Barcelona Puts Soccer on 60 Minutes

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.

10 Responses to Barcelona Puts Soccer on 60 Minutes

  1. Jason says:

    Glad to see you guys up and running. I agree there was a lack of context with that 60 Minutes piece. I’m also wondering if you should’ve been a little tougher. Barca is a global brand that even mainstream American fans know. They could’ve doen a better job with perspective rather than their journalist looking surprised that so many people show up to see them. Heck, compare it to college football.

  2. Dennis Parces says:

    I agree with your comments on the piece not talking about what happens to the kids who don’t make it to the big club… My son will be entering his second 5 month stint at Union de Santa Fe in Argentina. He is a 14 year old american from Puerto Rico and he lives at rhe club’s dorm built into the side of the Stadium with 50 other young players from all over the country. The players are constantly evaluated and there is some turnaround…those that don’t make it are sent back home. This coming season I only saw 12-15 out of 50 that will not return. My son is building his playing resume with the stint at Union, but I would like to find him a residential academy in the US, as I believe the foreign countries will develop their own quite zealously, and we should do the same with our homegrown talent!

  3. Sokkrgrrl says:

    I agree there was a lack of context. I also agree that there should have been more coverage of the academy system in comparison to other clubs – particularly in America where soccer is in its infancy at a professional level. It is not a stretch to find the average American may know Landon Donovan but few can name more than a handful of players male or female.

    “Still, Barca didn’t develop the academy system and there’s a good argument that they haven’t perfected it.”

    I don’t agree with this point . What example would you like to give of a more successful youth academy than Barca? I particularly liked the point they made that if you want to be a minor celebrity partying hard in the clubs you won’t last long at Barca. There should be more of this type of attitude and less of the John Terry – Ryan Giggs – Wayne Rooney – Peter Crouch – endless supply of EPL low life – shenanigans that may keep Ok mag afloat but is nothing but a distraction to the English game – which coincidentally as a nation has not shown up for an international competition since 1966. Is it any surprise that the nation where Barca is wins the cup?

    And let’s not forget that Barca’s game is markedly different from the majority of clubs being completely dominated by a passing game. Then there’s the matter of a small player named Messi with big skills and no big attitude to go with it – something many Barca players are known for unlike their arch rival Real “Big Ego” Madrid.

    The bottom line is finally – finally – fans of all ages everywhere can have a hero that is worthy on the field and off in Lionel Messi. His work ethic, values, dedication and humility (sorry Cristiano) are a lesson to all.

    • There’s plenty of examples of big name European clubs operating long-running academy systems. Bayern Munich is the normal example, but you can include the Ajax academy among others. What we meant by ‘perfected it’ is the problem with academy systems. Most players are on two year ‘contracts’ meaning they’re releasing players who are still in their teens. Here’s an article about that as it applies to England where the academies aren’t normally residential: link to telegraph.co.uk

  4. Derek J. McCracken says:

    Ultimately, the principal barometer in how well a youth soccer academy is being run, is how well the senior team does in it’s national, continental and global competitions. Yes, Ajax had a great run in the 70’s and Bayern Munich as well. However, in the past several years, there is NO TEAM that can match Barca’s senior team success. Moreover, many of the players that are on the Barcelona senior team, were developed at Masia. This is contrary to most other “big” clubs which, if you look at their senior team, has purchased most of the “core” of their players from other smaller clubs. In that sense, my hats off to Barca. They’ve done it the right way: Develop your talent, don’t try to “buy” a championship. The latter is one of the big wrongs in pro sports nowadays and why some many teams are operating in the “red”.

    To that end, let’s evaluate this 60 minutes piece for what it is: A 20 minute “fluff” piece which gives soccer some positive exposure to a country’s mainstream which still hasn’t “bought in”, that rightfully tips its hat to the Barca youth academy and which would NOT have had time to delve into more serious issues such as, what happens to the youth players who don’t make it in the academies, in such a short time span. Coming to this conclusion is much better than donning our intellectually superior “soccer-expert” hat and tearing apart the fluff piece.

    • I don’t think anybody’s tearing anything apart. It was what it was, and it leaves out a worldwide issue when it comes to professional teams signing youth players.

      • Derek J. McCracken says:

        I agree 100% with you that it’s an important issue.

        However, given that they only had 20 minutes to cover Barca in general, it would have been extremely difficult to do the other issue any justice. On the other hand, if 60 Minutes would have chosen not do the other two, 20 minute pieces and devoted it’s entire show to Barca and, more importantly, to what happens to youth players when they get cut from pro academies, then i think it would have been worth it and it would become a piece with much more substance.

        However, for the relatively short 20 minutes they had, I thought they did fine with the Barca “fluff” piece they broadcast.

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