The lights of the dream machine called La Masía turn on every day at 8 a.m. After five more minutes of sleep, a bus picks us up on our way to Lion XIII School at 8:30. Time for breakfast was never enough. We left the triple bedroom in the residence placed at gate 81 of Camp Nou Stadium, on our way to the only place where we live a normal life, a place where we studied and made friends without the demanding environment that usually encapsulates us. Most of Masía’s residents were not great students, not because of a lack of ability, but because of lack of interest. Can a teenager be interested in books when the best soccer players in the world are training every day on the soccer field you see every time you open the window? We were the happiest guys in the world when those great players could be seen out our windows everyday. Xavi, Iniesta, Ronaldinho, Eto’o are all amazing players, and many of them had lived in the same place we were living. That’s why most residents didn’t understand that school was our future. Many of us would become professional soccer players in the years to come. We were 80 kids, chosen among 12 to 17 year olds from many different countries: Spain, Portugal, Germany, Israel, Cameroon, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, South Korea…many different cultures, but a common objective.
We were bubble wrapped everyday at lunchtime, when doctors offered us a special menu to fit our special requirements. It was a good time to relax and focus on what we were trying to achieve that day. We could also joke with out mates, but competitiveness was still in our blood. Many people were taking care of us and paying attention to our needs: legal guardians, chefs, and waiters… I remind all of them. After lunch, it was time for our training, after the older guys trained earlier. Obviously, we all tried to be the best players everyday. We all were the best players in our hometown and natural selection guided us to play in the best academy in the world. The soccer fields were close the residence, and it was curious to see the high speed we had on our way to the training facilities, and the slow pace when we came back for dinner after a hard training session and a recovery shower. Dinner was waiting for us everyday, and there were people taking care of us during the night as well. I think they knew what was going on our heads, and that’s why they joked and tried to have fun with us. We always enjoyed a hot chocolate and biscuits before going to sleep. Lights turned off at 11 p.m., but that was often ignored, as it was time to speak with our families. Cell phones were not common yet, but it was a must for all of us; it was the only way to feel back at home for a few minutes. I realize that I didn’t understand my situation completely; I was very happy being where I was, fighting for my dreams, but during the first two years, I cried almost every night after speaking with my family, sometimes locked in the bathroom and sometimes hidden in the bed.
I was 12 years old and I was missing my family. I never said anything to anybody, and none of my mates ever told me that he was missing his family. However, the next morning we left our triple bedroom at Gate 81 with a smile on our face; we couldn’t wait until it was time for training. Several years later, I realized that despite different languages and cultures, we shared many more similarities than we thought. We all started the day smiling, and we also finished it crying. Barcelona Soccer Club founders lived in gate 81 and played in the best youth academy in the world. After having success as players and as coaches, it is time to share the knowledge acquired with future soccer players all around the world. We can’t move Gate 81 to the United States, but we can make every young soccer player feels the same emotions we were feeling at that spot and at that moment.
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Writed with Love by:
Toni Dovale, Cofounder and Chairman of Barcelona Soccer Excellence
– Current Sporting Kansas City Player (MLS)
– Celta de Vigo Pro Soccer Player (Spanish First Division)
– 4 years with FC Barcelona Youth Teams.
Follow me @ToniDovale9
BARCELONA SOCCER EXCELLENCE is a soccer academy founded by professional players and coaches with vast experience and expertise instructing younger players, as well as a past related with FC Barcelona youth teams.