GERARD PIQUÉ, the Spanish football star, and Shakira’s better half, is one of the sport’s true talents…
If football in Brazil is best described as a religion, soccer in Spain is closer to an education. Youngsters emerge from the academies across the nation to fill many of the best domestic, and foreign, club sides in the world, helping Spain to a run of glory internationally including wins at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and back-to-back UEFA European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
On the club side, the two Spanish powerhouses, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, are amongst the top clubs and sports franchises on Earth, having combined to win the last five UEFA Champions League finals and winning Spain’s La Liga 13 out of the last 14 seasons. Perhaps no one has had a better vantage point, or more of an impact, on both Spain’s international success and Barcelona’s historic run than Gerard Piqué.
Like many Spanish football stars, the 32-year-old Piqué’s career began with that respected Spanish education. Children from a young age are not only encouraged to play the sport, but are guided by institutions and professional coaches to view it through the eyes of a professional rather than simply a fun outdoor activity. The most famous of these academies exists in Barcelona, at the club’s historic La Masia.
Global superstars with names like Iniesta, Xavi, Fàbregas, Puyol and Busquets all learned their trade at the “the farmhouse,” as did perhaps the greatest player of all time, Argentine Lionel Messi, who moved to Spain as an undersized youth player before developing into the legend he is today. Players at the academies are drilled not only to perform physically and mentally, but to understand and truly absorb the clubs’ playing styles and philosophies. This coherence and continuity is credited by some with creating not only great club sides like Barça, Real Madrid and others, but for providing such consistency and interchangeability to a national team. ■
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