Barcelona launch first European training school in Poland

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Football icons Barcelona on Wednesday launched their first European training school outside Spain in Poland, aiming to spread their “tiki-taka” style among kids dreaming of becoming the next Lionel Messi.

Only 620 boys from the 3,000 “FCB Escola Varsovia” hopefuls made the final cut for a programme teaching the fluid passing play that earned Barcelona the 2011 Champions League title and helped Spain win Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

At Wednesday’s debut a forty-strong pick of the crop were put through their paces by coaches including Carlos Alos, sent by the Catalan powerhouses to run the school. “It’s kids that are the most important thing,” said Warsaw’s sports director Wieslaw Wilczynski.

“But it’s also important for Polish football,” added Wilczynski, who as deputy sports minister in 2005 played a key role in launching Poland’s successful bid to host the 2012 European Championships along with neighbouring Ukraine.

The youngsters are aged from six to 12.

“These could be the players who could represent Poland on the global stage in the future,” Wilczynski told AFP.

Polish fans pine for the glory days when Poland won Olympic gold in 1972, silver in 1976, and finished third at the World Cup in 1974 and 1982.

With the current squad failing to shine, realists are already looking well beyond Euro 2012.

In another effort to boost football, the government-run “Orlik” programme – “Little Eagle”, in a nod to Poland’s avian emblem – has built hundreds of artificial pitches in communities across the nation of 38 million.

The school does not have a building, but instead involves regular sessions run by Barcelona-trained Poles at four Warsaw community pitches.

Monthly fees are 190 zloty (43 euros, $58). Poland’s average net wage is 2,300 zloty.

Barcelona do not have a financial role – their input involves supplying know-how – and the remaining costs are covered by Warsaw council via sponsors.

Barcelona already have six similar schools across the globe, in Egypt, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Peru, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are here because we know that Poland has a lot of fans of Barca. They have good installations here, and we received a good project from here,” Alos told AFP.

They do not aim to use the school to cherrypick young Poles for their club, he underlined.

“For us, the goal is to develop football, the kids, to put the focus on training the kids, like a person and not only like a player. We’re here to work with our philosophy, our mentality, our methodology and the most important thing for us is to show our philosophy around the world,” he said.

“If, after that, some of the kids can play in international teams, we’ll be very, very happy,” he added.

Barcelona – whose slogan is “more than a club” – and its players are a global brand.

Asked by AFP to name their favourite player, the Warsaw youngsters yelled: “Messi”.

Over 70 percent of Barcelona’s players are home-grown.

Even though Messi, now 24, is Argentinian, he joined Barcelona as a youngster.

Alos told AFP it was “too early” to speculate whether similar talent could emerge in Warsaw.

Pressed to assess the quality of Polish football, he said: “I think there are good Polish players in different, good leagues. Maybe not now in Spain, but some Poles played in La Liga before.”

“I think the level here is like in other places,” he added.

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