Players required to study for at least an hour a day
Diaz, Vidal and Pampin explain their study routines
They compare matches and exams, and offer advice to aspiring players
What’s harder, an exam or a match? "An exam, because in a match you can do what you feel like!"
Nacho Diaz laughs at his own wit, while team-mates Marc Vidal and Diego Pampin nod in agreement. The three of them, like all Spanish national youth team players, are required to dedicate at least an hour a day to academic work during the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.
“The idea is that the boys don’t fall behind in their studies, while they’re taking part in a tournament,” assistant coach/study-group tutor David Gordo tells FIFA.com.
“The Spanish FA realise that the players are at a stage of their lives where they’re learning constantly, and this shouldn’t just include their football careers, but rather encompass an all-round education,” he says. “All the players are required to attend classes, whether they have them that day or not.”
Villarreal forward Diaz believes that “it helps us a lot, because without the classes, we’d fall behind in our schoolwork. If this happens, then everyone else in your class knows things that you don’t, and it makes it harder.” Diaz, like Vidal and Pampin, is in the second year of Bachillerato, the optional post-16, pre-university stage of education.
“Sometimes it’s hard to focus on your studies because in a tournament like this, your thoughts are just totally consumed by football,” Diaz adds. “But it also helps clear your mind.” The youngster’s usual place of study is back home in Valencia, where he attends evening classes.
Vidal, who is both a team-mate and classmate of Nacho, says “the good thing is that we do it as a group, so we help each other out. This is important for me because I find all the subjects tough.”
“What’s the biggest headache for me? Spanish language and literature. It’s just not something you can pick up straight away. You have to knuckle down and it takes time,” says the goalkeeper.
“Chemistry is the one that I have problems with when I go back to class,” admits Pampin, who plays as a striker for Celta Vigo B. “As I’m the only one of my team-mates who’s in education, the timetable can’t be set around me. Because of training, I miss more Chemistry classes than any other subject – so this is a huge help for me.”
Comparing exams and matches
“Pre-exam nerves are pretty similar to the ones you get before a big match” (Diaz).
“The preparation for exams and matches requires a comparable level of focus” (Vidal).
“If I need to memorize names for an exam, it helps me if I image them in a football formation” (Pampin).
What would you study at university?
“Something in the field of sport, as I like it more than other areas, but I’m still not sure what exactly.” (Diaz)
“Likewise, I’d pick a degree to do with sports, but something orientated towards teaching.” (Vidal)
“I’m interested in reading psychology and I’ll probably start my degree next year. I reckon I’ll keep up my studies, regardless of how things go for me in football.” (Pampin)
Words of wisdom for kids that want all play and no work…
“It’s hard to become a professional footballer, only the very best make it. The ones that don’t should have a back-up plan, and if it’s doing something you enjoy, all the better.” (Diaz)
“Even if you make it, it’s a short career. You need to be prepared for life after football when your playing days come to an end.” (Vidal)
“Having a study routine also helps your football. Sticking to a timetable and being disciplined moulds you as a person, which is important.” (Pampin)