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Spain's Xavi Hernandez, left, and Chile's Gary Medel, right Spain's Xavi Hernandez, left, and Chile's Gary Medel, right, battle for the ball during their World Cup soccer match in Pretoria, South Africa, June 25, 2010. Xavi graduated from La Masia soccer school in Barcelona. (Ivan Sekretarev/AP Images)

School of Soccer Champions

Some of the World Cup's top stars are graduates of the La Masia soccer academy

By Sean Price | July 6 , 2010
A view of La Masia, the soccer school in Barcelona, Spain, that has trained some of the world's best professional socer players for more than 30 years. (Photo: Matt West/BPI/Icon SMI/NewsCom)
A view of La Masia, the soccer school in Barcelona, Spain, that has trained some of the world's best professional socer players for more than 30 years. (Photo: Matt West/BPI/Icon SMI/NewsCom)

Breaking News Update Wednesday, July 7, 2010: Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the semifinals. Spain will now play the Netherlands in the final match of the World Cup Soccer Championship on Sunday, July 11.

The following article is the original story published by Scholastic News Online on Tuesday, July 6.

La Masia [lah mah-SEE-uh]. In Spanish, the name simply means "the farmhouse." But to soccer fans worldwide, it's become the birthplace of greatness.

La Masia is a soccer school that was started in 1979. It was created by a professional soccer team called Football Club Barcelona. (In countries other than the United States, football means soccer.) La Masia has one job: Produce the best soccer players in the world for the Barcelona team. This year's World Cup shows that it can do just that.

Stocking European Soccer

Over the past 31 years, more than 500 teenage boys have passed through La Masia's doors. Perhaps the best known to Americans today is superstar Lionel Messi. He was the 2009 Player of the Year for FIFA (the group that runs the World Cup). Although Messi plays for the Barcelona team professionally, he decided to play for his home country of Argentina in the World Cup. Messi led Argentina's team to the final eight of this year's World Cup before being defeated 4-0 by Germany last Saturday.

Graduates of La Masia have kept Spain in contention to win the World Cup. Midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, as well as defender Carles Puyol will lead their team into the semifinal game against Germany on Wednesday.

Most of La Masia's students go on to play for the Barcelona team. But many graduates have moved on to other top professional soccer teams in Europe. They play for great teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United in the United Kingdom, Stuttgart in Germany, and Bordeaux in France.

A Day in the Life of La Masia

Who gets to attend this academy of the stars? La Masia picks the most talented young boys 11 to 18 that it can find. Most are from Spain, but some come from South America and Africa. Although many big soccer teams in Europe run canteras, or youth sports clubs, La Masia is one of the most successful at finding and building talent.

A typical day at La Masia starts at 7:30 with a group breakfast. Boys get their education at local schools from about 8 to 2 p.m. After a 2 p.m. lunch, some boys take a siesta (midday nap) while others do homework. From 4 to 6, they get intensive soccer training. That is followed by a hard workout in the gym. At 9 p.m. boys eat dinner together until bedtime at 10 p.m. Many choose to read, listen to music, or do homework before turning in.

"We used to spend hours in the hall," recalls Iniesta. "We'd play [soccer], using the doorways as goal. [Soccer in the hallway] was banned, so when the director heard the noise, we'd all run off into our rooms."

La Masia boys are taught to be humble. "It is humility that earns you respect," says academy director Carles Folguera. Not all of the boys who attend the school will make it as pro soccer players. So the staff makes sure that everyone gets a strong education to help them through any path in life.

"Above all it's about values," says Gerard Pique, who has played for Manchester United and for Barcelona. "Not only in football, but on a personal level. I think the fans feel more connected to the team because of the homegrown players."

Last Week of the World Cup

Spain meets Germany on Wednesday, in the second semifinal game of the week. The winner of that match will face the Netherlands—who beat Uruguay 3-2 on Tuesday—in the finals this weekend to decide the champion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

MORE WORLD CUP FOR KIDS

Soccer is a really big deal around the world. Many people enjoy watching the sport. Are you a fan too? Get weekly updates on the 2010 World Cup from Scholastic News Online.

 

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