La Liga’s Barcelona and their La Masia academy were profiled on American network news magazine show 60 Minutes.
Let’s start by dismissing the tourist aspect of CBS’s 60 Minutes profile of FC Barcelona on Sunday night. Like it or not, we’re still at a point in this country where even the highest level of professional club soccer needs more explanation than most soccer fans would prefer. At least they limited the Yankees – Red Sox for Barca – Real Madrid and Derek Jeter to Lionel Messi comparisons. This is the show’s 45th season, and we’ll assume they know their audience well enough to not assume soccer literacy. Fair enough.
Where the segment needed sharper focus was in comparing what happens with Barcelona to what happens across the world. Yes, that’s a wide-breadth not likely to allow the segment to show us the grandeur of the classico or the creative license of the announcers. Hey, they didn’t even have time to mention that a couple of those overly enthusiastic announcers are for a US audience. Still, Barca didn’t develop the academy system and there’s a good argument that they haven’t perfected it. We’re soccer people, we know that. The general audience might not.
There’s also the inconvenient issue of youth player development that the story all but overlooked. They showed us a specific process with high profile results. No one mentioned what happens to kids who don’t make it through the Barcelona academy system. There wasn’t even a brief on Barcelona’s business in the United States or that American youth players are attending La Masia. That’s an interesting entry point for an American audience, ignored in favor of the Barca stars brought up through the academy. Without that, there’s a disconnect between La Masia and the worldwide focus on youth soccer player development that simply doesn’t exist.
A soccer club needs players, the cheaper way to get those players is through the controlled environment of an academy. That’s news to no American who follows pro soccer or who has kids playing at a competitive level, but it’s markedly different from business as usual in mainstream US sports. Barca are part of a system, after all, like every other professional club in the world.
Corner Rating: (1 has the story as we saw it and 11 with the new 60 Minutes Sports on Showtime asking serious questions about youth development and the Barcelona example) 7.