This August, our B2003s flew to Spain to enjoy an excursion that included stops at the two towers of world football — Madrid and Barcelona. This would prove to be an eye-opening trip for both athletes and staff, exposing them to new concepts in our game as well as new cultures.

Arriving at first at Real Madrid, the 2018 UEFA Champion’s league winners, the boys got to work quickly. The week would be full of training sessions, facility tours, games and cultural outings and they needed to hit the ground running. Within the actual Real Madrid training facilities, they enjoyed sessions with Real Madrid Academy coaches, then did an extensive tour of Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The tour — an immersive experience that featured physical memorabilia dating from the club’s founding in 1902 — included digital recaps of nearly every one of the club’s games as well as the extensive trophy collection of the club voted “Best Club of the 20th Century.”

The players watched Real Madrid’s season opener against Getafe, a 2–0 victory, then played local youth teams CD Cobeja and Fratelsa Sports. All the while, they drank in the culture of Madrid, exploring the architecture and enjoying the food.

A high speed train brought the B2003s from the heart of Castillian Spain to that of Catalonia as they moved on to Real Madrid’s arch rivals, FC Barcelona.

As in Madrid, the boys were trained by Barcelona Academy coaches at their legendary training grounds, La Masia, “The Farmhouse”. In Barcelona, the school itself is important to soccer history as it was here that Johan Cruyff, refining ideas that he and Rinus Michels had developed at Ajax in Amsterdam, would develop the modern training systems and playing style so influential today. Training at La Masia, the boys walked in the footsteps of a good portion of the club’s legends as most of these have been homegrown.

After a match against local team Sabadell CF, the final match of the trip, the team had time for one day at the beach. The group took a bus about 60 miles north to a town called Tossa de Mar to enjoy the Mediterranean and the local Catalan cuisine. 

A tour of Camp Nou, Europe’s largest stadium, included a museum to rival that in Madrid, with artifacts mixed in with interactive experiences. And, of course, trophies. Lots and lots of trophies.

Our B2003s had included fans of both Madrid and Barcelona but after their experiences in Spain it was hard for any of the boys to avoid being fans of both. The trip proved to be an excellent example of using soccer as a vehicle to explore different cultures and our boys were very fortunate to have that opportunity.