The other football factory in Barcelona: RCD Espanyol
RCD Espanyol is the smaller of the two main football clubs in the capital of Catalonia. FC Barcelona’s La Masía football school is famous worldwide, and is where players such as Leo Messi have grown up. However, RCD Espanyol has also its own football school, and traditionally their junior teams were the most promising in the city.
Barcelona (CNA).- ‘The strength of a feeling’. This is the slogan of a football club in Barcelona. It is not the most known club nor does it lead the Spanish Championship. It doesn’t play the Champions League either. But it has traditionally been one of the most important football factories in Spain. Almost 200 players grow professionally at the Real Club Deportiu Espanyol, the smaller of the two main football clubs in the capital of Catalonia. Some of these players have the possibility of living next to the training pitch, at the residence the club has for its trainee footballers.
RCD Espanyol was born in 1900 and for over a hundred years lots of footballers have emerged from the factory. Dozens of footballers that one day were part of Espanyol’s junior ranks are now at different clubs in Spain; others are spread around the world, such as Jordi Gómez in the Premier League or Jonathan Soriano who later played for FC Barcelona B team and nowadays is at Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg.
One of the most important aspects of Espanyol’s youth scheme is their residence, located close to the training pitch, where forty players between 14 and 19 years old live together. Next to the residence, boys have their own school. An agreement between the club and the school, called Túrbula, allows the young players to go to class when it fits their training timetable. The residence is led by four people: the Director, Ramon Guerrero along with two assistants and a night watchman. The residence has been on this spot, near the Dani Jarque sport center - homage to the RCD Espanyol’s captain who died two years ago- for just two years. Before the relocation, the residence was located in the centric neighborhood of Gràcia, in Barcelona. According to the board member responsible for the factory, Antonio Morales, over the two last years, fail grades in players’ school results have fallen from 32% to 16%.
Both football and studies go together
Antonio Morales directly looks after the academic results of these young players. Proudly, he shows us all his folders, where we can find which subjects players are good at, what their interests are and their school results. The whole task is put into practice with the help of people at the residence, where kids are obliged to study. If they want to enjoy the benefits that living in a residence offers, such as friends, proximity to their school and the training pitch, they have to study a profession or even a university degree. Morales, along with the Director of the residence, analyse the school results of their kids and, if failures at school are detected, some players are punished and cannot play the weekend game. The coach of the under-18 team, Dani Poyatos understands the importance of studies in his players’ lives and assures that “a player does not decide; if someone has a bad attitude and needs a reprimand, it is acceptable for us”. Both football and studies go together at this club.
Allowing children to play football as they want
But why are their teams so successful at junior championship level? According to Morales, it is important to allow children to play as they want, without strict demands: “we look for them to be anarchic in their behavior. We cannot impose discipline when they are young, as we would be drowning their creativity”. Consequently, at RCD Espanyol there is a concern about the behavior of young football players more than on their technique. According to Morales, this is one of the reasons why parents want their children to play at RCD Espanyol. “Parents make Espanyol a priority because we allow them to make their debut soon and because for us the local factory is more important”, he said.
Over the last few years, since coach Mauricio Pochettino took charge of RCD Espanyol’s first team, up to twenty pool players have made their debut in one of Europe’s most important football leagues. Dani Poyatos assures that “it is important for us that our players move up at the end of the season; that means we are working well”.