28 de marzo de 2023

CS Academy: a mix of Swedish and Catalan football

Swedish players like Patrik Andersson and Henrik Larsson have been a part of the FC Barcelona squad, the later is now also part of the staff. Coaches like Ferrán Sibilia (Former GIF Sundsvall and IFK Göteborg) and Sergi Angulo (RCD Espanyol Academy Stockholm) moved from Catalonia to Sweden as another step in their careers to learn about Swedish football. Now we get the chance to introduce CS Academy, the next level of Swedish/Catalan football.

In 2019 the Swedish and Catalan football was introduced in a new unique and different way by the end of the year when Christoffer Larsson, a young aspiring football coach from Motala, Sweden, decided to create CS Academy, a full on football academy that is now active in eight cities in Sweden and around the Barcelona metropolitan area.

But the interesting part is that the academy at first wasn’t intended as an academy but a training camp and tournament provider in Barcelona. The idea was to bring Swedish club teams to plan their preseason camps in Barcelona and also participate in the Footvia International Tournament which usually takes place in the month of February.

«I noticed that a lot of players around Sweden wanted to play tournaments, especially during the preseason where in February it’s usually cold and snowy in the Nordic countries. The issue was that many of the clubs where the players played at were not able or didn’t have the possibility to organize such a trip to another country. By creating CS Academy this opened up a chance for these players to be able to participate no matter which club they played for as it wouldn’t interfere with their regular activities.»

The purpose of the academy was originally just supposed to take place in Barcelona where camps and tournaments would be organized, but when the pandemic broke out it wasn’t possible to organize anything due to the local restrictions in Catalonia. Sweden ended up being the only country where it was still possible to organize anything meaning that the academy started up there by coincidence.

«We started organizing smaller camps and extra individual training sessions for players who wanted to train more than they already did in their clubs. This was didn’t just give the players extra time and attention with fully certified and trained coaches but also a chance for players from different clubs, neighborhoods, even cities, to meet and get to know each other. The academy became a bit of an integration place where your background wouldn’t decide your fate. We wanted the camps to be a place where respect, acceptance and football played a big part of their development, both personal and football wise.»

Since the beginning CS Academy has now had more than 500 players participating in their camps in eight cities around Sweden. The aim is to keep growing, both in Sweden and in Barcelona where football has been up and running since late March this year.

The setup for CS Academy offers a great value as you yourself are able to decide how much and how often you practice. The main standard program is about 45 euros a month which includes one practice per week with CS Academy certified coaches who also bring a lot of previous experience both as players and coaches, someone even at a professional level.

«From the end of July we will offer more advanced training sessions for players who have come further in their football development. We will also have specific practices for female players as we believe women’s football deserves to be able to get the same possibilities as the men’s. There is no doubt that women’s and men’s football are different when it comes to the way you practice remembering that our bodies are different, grow in different ways meaning we adapt our programs by the necessities. This doesn’t mean that the exercises are different, but it means that the focus, both mentally and physically is.»

This summer CS Academy brought four teams, a U10, U12, U14 and U16 team to participate in the Footvia International Tournament which was the first one since before the pandemic started. The tournament has had clubs like Wolverhampton (England), Olympique Mareseille (France) and Maccabi Haifa (Israel) participating as well as local Catalan teams such as CE Vilassar de Dalt and Unificación Lleífa.

«We hope that the tournament will be able to continue as normal now. The next tournament is in February 2022 where our target is to be able to bring 7-8 teams at least. We have already gotten a lot of interest and a great reward that we’ve gotten is that many of the players who played with us this year already have asked to come back next year.»

Christoffer tells us a bit about what the week in Barcelona looks like. He says that it really is a great opportunity and experience both for the players and their parents/family/friends who decide to tag along.

«We start off the week by having a few training sessions with our CS Academy coaches to be able acclimatize and prepare for the tournament itself. We see it as a great mix between having a pre season training camp combined with a pre season tournament. Especially in ‘Southern Latitudes’ as we say in Sweden. We do quite a lot of thing besides football as well, such as visiting the Camp Nou (our hope is to be able to go to a Barcelona or Espanyol game in the future), visit the beach or for those who want to do some sightseeing, visit Barcelona and enjoy the sunny and vibrant Catalan capital. The possibilities are endless and for sure a memory that will stay with each and everyone of us for the rest of our lives.»

