This year our club saw itself moving from being just another soccer training center to an organized grassroots academy that focuses primarily on nurturing young talent who are looking to make it big in the footballing arena. We became ‘FC Madras’ from ‘Mahogany FC’ and it was an emotional transition for all of them who were involved in this amalgamation.
We organized two camps – a local camp in India (Bangalore) and a camp in Spain (Barcelona) between May 16th to the 24th. The Bangalore camp had at least 100 kids between the age of 8 to 18 and the Spain camp had 28 participants along with a few parents accompanying them.
The camp in Spain was organized in association with Learning Soccer Academy (LSA) who are based out of Lleida, Spain. LSA is run by Fede Bessone, Fran Bessone, and Enric Barri. Fede Bessone plays as a left back for the Spanish club AE Prat and has had a successful stint with ‘Swansea City’ during his time at the English Premier League. Fede as a youth player spent four years with FC Barcelona and played alongside Lionel Messi.
The camp was organized with the prime objective of providing exposure to our players and understanding the training methodologies adapted in Europe. The batch had a mix of Under 9’s, Under 12’s, Under 15’s and Under 18’s and there were a total of 28 students who traveled for this program along with three coaches and 6 parents. The training sessions were conducted at the home ground ‘Atletico Segre’, a famous Lleida based football club. Few of our Under 18 students got a chance to train with the ‘A’ team of Atletico Segre.
The boys were training for close to 4-5 hours a day (two hours in the morning and two hours in the night) and we also had an opportunity to play matches with the local university team at Lleida. We fielded our Under 12’s team and the Under 15’s team and won two matches and lost two matches. Between this hectic schedule, we were able to explore Lleida city and the boys shopped more than what the adults would do. Frequent visits were made to a sports store called ‘Wala’ and the boys went berserk over football studs that were rare to find in India, some preferred the Messi branded Adidas shoes and some wanted the CR7 branded Nike shoes and each of them walked away with at least two pairs of shoes.
Our boys also got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Camp Nou, the home ground for FC Barcelona and got a chance to experience the extravagance first hand. All the little Messi’s were excited to see the memorabilia that were exhibited in the experience zone. The time we travelled to Spain was also the end-of-season for Laliga and May 20th was the last game of the season FC Barcelona was scheduled to play against Real Sociedad. Incidentally, this was also the last game for Andres Iniesta and the game was already a much-hyped one. The stadium was roaring with slogans and the decibel levels went up when Messi came on the field during the second half. The match ended with FC Barcelona scoring one goal and post-match a spectacular fireworks show illuminated the sky at midnight.
This write-up will not be complete without a special mention of the food adventures. The key challenge as an Indian travelling to Spain was finding Veg food and Lleida is a city where getting Veg food was like finding pearl from the ocean, to an extent that McDonald’s served only non-veg. The saviour came in the name of ‘Tandoori Mahal’ a Pakistani restaurant which serves some amazing Indian food. The entire group feasted on the available food from Tandoori Mahal.
The camp in Bangalore saw us organising a week-long trip to the outskirts of Bangalore. There were close to 100 participants for this camp and the stay was organised at Nirjhari Conference Centre. There were different matches that were organised and there were a lot of technical sessions with scheduled feedbacks.
We competed with Bhaichung Bhutia Soccer Schools, Roots Football Academy, Boca Juniors, Bangalore Soccer Galaxy, Game Changers, Football Academy Of Bangalore. The results were mixed but the learning opportunity was immense.
We had participants who were primarily U9’s to U15s. The boys showed immense discipline and organised themselves quite well during the stay.