21 September 2010

A La Masia For Us?

Chennai at 6 in the morning during mid August, is beautiful. The air is crisp, you feel a gentle breeze pass you by, and something about the atmosphere makes you look up at the sky and smile in content.

I was standing on the terrace of my hostel in Egmore, holding a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula, when it began drizzling slightly. Adjacent to the hostel is a hockey stadium, and from where I was standing, I could view the entire field.

About twenty children were training in the center of the field, running between cones, skillfully using their hockey sticks to control the ball. As I watched them for the next few minutes, I thought about La Masia.

La Masia, literally meaning 'The Farmhouse', is the name given for F.C. Barcelona's training grounds. The Barcelona Youth Academy is one of the best, if not greatest, youth academies in the world. They scout and select aspiring footballers and admit them to the academy; most of them are between 10 and 14 years old.

Once into the Academy, the students live together, attend private school, get tactical and ethical training in football and footballing philosophy for the remainder of their school life. Those who display exceptional talent are then selected for the youth teams, from where they then graduate to club and country level.

Have you ever had a bulletin board in your class that was titled 'Creative Corner' or something similar? A board where any of you could post your artwork to be displayed in front of the entire class? Perhaps your teacher praised you for your artistry and pinned the painting on the board with a sense of pride. Now, what happened to that painting of yours?

Standing against the terrace railing, I saw the hockey field and imagined the life of a 12 year old Spanish boy. He lived in La Masia, away from his parents, slowly wiping away the tears of separating from his parents. He attended classes, where he was taught sportsmanship, the ideals of teamwork, and the meticulous craft of passing and play-making. As the years passed by, his laps around the football field increased, surveyed with approval by the youth coach.

After being selected into the youth team, he began playing in small football pitches, watched by about three dozen spectators. Over the years, the color of the grass changed, the size of the stadium morphed, the roar of the spectators turned thunderous. He scored his first league goal, followed by his first Champions League goal.

And it all ended with a last minute goal in the final of the 2010 World Cup, a moment that was watched, photographed, celebrated and worshiped all over the world.

This is the life story of Andres Iniesta, a 12 year old plucked from a village in Spain, who returned home 18 years later with a World Cup trophy.

Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas. You've just read part of a glowing list of La Masia alumni.

If a simple youth academy built almost 50 years ago can supply the world with world class footballers, imagine the potential our country could uncover in other areas of talent. I'm not referring to football or any other sport here.

What about art? Authors, script writers, musicians, artists?

Some of the best songs we've heard over the past decade, is because of a competition that uncovered the talent of a wonderful young singer - Shreya Ghosal.

So how many amazing novels and movie scripts have we missed so far, because no one made a competition worthy enough to uncover those talents that are now being wasted in office cubicles?

At the beginning of every academic year, when that particular child gets to see her drawing get pinned onto the bulletin board, you can conjure a picture of the future. It's a picture of a young lady displaying her masterpiece for an auction in Sotheby's. And at the end of every academic year, when the drawing is ruthlessly pulled off and thrown away, along with is thrown away, a future that'll never be realized...

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  1. the only thing u can blame is the indian education system. it kils the creativity out of any student and makes his mark sheet = who he is. if u noticed, every new teacher wen they come they ask all children hw much marks they hav scored in 10/12th boards. NOTHING ELSE. thts the problem man u cant say anything its all because of indian system u cant blame the teachers or yourself or ur parents. its all bcoz of education system.

    take another example from the college wer u r studyin. u hav taken commerce. so for the next four years u r going to learn nuthin else but commerce. if u hav even a lil interest in any of science stuff, lyk blask holes n stuff, u will hav to repeat 4 fukin years of college to pursue ur interests. but abroad, u can change your subjects anytime u want. u wont hav 2 repeat those 4 years if u can actually get a degree in 2 years only.

    frgt it ma nas long as ur in india u cnt do a thing abt it other thn blogging abt hw much indians dnt appreciate creativity -,-

  2. Nice work. The problems with the education system of India is a very pressing issue. Something should be done, but who? how? what? when?

    That is the question...

  3. I think this was nicely written and quite thought-provoking. But I think its just the chance to put it up and have it appreciated that makes the difference. The fact that the painting is later removed makes little or no difference - the child is not likely to be able to sell that one ever anyway...but schools need to give students (even the shy ones) a chance to reach all the potentials that they have.