On 14 December, Barcelona touched down in the Far East ahead of their semi-final with Guangzhou Evergrande at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015. Despite only getting in on Monday morning, they held a training session in the Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama that same evening. As well as the throng of journalists in attendance, about 200 students from a school that Barcelona opened in Tokyo were also invited to the session by the club.
Before the team bus had even arrived at the stadium, Barcelona club officials and stadium staff in the ground were besieged by a mass of children asking where Lionel Messi was and whether he had arrived or not. As soon as the team came onto the pitch, the cheers from the children echoed in the night air.
When the training started, one young boy, eight-year-old Koshiro Yamashita, who is learning football at Barcelona’s FCBEscola in Katsushika in Tokyo, jumped up and started to sing a song in fluent Catalan. It was El Cant del Barça, the club’s official anthem. When he sang with a clear and pure voice, “We have a name that everyone knows”, the Barcelona officials and other people packed into the stadium responded in unison with “Barça! Barça! Barça!". Thanks to the voice of one schoolboy, Yokohama was suddenly enveloped with the sort of passionate togetherness that normally fills the Camp Nou.
The Japanese schools of the world-renowned Barcelona
Barcelona opened their first school in Japan in 2009 in Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu. It opened its second school in Katsushika in Tokyo in 2015. Oscar Grau, the Barcelona football school project manager who has come to Japan for this year’s FIFA Club World Cup, spoke to us about the schools.
“In Japan, we’re introducing the same globally popular Barcelona method in both schools," he said. "The technical director was hired from Barcelona and now lives in Japan. The schools teach the things that Barcelona cares about, such as the club philosophy, technique and the importance of respecting your opponent. They also teach the values Barcelona place great importance on, such as playing with an attack-minded and creative approach.”
By attending the training session and some of the matches at the FIFA Club World Cup, it is hoped that the Japanese schoolboys from the Barcelona school will be inspired by stars such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Andres Iniesta. One of them may even end up playing for Barcelona in the future. Mr. Grau expounded on his hopes for the school.
“Let’s see if Japan can produce a Barcelona star of the future. It’s important to learn the Barcelona values and work hard at training. Children have potential. If we can develop that during training, a star may emerge from here. I think that people all over the world know the name of Barcelona and how they play. I hope that, with this visit to Japan, even more Japanese fans will support Barcelona.”
On 17 December, at the semi-final in the Yokohama International Stadium, Mr. Grau is hoping to hear even more children cheering “Barca! Barca! Barca!”