Barcelona (CNA).- ‘The strength of a feeling’. This is the slogan of a football club in Barcelona. It is not the most known club nor does it lead the Spanish Championship. It does not play the Champions League either. But it has traditionally been one of the most important football factories in Spain. Almost 200 players grow professionally at Real Club Deportiu Espanyol, the smaller of the two main football clubs in the Catalan capital. Some of these players have the possibility of living next to the training pitch, at the residence the club offers to its trainee footballers.
RCD Espanyol was born in 1900 and for over a century lots of footballers have emerged from the factory. Dozens of players that one day were part of Espanyol’s junior ranks are now at different clubs in Spain; others are spread around the world, such as Jordi Gómez in the Premier League or Jonathan Soriano who later was part of the FC Barcelona B team and nowadays plays for the Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg.
One of the most important aspects of Espanyol’s youth scheme is their residence, located close to the training pitch, where forty players between 14 and 19 years old live together. Next to the residence, boys have their own school. An agreement between the club and the school, called Túrbula, allows the young players to go to class when it is more convenient for them according to their training schedule. Four people lead the residence: the Director, Ramon Guerrero along with two assistants and a night watchman. The residence has been on this spot, near the Dani Jarque Sports Center – named after RCD Espanyol’s captain who passed away two years ago- for just two years. Before the relocation, it was located in the centric neighborhood of Gràcia, in Barcelona. According to the club’s board member responsible for the factory, Antonio Morales, over the last two years, failing grades in player’s school results have fallen from 32% to 16%.
Both football and studies go together
Antonio Morales directly looks after the academic results of these young players. He proudly shows all his folders to us, where we can find which subject players are good at, what are their interests and their school results. The whole task is put into practice with the help of people at the residence, where it is a must for these young boys to study. If they want to enjoy the benefits that living in a residence offer, such as friends, proximity to their school and the training pitch, they have to pursue professional studies or even a university degree. Morales, along with the Director of the residence, analyze the school results of their players and, if they detect failing grades, boys can be punished and not play the weekend game. The under-18 team’s coach, Dani Poyatos understands the importance of studies in his players’ lives and assures that “a player does not decide; if someone has a bad attitude and needs a reprimand, we will accept it.” Both football and studies go together at this club.
Allowing children to play football their own way
But why are their teams so successful at junior championship level? According to Morales, it is important to allow children to play their way, without strict demands: “we want them to be anarchic in their behavior. We cannot impose discipline when they are young, as we would be drowning their creativity”. Consequently, at RCD Espanyol the concern points at young football players’ behavior more than at their technique. It is Morales’ opinion this is one of the reasons why parents want their children to play at RCD Espanyol: “Parents make Espanyol a priority because we allow kids to make their debut soon and because of the importance the factory has for us,” he claimed.
Over the last few years, since coach Mauricio Pochettino took charge of RCD Espanyol’s first team, up to twenty pool players have made their debut in one of Europe’s most important football leagues. Dani Poyatos makes it clear: “it is important for us that our players move up at the end of the season; that means we are working well.”
Interview published on the Catalan News Agency on April 17th, 2012. Original article: http://www.catalannewsagency.com/life-style/item/the-other-football-factory-in-barcelona-rcd-espanyol?highlight=YTozOntpOjA7czo1OiJtYXJ0YSI7aToxO3M6NjoibGFjaW1hIjtpOjI7czoxMjoibWFydGEgbGFjaW1hIjt9