Saturday, December 4

La Masia: Barcelona welcomes women to the famous soccer academy for the first time

Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, has been the envy of world soccer for years due to the sheer number of talents who have graduated from the first team and had remarkable careers.

Players such as Carles Puyol, Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets arrived through the youth system.

Now, for the first time, girls and women have managed to enter the legendary training center.

Since its creation in 1979, in an old building near the Camp Nou stadium, then its move ten years ago near the club’s training center on the outskirts of Barcelona, ​​La Masia had never accepted girls among its residents.

Nine “pioneers” have joined the youth squad this year, which finally opened its doors to women after the recent triumphs of the women’s Barça, which won the League, the Spanish Cup and the Champions League last season.

“It is a very big responsibility, we are pioneers. But it is especially good to know that you will always be one of the first to enter La Masia,” said Laura Coronado, an 18-year-old archer and dietetics student, sitting in the garden of the center of training.

A new resident, Clàudia Riumallo, 18, used to have to drive an hour from Girona to train in Barcelona with girls of her own caliber.

With the possibility of staying at La Masia as a resident, he calls change “a gift.”

He played for Espanyol, the other great professional club in the Catalan metropolis, and now plays for Barça B while studying chemistry at university.

In addition to their hat-trick of titles last season, Barça’s women’s team won all the individual awards awarded by UEFA in August.

The award for the best player of the season went to captain Alexia Putellas, who is also one of the four Barça players nominated for the Women’s Ballon d’Or.

Things are not looking so good for the men’s team, who have seen Ronald Koeman fired as coach amid poor performances, and former midfielder Xavi comes in to take over.

The men’s team beat Levante 4-0 with a starting eleven made up entirely of La Masia graduates (during the first 60 minutes) in 2012.

“The way forward is very simple. You just have to look at the men’s team to know where we have to go,” says Markel Zubizarreta, Barça’s women’s soccer coach.

Barça was at the top of Europe at that time and far from imagining that the women’s section would continue to feed the trophy cabinet while the men’s section faltered.

Women’s football on the rise in Spain

The female presence in Spanish football continues to grow. The number of female graduates has almost doubled since 2011, from 36,200 (4.3% of the total number of graduates in Spain) to 77,400 in 2020 (7.2% of the total), according to the Ministry of Sports.

“There are still many things missing, such as the professionalization of La Liga,” whose principle has been accepted but is not yet a reality, says Laura Coronado.

“We know that salaries will not be equivalent to those of men, but we would like to be able to live more comfortably from football. We are fighting for that,” he says.

Like many girls of her generation, Jana Fernández, now in the Barça first team at 19, never shared a dressing room with girls before she was 12 years old.

She went through the youth teams of the club, but was not lucky enough to be an intern at La Masia.

“I often remind the girls that they are there now. I would love to have been there, ”says the defender, who is studying advertising at the same time as her career and is aware that there is still a long way to go for girls. in Spanish soccer.

“We fight every day to get more things for the girls of today, and especially for the girls of tomorrow,” he adds.

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