Academies in the A-League

by Adam Peacock on Mar 15, 2012

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It was another Barcelona masterclass. The 543,731st in recent times.

A 7-1 shellacking of Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of best club football competition in the world.

Again impossible not to be in awe of the simplicity of what they do as opponents flounder, the hopeless souls who have the best and worst view of it all at once.

Again incredible to think the vast majority in a Barcelona shirt became men, while living at La Masia, in the shadows of Camp Nou and former home (they’ve moved it to flash new digs) to the famed Barca Academy.

Then you think – could it happen in Australia?

OK, that’s like having $10 in your pocket and thinking one day you’ll be the richest man in the country. But it has happened.

Could an A-League club think backwards to think forwards – will we see one of them, or more, establish it's own academy?

This is not an argument, by the way, that says an A League club should do this. Rather a thought of – what if?

Firstly an admission – I’m not up to speed on the labyrinth of junior development in this country. Having a 6yo who loves the game, I kind of don’t want to know what I could be in for financially. Best delay the pain.

But there seems to be a smorgasbord to choose from. Local associations, state federations, private companies for after school and school holiday tutorage, and overseas clubs also throwing in an option - all bumping shoulders with each other to get the kids to go learn with them.

The burning desire for most of these kids (sometimes, unfortunately for the kids, more a burning desire for the parent) is, of course, to play professionally.

So what about if they learnt in a professional set up?

Let’s think of a club to be our test case. Brisbane. Yes, it always comes back to Brisbane.

But they are the club with the most obvious mission statement. How they want to play, what they stand for and what they want to achieve – winning their way, and producing Socceroos.

And we have a test case from the test case – Brisbane, as we know, like to play football. Read: pass the ball along the deck at all costs, no matter where you are on the park.

Apparently when Matt Smith got to the club at age 27, he wasn’t that sort of player. Very talented, but they had to mould him somewhat. So they did, and now he can. A 27 year-old re-shaped. Imagine what that type of structure and environment would be like 10 year-old, who’d be surrounded with what it all turns out to be like if you’re good enough.

Anyway, I’m getting way, way, wwwwaaaayyyyy ahead of myself.

Of course, it requires three things in abundance – money, patience and a bit of luck.

You can maybe count on 1 of those 3 things at any one time.

All 3 at once? Almost unheard of.

Watch a Barca match though, and dream of the outcomes. Gotta start somewhere.