Rain in Spain falls mainly on the… players who are not finding space when their team is in possession!

Having organised school football trips in the Catalonian region of Spain for twenty years we wanted to ask some questions as about the culture of football in the region and the distinctive ‘Tiki Taka’ style of play.

Football’s Place in Spanish History

Football came to Spain in the late 19th Century by way of immigrant British workers, sailors and Spanish students who had studied in Britain. In Catalonia, there was a vibrant British community playing its part in the industrialisation of the region and the first games in the region were played between these ex-pats and Catalonians who had studied in England.

As an aside, the first official club in Catalonia wasn’t FC Barcelona but Palamos FC, a team that to this day still regularly compete against teams from the UK on school football trips.

Historically Spanish football has had a closer relationship with its political climate than its other European neighbours. Following the Civil War, Franco wanted to suppress the separatist tendencies of both the Basque region and Catalonia. In particular he saw the strength of cultural identity associated with FC Barcelona as a threat because of the way it galvanised opinion.

Spain remained neutral in World War Two but Franco lent towards his Fascist allies and saw the way they exploited football to gain positive attention. Seeing the opportunity to boost his popularity and suppress the Catalonian spirit Franco adopted the capital’s biggest club Real Madrid. This spawned the ‘El Clasico’ rivalry as Barca became a symbol of the republican struggle.

Technique and Quality in Possession

Whilst meeting with local football clubs on a recent trip to the region we stumbled upon an evening training session for the academy players of the recently promoted Girona FC and although we hadn’t planned to stay and watch we were drawn to the pace and quality of the session. Hearing us speaking English a couple of parents struck up a conversation with us as they were ex-pats who had moved to work in Spain. Part of the motivation was the football development of their sons as young players because they were disillusioned with the academy system and style of coaching in England.

Educating players in Spin revolves around the technique and movement around a short sharp passing game. It used to be suggested that the warmer climate made players want the ball to do all the work but watching the session that night the sheer work rate of the players off the ball put paid to that suggestion.

Speaking to the parents of the young players they explained that the culture of football in the region meant that young players were used to taking part in sessions where the focus was to remain in possession of the ball. That evening we were treated to a number of attack versus defence sessions whereby once the attackers lost possession they did not automatically get the ball back to start all over again. Far from it, once possession was broken down, the defenders were urged to be as comfortable on the ball in the defensive third as the attackers against them.

School Football trips: Educate Your Own Players

Playing football in Spain is a unique experience that will stay with young players for the rest of their lives and that is what school football trips with Activ4 School Tours are all about. Train and play in Spain, visit at the altar of Catalonian football, the Nou Camp Stadium and influence the next generation of young players in the UK.


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