60 Minutes: Barca Football, Lionel Messi & Catalonia Secession?

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60 Minutes: Barca Football Academy

In America, it’s easy to forget that what we call football has a different meaning to the rest of the world. Football in most other countries, including Spain, is the game that is called soccer in the United States. Barcelona, Spain is home to possibly the best soccer team in the history of the world, Barca. Many of its players come from an elite academy there, where training starts as young as age seven.

60 Minutes: El Clasico

Can you imagine knowing what you wanted to do with your life by the time you were in second grade? Many youngsters dream of success in sports, but that does not often turn into a reality. In Spain and around the world, the rivalry between Barca and Real Madrid is intense and closely followed.

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Bob Simon visited Camp Nou, the Barcelona stadium, for the most hotly contested match of the year, Barca vs Real Madrid. This is known as El Clasico, and it is the best of the sport, I guess kind of like the American Super Bowl.

60 Minutes: Lionel Messi

60 Minutes: Barca Football, Lionel Messi & Catalonia Secession?

Bob Simon chronicled international soccer superstars from Spain in a story about Barcelona’s boarding school that grooms talented players like Lionel Messi. (Natursports / Shutterstock.com)

Sports columnist John Carlin thinks that Barca, as of early 2013, has the best football team in the world. The crowd goes wild for the players, and everyone in the stadium joins in the singing of the team’s song.

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The cheering may be loudest for Lionel Messi, the standout player who has led his team to remarkable success in competition. I have to admit I do not know much about soccer, but when someone is passionate, that spirit is contagious. You can tell that everyone surrounding Barca loves the game and the team.

60 Minutes: Spain’s Soccer Prep School Masia

The roots of this modern-day success story start in an 18th century farmhouse that was converted in the 1970s into a soccer training facility that accepted the most adept kids it could find. The current team consists predominantly of graduates from this program, called Masia.

Now the school has modernized it facilities and looks much more like the average prep school. Cesc Fabergas grew up at the school, where he said got a good education in addition to fabulous sports training.

“They are magicians in the making,” Bob Simon said of the school’s students, who are as young as eight years old.

60 Minutes: Barca Star Football Players

Gerard Pique, now a defender for the team, joined the school at age eight. He said that the school’s record of churning out talented players cannot be denied, but added that the faculty and staff treat the students like human beings.

Barca’s investment in youth education has saved it big bucks in player recruitment by making them at home. Years of teammates practicing together puts them in sync in a way that is hard to fabricate or duplicate on the fly.

60 Minutes: Lionel Messi La Pulga

Carlin said the team’s plays are seen through the lens of “aesthetic delight,” and will live on in the sport’s history for centuries to come. That may sound like ambitious overpraise, but think about how much America deifies its sports heroes, and how passionate we know that fans can be.

As for Lionel Messi, he came to the school from Argentina at age 13. His nickname is La Pulga, which means The Flea, because “no one can shake him off.”

60 Minutes: Barcelona Football Club

Messi told 60 Minutes that he still retains his childlike enthusiasm for the sport he loves. “I love playing,” he said. “I love winning the games.”

Barca has really made its presence felt on the international stage in the sport of soccer (or football), with an estimated value of $1.3 billion. All that wealth is managed by members of the team’s Barcelona Football Club, nearly 200,000 strong.

60 Minutes: Sandro Rosell & Gerard Pique

Their slogan says, “More than a club,” which its president, Sandro Rosell, explained is about the heart and spirit of the team that is so interwoven into their culture. Here, the passion carries on even between games.

Gerard Pique, another of the team’s star players, is a third-generation club member. The locker room is hallowed ground here, and the names of players who previously held your locker remain, as a reminder of the living history that the team embodies.

60 Minutes: Diego Maradona & Barca Locker Room

Pique’s locker once belonged to Diego Maradona, a star from Argentina in the ‘80s. Many other soccer legends have also graced that locker room through the decades.

The team has won 14 out of its past 19 competitions in the past four years. It sounds like you don’t play soccer nearly as often as some American sports.

In 2008, when Pique joined the team, Barca went on to win the European Championship, in what he said was “the best year in the history of the club.”

60 Minutes: Catalonia Secession?

It is not an exaggeration to say that the sport of football is like a religion there. Pique explained that some of the players stop in the tunnel between the locker room and the field to pray or prepare themselves for what’s waiting for them, including the bright lights and the cheering crowd.

Barca’s fans hail from Catalonia, a province of Spain. Some residents there would hope to secede and become independent from Spain. To do that, they would need the support of the team.

That means that both religion and politics are in the air at every match in the stadium. As long as the team continues its hot streak, its worldwide recognition and ever-growing fan base can only get larger.

But what is it going to take for this sport to ever catch on in America? I suspect it’s already too late, but I guess anything is possible.

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