FC Barcelona in Cebu
BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro (The Freeman) - September 9, 2018 - 12:00am

Did you know that there is a genuine presence of FB Barcelona in Cebu this weekend? Believe it or not. On top of those imitation FC Barcelona kits (or jerseys) that you can find in the tiangge stalls, the real thing is here this weekend. It’s the Milo FCB Road to Barcelona Philippines Camp and it’s taking place yesterday and today at the Cebu City Sports Center. And it’s not just an ordinary camp. Here conducting the camp are two coaches from the FC Barcelona Youth Academy. Jordi Aguilar and Albert Batalla flew all the way from Barcelona to train 160 players between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. They braved the heat yesterday morning and the sudden but welcome cloudy afternoon session.

Milo, which is now on its second year of conducting the camp, has brought the FC Barcelona dream to the Philippines. And the best of part of it is that it’s for free. A total of 160 young football players trooped to the CCSC for the unique experience of going through a FC Barcelona camp. But what is the FC Barcelona way of doing things? Isn’t football the same for all? The most impressive point stressed by the coaches was the need to live the Barca way of “HEART,” and it’s more than being talented and skilled on the pitch. HEART stands for Humility, Effort, Ambition, Respect, and Teamwork. All these teamed with discipline, comprise the values which FC Barcelona builds among its all its players: from the youth team players to the first team led by Messi.

This is the very same system that the likes of Messi and Iniesta underwent when they trained with the youth clubs. Coach Jordi Aguilar explained why he thought that Iniesta is one of those who best personified what an FC Barcelona player is like. Aguilar said Iniesta is humble when goals are scored. His effort is always 100 percent. He dreams big for the team and not for himself and earns the respect not only from his teammates but opponents as well. He’s also the epitome of teamwork as he works with his teammates by making them better.

I see this more as a process of developing the FC Barcelona person and not the player per se. By developing the players to grow in virtues and values, the natural skills and talents of a player naturally comes out. We get to remind ourselves once again why we get our kids into sports: to develop their character and over-all person. I’d like to do a survey to see how many of our football clubs take this approach to their training programs. In a short chat with the local media, the two Barcelona coaches narrated how the development of HEART is part and parcel of the way they conduct the drills. They said that one can’t pick up these values on a separate platform, but can actually be “synched” in with the drills, games and training sessions that they conduct. HEART isn’t taught only in the classroom. In fact, this can be learned more on the playing pitch when one interacts with his teammates. Now I see why clubs like FC Barcelona have gotten to be so popular. They have a branding, a personality that can’t be denied. And this doesn’t come from being the best technical team in the world. Their branding stems from their values that they strive to live. Everything else follows.

Its in this light that the players are so fortunate to undergo such a training camp. They may not be aware of it or be conscious of what’s going on. By undergoing the FC Barcelona camp, they’re developing the values of an FC Barcelona player, and are consequently preparing themselves for the real world out there and not just football. Football has now become a way to become better persons and more than just turning kids into better football players. In essence, one can be an FC Barcelona player in personality and character and doesn’t have to be on the first team. One who espouses HEART is a Barca product already.

How I wish this kind of approach to training and development can be followed by our local sports clubs, regardless of sport. Across all fields from basketball to football to volleyball, values are taught in a natural setting and persons can become better versions of themselves. However, I feel most of our clubs are still into developing good and talented players per se as a priority more than anything else. They are out to become the best team with the best players; and values and people development come as a last priority. Sad, isn’t it?

Isn’t it time for a paradigm shift? Let’s make people development our main goal for all sports programs. Let’s set aside the best player/best team mentality when it comes to managing a team. Instead, let’s have a best person/best team approach. bleachertalk@yahoo.com

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