Hopeful youngsters combine football with studies at the FC Barcelona youth academy
The FC Barcelona youth academy, called La Masia, is known and respected worldwide for its success with home-grown players such as Pep Guardiola, Leo Messi, Carles Puyol and Andrés Iniesta. The Technical Director of the youth system, former Barça midfielder Guillermo Amor, was also one of the young talents at the academy. A member of Johan Cruyff's Dream Team in the 1990s, Amor knows the place better than anyone. CNA offers an exclusive interview with the Barça legend who told us more about the day-to-day life of the Blaugrana stars of tomorrow…
Barcelona (CNA). – The FC Barcelona youth academy, called La Masia, is known and respected worldwide for its success with home-grown players such as Pep Guardiola, Leo Messi, Carles Puyol and Andrés Iniesta. The Technical Director of the youth system, former Barça midfielder Guillermo Amor, was also one of the young talents at the academy. A member of Johan Cruyff's Dream Team in the 1990s, Amor knows the place better than anyone. CNA offers an exclusive interview with the Barça legend who told us more about the day-to-day life of the Blaugrana stars of tomorrow…
A 20 minute tram ride outside the busy Barcelona centre takes you to the Sant Joan Despí Training Centre. A big FC Barcelona logo in the famous ‘blaugrana’ colors welcomes you to the home of the FC Barcelona youth academy, officially called ‘Centre de Formació Oriol Tort’ but known as La Masia. These large-scale facilities are also Barça's first team training field. A small group of people are gathered at the entrance in the hope of getting a quick glance at one of the Barça players. Inside these buildings the FC Barcelona stars of the future are groomed. In charge of this centre is Guillermo Amor, Technical Director of the youth academy and a Barça legend who played for 11 years in the first team from 1987 to 1998. He himself was once a young boy with great dreams in La Masia before he made his debut on the first team, and therefore he knows what living there is like and what playing for FC Barcelona means to a youngster who stayed there.
“To feel the colors of Barça gives us a unique strength. When you have been in the club since you were a kid and end up on the first team, all the years you have sacrificed to achieve that dream give you a feeling that “this is my club”. That feeling is very important. Playing football is beautiful, playing in the first division and in the Champions League is marvelous. But playing for Barça – there is nothing better than that,” Guillermo Amor states with excited eyes.
Daily life at the academy
The academy was founded in 1979. Back then it was called La Masia, as the building was a traditional Catalan farmhouse, located right next to the Camp Nou. But new and bigger facilities were needed, and therefore the new Masia, ‘the Centre de Formacío Oriol Tort’, was opened at the Sant Joan Despí Training Centre in 2011. More than 200 players from 7-17 years old are in the Barça junior ranks, and 80 of them live in the residence.
The new and modern facilities are, in Amor’s opinion, much better than the old ones next to the Camp Nou, but he also admits that the old Masia means something special too him.
“The previous residence was important to me, but it ended up being too small for us,” he says. Small is not a word you can say about the newly-built ‘Oriol Tort’ centre. With a building of 6,000 m2 spread over five floors in contrast to the 610 m2 of the old Masia, the staff and coaches have the best conditions to bring through the new Barça stars, who follow a daily rhythm at the academy.
“Those players who live here wake up early in the morning and go by bus to a school called Lleó XIII, which is in the Tibidabo hill. At midday they come back to the residence to eat, study and rest a bit before training starts. Dinner is at 9pm [in line with the regular time Catalans have dinner]. After this, the boys relax by watching television and maybe studying before going to bed,” Guillermo Amor explains.
Life is more than football
Even though the academy is focused on the big dream of ending up on the first team and most of the players use all their waking hours to think about football, Guillermo Amor stresses that life is more than simply playing football.
“We train football players and we want as many of our young players to end up on the first team. However we know that not all of them will. Therefore is it also very important for us that the players are serious when it comes to studying, because not everything in life is football. A career in football finishes quite early and after that life continues, so we try to make the young players carry on with their studies and we keep track of their grades. It can be hard for the kids to choose between a book and a ball. I remember I always took the ball and I think it is the same with the kids now,” Amor says with a smile.