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Chua Siang Yee
Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

Sports

Barca still hopes to woo top talents

The Straits Times | Chua Siang Yee | Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

BARCELONA - It may not be held in the glamorous setting of the Nou Camp, or at the world class training facilities of the club's youth academy La Masia.

But this has not stopped hundreds of children, hailing from different parts of the world, from taking part in the FCBEscola International Tournament, an annual football competition featuring the school's branches worldwide.

This year, 780 children competed in the third edition of the seven-a-side competition, held at the training pitches of the Miniestadi, home to Barcelona's B team.

Tryouts at FCBEscola Barcelona, the flagship branch of the club's global network of football schools, alone saw some 1,500 trialists compete for 80 spots.

Said Xevi Merce, director at FCBEscola Barcelona: "For us, the biggest change over the years has been the number of participants. Every year, the number increases as we open more and more schools worldwide."

Such numbers should quell fears of a Barcelona decline, in the wake of Fifa slapping a year-long transfer ban on the club.

After all, they can still rely on drawing the best young talents from the Catalonia region - with a population of 7.57 million - and grooming them for the first team.

It is a formula that has worked wonders for the Spanish giants, who have been one of the world's top sides in the last decade.

The first team has 11 Catalans, with a further four coming from other parts of Spain. In total, there are 17 youth-team products - including Lionel Messi, who joined the club when he was 11.

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