BARCELONA football club have joined forces with Sheffield University and Sheffield United FC to look at how to improve young footballers’ education.
The legendary Catalan club, Champions League winners in 2011 and the team of stars including Lionel Messi, sent director Ramon Pont Amenos to a get-together involving the Blades and the university’s Department of Hispanic Studies.
During the event, in front of a public audience, Señor Pont talked about how his club’s academy, the Masia, is an intellectual and sporting home for young footballers.
He said: “We have a strong responsibility to the young players, towards their families who have allowed us to educate them both in football and in life, and towards their future.
“We are their family, and therefore we have a responsibility towards everything that they do now, and towards what they will be able to do in their future.”
The university’s Dr Louise Johnson said Señor Pont had explained all about the Masia.
“It is what we might understand as the Academy, but it’s much more than that,” she said.
“It’s where young sporting talents from outside the city of Barcelona and from all over the world, live and eat together, train at the nearby facilities, and do their additional schoolwork.
“It’s an intellectual and sporting home from home. Guardiola, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi himself were ‘formed’ in the Masia.
“From Señor Pont we learnt about FC Barcelona’s policy of fair play or joc net, in Catalan. The youth teams have specific classes and training exercises which get the youngsters refereeing, reviewing and commenting on their own on-field behaviour and practices, to instil in them a sense of what it is to play the game fairly and with a sense of humility.”
Patrick Piearcey, community health officer for the Blades, spoke to Señor Pont and university staff.
Sheffield United are relaunching their community initiatives and Patrick had the chance to ask Señor Pont for advice. Patrick said: “Barcelona’s approach to sport, education, social inclusion and community responsibility is inspirational. It was a pleasure to hear how Barcelona operate.”