain, most of them are fom Catalonia. The goal is to have as many players as possible come fom the cantera youthacademy teams: Similar to a Major League Baseball team or an NFL team that builds through the draf, this makes sense fom both a value standpoint and an internal cultural standpoint. very important to have their families explains Albert Capellas, the coordinator for youth academy. when they arrive with the team, they get up to speed quickly, especially compared to foreign players. due a lot of years playing with the same philosophy, with the same exercises, with the same mentality, with the same The most important players now on the team are the Catalan athletes produced by La Masia: goalie captain Carles Puyol (also captain of the Spanish team), his partner on the backline Gerard the tandem of Iniesta and Xavi and young strikers such as Bojan Krkic and Pedro Even Coach Guardiola got his start at La Masia. But the shiniest example is Lionel Messi, 2009 FIFA player of the year, who came to the youth academy fom his native Argentina when he was 12. He live in La Masia, but he spent his days showing up for breakfast, getting tutoring before and afer practice. Whenever you talk to Barcelona fans about Messi, you hear superlatives about his play, but they also talk about his humility. Messi could be genetically unassuming, but Ruben Bonastre, assistant to the director of La Masia, believes it was also part of his grooming. a player is 18 years old, he has money, he has girls, he has a Bonastre says. very to tell them that the most important thing is his humility, but I think that maybe we are the only people that can tell him this thing. Because we knew him when he was a Bonastre believes La Masia allows the young soccer stars to maintain something resembling a normal life while growing up, and even beyond adolescence. Only one or two players actually make it all the way to the team each year, so the team must ensure that the ones who make it get the best education possible during their training. The result? entourage of childhood buddies all soccer are veterinarians and graphic designers. Gerard played on the same youth squad with Messi and the Cesc Fabregas (who now plays for Arsenal, but is another product on the Spanish na(Continued on page 98)
Unlike team presidents such as the Brian Cashman or the Mitch Kupchak, Laporta was actually elected to his post. International Communications Manager Chemi Teres explains that Football Club Barcelona is just that, a club. There are 170,000 socios, who function almost like country club members. They pay 155 euros and get a subscription to magazine, priority on season tickets and a chance to vote for the president every six years.
Heading into the World Cup, in which Lionel Messi will play with Argentina, consternation over why he played at the same level with Argentina as he has with not because is just as much a part of his identity, because gave him his team paid for his growth hormone treatments when he was a tiny kid, gave his father a job and taught Messi how to operate within its system, both on and the pitch. will be here for as long as they want he has said. owe Barcelona more than for giving me a owe them for changing my
Left: La Masia, FCB training facilities located near Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. Below: Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his second goal against Stuttgart in March.
deltaskymag.com June 2010