On 16 May, Barcelona’s Medical Services centre was duly granted FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence status by world football’s governing body. The Catalan institution thus became the 34th centre – as well as the first club – to receive this distinction. Blaugrana midfielder Xavi Hernandez was among those present at the award ceremony, where he told FIFA.com the significance of having a medical centre of such calibre available to those at the club.
“For us the medical service is fundamental, above all for the confidence it gives us, and from knowing we have the best professionals here, whether physios or doctors, who can treat any kind of problem,” he said. “The majority have been here for many years, especially the Catalan staff who work with the first team. Consequently, they go beyond the call of duty, are very attentive and always put the players first.”
When it comes to dealings with the medical services, for Xavi the key element is trust. “When you’ve a bad injury, what you really want is to be able to trust those around you. It’s knowing that you’re in the hands of the best physios and doctors and being able to trust them. If you have a problem, you have them to turn to. We don’t need to go anywhere else, whether it’s for consultations or surgery. We have the best doctors right here, and I’m proud of that.”
A winning combination
As well as highlighting the credentials of the professional staff that make up Barcelona’s Medical Services, the Spain international praised the warmth and care with which the staff attended the Blaugrana squad on a daily basis.
“We’ve had the misfortune of two very serious illnesses, those of [Eric] Abidal and Tito [Vilanova], and the staff have been there for them constantly. Apart from the usual sporting injuries you get over the season, those two cases have meant the medical services have had to expand. In that sense they’ve really given their all,” he added.
In Xavi’s opinion, a doctor with the Catalan team “must be a person of real selflessness and empathy, and see things from the player’s perspective – which is not easy. The club demands that we always win, and that’s something they understand. For that reason we greatly appreciate the work they do for us, how close they are and how caring they can be.”
Prevention better than cure
With 15 years professional experience under his belt, Xavi has witnessed first-hand the evolution of the medical services at the club, where prevention is very much the watchword. “People who have suffered knee injuries like me, perhaps now work a bit more on the gym side of things. In the past, the tendency was to focus less on that aspect, but nowadays there’s a full-time professional in the gym who looks after us on a daily basis,” he explained.
Nor does the attention to detail end there. Barça pay minute attention to their players’ diets. “The nutritional programme has a preventative element too, then there’s hydration… it’s all about being more professional. Every day we have breakfast and lunch here. They monitor our weight, our diet, our fat levels, all necessary things in the modern game,” explained the 33-year-old.
“In the past we were merely footballers; now we’re athletes who practice the sport of football. Therefore with every year that goes by, you need to take greater care of yourself,” he added.
No place for doping in football
In recent years FIFA has begun carrying out both urine and blood controls in order to create a biological passport of players. Asked about this measure, Xavi expressed his unreserved support.
“I very much approve of those kinds of tests. It is a pity but doping is very prevalent, not in football, but in sport in general, so for me every kind of prevention or control is good. People have to be healthy, sport has to be healthy and so it's good there are this kind of controls.”
In contrast to other sports, Xavi is convinced there is no culture of doping in football. “I’m sure there’s none in football. I’ve never experienced it. In 15 years I’ve not seen it at Barcelona, nor with the national team nor anywhere else, but you still need to take a very tough line with this,” he concluded.