Barcelona, Feb 16 (IANS/EFE) Spain’s high unemployment rate has sparked a sharp rise in the number of children and adolescents setting their sights on a career in professional soccer, with youth academies across the country seeing a flood of applications.
Pedro Marcet, pedagogical director of the Marcet Foundation, which has soccer schools worldwide, told EFE that the number of children enrolling at its centers in Spain has tripled in the past year.
One of eight children of Javier Marcet, who played for Spanish clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and RCD Espanyol and Spain’s national squad in the 1950s, he said pushy parents often are behind children’s dreams of becoming professionals and they must be told that very few young people will ever make a living from soccer.
“We can’t tell the children that because it’s good they have dreams and work hard to play well,” Pedro Marcet said, noting that, in addition to the country’s economic woes and sky-high jobless rate of more than 22 percent, Spain’s 2010 World Cup triumph and FC Barcelona’s flashy brand of soccer have made the pursuit of a professional soccer career attractive.
The Marcet Foundation teaches soccer skills to more than 2,000 children and teens around the world, 600 of whom train at its facilities in Barcelona, up from just 200 a year ago.
There also has been a rise in applications from teens in other countries who dream of coming to that city and learning to play like Spanish and FC Barcelona stars Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes, the director said.
The Marcet school has responded to the demand by organizing intensive, 10-day courses that have attracted youth from India, Japan, the US and numerous European countries, especially Russia. The course has a price tag of 600 euros ($785) per participant.
“There’s no Spanish or Catalan spoken in these courses; we can only speak English. It’s incredible, impressive the demand we’re seeing,” Marcet said.
The number of students at Marcet’s soccer academies in Madrid, Valencia, Bilbao, Mallorca and Tenerife also has tripled, while enrollment at the school in Madrid is expected to eclipse that of Barcelona within a year, the director said.
“We have a lot of kids who want to become professionals no matter what, but we instill in them the need to study and have an education outside of sports,” said Marcet, who recalled that his father also earned degrees in economics and business and exemplified “values that are still lacking in this sport”.
The Marcet Foundation offers scholarships to youth with outstanding potential whose families lack the resources to fund their training.
There is no set number of scholarships, Marcet explained, adding that a simple agreement is reached whereby the recipient’s only commitment is to be a good person and return the value of the scholarship to the foundation if he becomes a professional player.