This will go down as a mark in US Soccer history.
Ben Lederman, a U-11, has been invited to join FC Barcelona’s youth Academy.
He started his trial with the famed academy on April 11, 2011 and just 4 training sessions later, the Director of all 7 v 7 at the club, Andres Carrasco, had made a decision.
As my brother, Brian Kleiban, shared some details …
Ben trained with the 98’s (two years up). He had a solid performance. Did some passing drills, possession drills, then played 10 v 10 on a little bit bigger than half the full field with big goals.
Ben trained with the 99’s (one year up). They started him off with the “A” group but then switched him within 2 minutes to the “B” group … looked like it was for numbers to even out the teams and nothing else. They also did a series of possession games. And then set up a regular 7 v 7 game.
Ben started on the bench, but when directors Albert Puig and Guillermo Amor showed up, they went straight to the coach to tell him to get Ben in. Ten seconds later (like 4 minutes into the game), he was on the field playing CM in a 3-1-2 formation for the B team – the A team was playing 3-2-1. So naturally, he got shredded to pieces in the middle vs 2 bad ass CM’s from the A squad. He had a horrific showing with the exception of one nice turn and split of their 2 defenders in the middle of the field … “a la Iniesta”.
Note: Ben was sad and quiet the entire night and the next day. He knew he was terrible. Danny [his dad] was depressed as well. We all thought he was toast.
Now we began to make noise and insisted he train with the 2000’s (age appropriate).
He had training for the first time with his age group. Series of fitness and dribbling drills where Ben thrived … dribbling at speed with the ball and turning corners with a team relay race going on. After that, they had some juggling and then played on a tiny field 4 v 4 with 4 neutrals going to goal … 18 yard box was the length and very narrow to have the boys immediately shoot when receiving and having any type of space. He played really well. Scored, dished, worked hard, dribble. Amor and Puig watched like 5 minutes of the session.
The 2000’s went straight to the back field (where we played the 10’s) and within 2 minutes got organized and started to play. Ben was one of the CM’s on his team. Both teams 3-2-1 formation … Ben also had the Japanese 2001 (Takefusa Kubo) playing fw on his squad. He is siiiiiick! Well, long story short, he played the 1st 3 quarters of 15 mins as CM and put on a show.
Dribbling, scoring a goal, dishing 2 assists, and creating countless opportunities. Running his ass off as well. His squad was up 5-3. Last quarter he got moved to left back, and did well there too. Calmly touching out of the back and attacking.
As this was going on, 2 other Barca coaches went to sit on the bench opposite where we were. Oscar was there as well. So towards the end they got up and were bouncing, I went to sniff and approached Oscar to ask their opinion …
The Moment it Happened
Oscar introduced the Director of all 7 v 7 at the club, Andres Carrasco. They asked me if Ben’s parents were present. I said yes and called them over because Andres wanted to speak with them. I translated.
Andres opened up saying that Ben has all the technical qualities that Barca looks for in players and that he had performed very well. All the coaches who had trained him were impressed with his quality. That being said, he pointed over at some of the apartment buildings adjacent to the training complex and said: “If you guys lived in that building, Ben would definitely be playing with the academy team”.
Sounded like it was heading in a negative direction but he quickly followed with the offer saying they cannot arrange their move and all that, but if they would like Ben to play for the academy and could relocate here, that he would be offered 2 years in the academy. They would help Ben get into school and assist with that. He then went on to suggest that Danny and Tami start researching all types of things they would need to make an educated decision … go to the embassy and ask away. Whatever help or problems they encounter, to call him and he will put them in contact with a special department the club has for these types of things. He told them to take some time to make a good family decision because there is never a guarantee that Ben will make it all the way through the system. There is no way to tell … even with Messi they had no clue he’d turn out to be what he is.
It’s a 2 year process where they’ll evaluate; and if he continues to develop the right way, then he’d continue.