The plans of organizing camps in Barcelona, now when football is permitted again, are in full progress. The camps will be provided for local players, but aren’t limited to that. The idea is to be able to host camps where players from all over the world can come and join.

«We will most likely see a vast majority of players from Catalonia and Sweden as these are the places we are more active in, but for instance, this year we also had three players from Japan who participated in the Footvia International Tournament. Anyone can apply to join. We have also noticed that football is an international language meaning the language boundaries haven’t been an issue.»

What makes us curious is what the advantages are by participating in the Footvia International Tournament or a training camp in Barcelona. Christoffer explains that the advantages are huge no matter if you are an elite player or just playing for fun.

«The experience will stay with you forever. To play a tournament is always very educational, especially for kids and to be able to play with or against players from other countries.»

Knowing that many players have the aim to becoming elite players, or professional players, it’s usually easier if you make it to the district- or regional teams, something that exists both in Sweden and in Catalonia.

Participating in a technical academy training extra outside of your regular practice schedule has been proven to have a positive effect, not just football wise, but also mentally. CS Academy works a lot with the mental game of the sport. They want everyone to feel included and to be able to believe in themselves no matter of their level. It also provides the experience to have and listen to new voices, new coaches and teaches the players to adapt quickly to new situations. This is definitely a big plus if the aim of the player is to reach as far as possible. Little steps are the foundation of the journey.

The social part of the game is something that most kids can relate to. Also adults. Many start playing because their friends are playing. It’s like planting a seed. You need to keep giving it water for it to be able to grow and blossom.

«What we have learned from our academy is that many players make new friends and quickly, especially if they come from different cities. They create bonds and relationships. Being to participate in a tournament or a training camp abroad also provides the possibility of making friends and connections from other countries. This past summer our teams where composed of both Swedish and Catalan players. The best part was the local players didn’t speak Swedish and the Swedish players didn’t speak Spanish nor Catalan, so they had to find their own way of communicating. Nowadays most kids have good knowledge of English, but the one thing that actually surprised us was how quickly the local players learned Swedish words and sentences and the other way around, that the Swedish kids learned quite a lot of Spanish. And this was during one week. Imagine what you could do if you participated more than once. It’s like getting football combined with a language course.»

Christoffer really states that the biggest joy of all of this is to see the kids making friends and enjoying the experience.

«Winning is always fun», he says, «but the most important is that they learn from it, that they take something positive away from it and use it when they play and practice with their own clubs.»

We ask if the idea is to keep mixing teams or if the teams will be divided by nationalities/language skills, like for instance the Swedish players in one team and the Catalan players in another (speaking of the tournament). Christoffer explains that it depends on the even and the amount of player who sign up. At the moment the vast majority of players are Swedish, but the idea is to grow in the Spanish market as well. The training camps are more likely to be mixed than the tournament, but he states that there are no limitations and that it will be adjusted to find the best possible solution.

«We have coaches who are multilingual meaning they speak Swedish, English and Spanish. This way we are able to provide a unique training experience where mixing players from different countries will be much easier as the communication can be provided in English or in the players’ native languages.»

The last thing we want to know, that we believe most people want to know, is what makes CS Academy different from other academies and why should it be a player’s first choice when looking at extra training and tournament trips?

«By combining Catalan and Swedish football we are able to provide the best of both worlds. We are not an academy who tries recruit players from other clubs as we do not participate in local leagues. We are an addition, something extra on top of what the players get from their clubs. To us it doesn’t matter whether a player is a beginner or experienced. Our goal is to offer each player a specific way of working, where they can train the things they like and still feel challenged at all times.»

Christoffer points out that the combination of Catalan and Swedish football is something unique.

«By playing with us, each player gets the opportunity to join others who have the same kind of passion for football as they have. They will also get in touch with new languages and cultures and and experience something that few players have gotten to experience before, and that is the mix of these two worlds.»

For more information about CS Academy, visit their website: CS Academy and follow them on Instagram: CS Academy Barcelona

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