Last Sunday, the legendary CBS show 60 minutes profiled FC Barcelona and the ascent of its youth system, style of play and overall political connotation.
The show, which has been on the air for close to 50 years, usually focuses on topics that are key to the U.S. audience, and that are of a serious nature, amongst them political, social, religious or racial issues. Seldom has a segment ever focused on sports overall, a sports figure or event, and even stranger has been the cases in which a non-U.S. sports entity has been profiled.
But the performance that FC Barcelona and its players have consistently shown in the last five years merits the attention of the entire general U.S. population, and not only that of the soccer fanatics, whom are already well aware of what Lionel Messi and the guys have been up to lately.
The segment focused on the atypical youth system work that Barcelona has had in place for well over 30 years. Atypical because of the length that the system has been in place and the patience that team directors have had to let it sink in the club and produce the type of talent we are seeing today.
Aside from the needed reference to the rivalry with Real Madrid and the overview of the Spanish League, 60 minutes focused on the inner workings of FC Barcelona. Over the last 30 years, the club has had four different presidents and many more coaches, but all those changes have not disturbed the core of the organization: its youth system.
Barca placed five players in the Best XI of 2012, and four of them (Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi) were developed within La Masia, the club’s training ground for players between seven and 18 years old. La Masia is not only a collection of soccer fields, it is also a medical center, a residency with over 100 bedrooms, dining halls and classrooms, where the young players attend regular public school curriculum classes, but with the flexibility of working around the training and dietary needs of future soccer superstars.
Messi, perhaps the best player in the history of the sport, was developed in this system, as he landed in Barcelona from Argentina when he was only 13-years-old. He has spent the last 12 years in the club, and just yesterday he was crowned the best player in the world for the fourth year in a row. He is the epitome of how having all teams in the club training the same way and playing with the same style, from the U-10s to the pro team, can produce extremely successful players who innately understand each other in the pitch, creating a huge advantage over their opponents.
Catalonia’s quest to be an independent state
Finally, 60 minutes honed in on the “nationality” of the club. FC Barcelona plays in the Spanish League, but the team, its coaches, directors and even the players believe in the independence of the Catalan state, and are far from feeling “Spanish.” The notoriety the club has garnered over the last decade has done nothing but make it an even clearer symbol of the Independent movement in Catalonia, and Barca is happy to be so. It is not strange to see the Catalan players celebrating their titles with the Blaugranas by boasting the “Estelada”, the non-official Independentist flag of Catalonia, and even foreigners like Stoitchkov, Koeman, Popescu, in the past and now Messi, have learned to speak Catalan as well as they have learned Spanish.
The repercussion of the 60 minutes segment on FC Barcelona has been tremendous. In just 48 hours since it aired, the major media outlets in the U.S. have covered the story and a whole lot more non-soccer lovers now know about the team.
This kind of attention can only make the team keep growing, and after conquering the Asian market, FC Barcelona is sure to take over the American market by storm in the next few years.