Photo credit: FC Barcelona
In recent years, more and more foreign football clubs have come to China and set up football schools, including the Spanish giants, Barcelona Football Club (FCB). At the 2017 World Football Forum held from May 18th to 20th in Changsha, China, Toni Claveria, Project Manager Asia & Oceania Football Schools of FCB, talked to Yutang Sports about FCB’s youth football coaching in China.
The youth football training market in China has become increasingly competitive because of the influx of foreign clubs and the opening of soccer academies. However, in Claveria’s opinion, with several schools already established in China, FCB have their own unique advantages to get a foothold in this market.
“we have a clear football style. Everyone knows how Barca likes to play. We like to have the ball, to attack, keep the possession and to control the games.” said Claveria. “I think our strengths are that we have the best players in the world. We have players that everyone knows and admires”
But the most unique strengths, in Claveria’s perspective, are the methodologies and values of FCB. They have clear strategies about developing young players, which they have been doing for many years becoming admired internationally, an important aspect both in their local academy, La Masia, or in their overseas schools. In terms of the values they hold, they believe that the players training in their schools should be excellent in both sporting performance and education.
These methodologies and values are probably more easily implemented in local Spanish schools. However, when their schools are set up in other countries, how do they still maintain their approaches and values in the face of differences in cultural context and other issues?
“When we open our schools and academies, we send our coaches out there. So all of these academies are full time controlled by our coaches who have been with FCB for many years,” expressed Claveria. Indeed, the key to the training system of FCB’s schools and academies is that “the coaches and the players are following the same direction and reading from the same page.”
Photo credit: FC Barcelona
Thanks to this strategy, FCB have set up 37 football schools around the world, with the prior objective of approaching international markets and communities, as well as explaining and sharing FCB's football style, techniques and values to the people there.
The school they set up in Hainan Province, China, is the first school directly managed and operated by FCB in China.
In terms of football and its youth training issues, Claveria also expressed his opinions to Yutang Sports.
He understands the great willingness of China to be number one in the football world, but stresses that everything has just started. “It only started a few years ago and soccer development will keep improving,” stated Claveria. “But there is a lack of understanding. The culture is not there. It’s difficult to create this culture. It is something that will have to develop over time.”
And this is exactly what FCB is going to do in China. “The most important thing, at least for us now, is to make the Chinese people understand and love the game,” emphasized Claveria. “I guess that when you love something, you are more focused on it and will keep improving. So our objective now in China is that everybody who joins our activities can enjoy, like and love what we’re doing.”
There is a common trend around the world that football clubs are bidding for top stars. But in Claveria’s perspective, it is a short-term strategy, with the cultivation of home-grown players being the long-term goal. Another priority of FCB’s schools in China, is to help China to “understand the game, love the game and develop home-grown players.”
Similar to what FCB have achieved in their own youth training development, Chinese football also needs a suitable training system to develop local players. To this issue, Claveria believes that the crucial thing is to “understand who you are, what you want then how to play.”
“We do have a clear identity. We know how to play and what we want. And we’ve been following this for many years. You also need to find out what you want,” said Claveria. “It is a matter of time and not an easy thing. For us, it took us many years. So it is also a matter of patience.”
“It is good that China is gaining experience from many other clubs and football sides. We also want to help and to offer our vision. We are happy to be here and happy to learn from China also.