By Coach Francis Davin
Day 1 – Saturday March 31:
I arrived at Barcelona–El Prat Airport in the evening greeted by the AM Sports driver holding up the name ‘Dawin’ on a sign. We figured out he meant me and he took my bag and showed me outside.
After we jumped into his Mercedes mini van, he told me he’d also driven One Direction in the past, it was nice to feel in such esteemed company.
It was a short and traffic free trip to the hotel Pere IV due it in being Easter weekend and there I was met by the AM Sports Tours guides Simon and David. Luckily the reception had my name correct and check-in was a breeze, allowing me to catch the majority of the Barcelona vs Sevilla game on TV, in which Messi came on and saved their unbeaten record late in the game. Almost as exciting as Zlatan’s performance!
After the game it was time to get some rest as more of the families arrived the next day and there was the option to go to the Espanyol game in the morning.
Day 2 -Sunday April 1:
The day started with a full buffet breakfast of anything you can imagine: sausage, eggs, potatoes, yoghurt, donuts, fruit, meats, cheeses, coffee and even some breakfast chocolate cheesecake!
After breakfast we departed the hotel with a couple of families, our guide David plus our local guide Marc. Marc, who resides in Barcelona and provided us with the last-minute tickets to the game, is a major part of the tour with his inside knowledge of the city and is with us every trip.
The stadium was a good size but quiet due to the holiday and the fact that both teams were relatively safe from relegation so didn’t have too much to play for.
It still had it’s exciting moments though and we were two rows behind the home team dugouts, so close that we could here the manager giving instructions.
The standard was excellent for two average teams and the proximity to the field allowed us to really see the speed of play and the high level technique the players possessed.
After the game we took a walk through the city and then finished with a Metro ride back to the hotel. More of the families were arriving and that evening everyone went into the city for dinner near Las Ramblas, a popular street in Barcelona, famous among tourists. The boys socialized and the families got to know each other better, excited for their first training session the next day.
Day 3 -Monday April 2:
A busy day today with all 25 members now checked in we headed off into the city via Metro soon after breakfast.
The Metro station is only two blocks from the hotel and only four stops to get us to the centre of Las Ramblas, the iconic walkway through beautiful Barcelona.
The boys were greatly impressed by the Barcelona Cathedral and took pictures of the amazing architecture and stained glass windows. The great thing about this trip – as well as all the soccer – is the opportunities the players will get to experience the culture of a city like Barcelona and it was great to see them appreciate that.
After lunch in the city it was back to the hotel to change and prepare for training with Marc who would be the first of three coaches the players would have.
A short trip took us to the Club de Futbol Barceloneta stadium where the boys were put through a rigorous and technical practice. It was great to pick up some new ideas as a coach and I think the boys enjoyed being coached in a different style.
They also got to experience proper football changing rooms and also take a quick tour through the trophy room of a club which has been around since 1912.
Once the boys were done taking pictures, we headed out together with all the families for tapas and paella at a local restaurant. The food was extremely tasty and the parents got to wash it down with some local sangria. After sampling a local dessert, Crema Catalana, we took a quick Metro ride back to the hotel to relax for the evening.
Tomorrow the boys have their first game against Palleja.
Day 4 – Tuesday April 3:
Tuesday we had a full five hours to explore Barcelona with a bus tour that covers the whole of the city.
We started with the orange loop that took us to Arc de Triomf, El Born, Olympic Stadium, Placa D’Espanya, Camp Nou, La Pedrera.
Then for those with energy left they continued onto the green loop to visit sites such as the Playa del Bogatell, Nova Mar Bella and the Gaudi designed Park Güell and the phenomenal Sagrada Familia cathedral.
Since I had some extra energy from the Catalan sausage and beans at lunch, I decided to venture up to Tibadobi – a hill top cathedral which looked much closer than it was. After a 20 minute bus ride, a 30 minute walk through a deserted park up the hill, then a 20 minute wait for the Funicular (a diagonal train) I finally made it to the top. The only issue was I only had an hour to get back to the hotel for a 4.15pm bus pickup! Fortunately, I arrived at the hotel at 4.14pm and we headed straight off to the boys first game against CF Palleja.
The stadium was a good facility with a nice turf field and changing rooms. The boys got to experience the European routine of meeting in the changing rooms first, listening to the coach whilst getting ready and then making their way together to the field. They were then treated to a Champions League style walk out including music!
The game started poorly with the other team far more organised and not looking jetlagged getting on the score sheet early from a deep cross and a neat finish.
The boys unphased continue to play and eventually scored a well worked goal to tie it up. As the game moved on their confidence grew, they began to gel and control the possession.
At the break we were surprised to learn that the second half we would be facing a whole new team full of energy! This was tough especially for the first 15 minutes where the opposition pressed hard and forced mistakes at the back getting two goals.
As they started to tire, LAGOC started to get a hold on the game again, creating many opportunities but only scoring one to finish with a respectable 4-2 score line.
After the game the whole group was taken to a quality tapas restaurant near Las Ramblas and stuffed to the brim with Spanish specialties. To finish the evening we returned to the hotel to see Real Madrid dismantle Juventus and witness an incredible CR7 over head kick before everyone had an early night to prepare for the long day on Wednesday, which will include a trip to Montserrat, the second game of the week and the Barcelona vs Roma game at the Camp Nou!
Day 5 – Wednesday April 4
A busy day today. Up and out the hotel at 9.30am we headed for Montserrat, the highest point in Catalunya at 1200 metres.
After a long drive into the mountains with fantastic views and heartstopping corners we arrived at the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey which was founded in the 11th century.
The families were given a choice to walk up to the top where there were various abandoned abodes of previous monks or take the Funicular train up, most chose the latter based on the amount of walking that had been done the previous day.
From there it was a light walk towards the top of the mountain which then turned into a very narrow passage way between two parts of the mountain. At this point many of the group dropped out and decided to return to get lunch but myself and one parent trekked on through, up the steep stairs and ascended the mountain via barely recognizable paths. It was well worth it in the end as the breathtaking views from the peak let us see the whole of Barcelona all the way to the Mediterranean.
After lunch we all returned to the hotel to change before heading out to the boys second game of the trip this time against RCD Espanyol School. The boys arrived for the warm up on the turf field with sunny skies and 70f weather, perfect for a soccer game.
They looked much more focused and energetic than the first game, having likely adjusted to the time change and started the game brightly scoring three goals in the first 10 minutes.
The team played out from the back nicely and showed great patience on a tight field to wait for opportunities to go forward. They eventually scored three more excellent goals all worked from gaining possession deep and building creatively through midfield.
As soon as the game was done it was a quick change and straight on the bus to the Barcelona vs Roma game in the Champions League!
An amazing atmosphere and game, the boys were incredibly excited to watch the best player in the world like in action! A 4-1 result and a good performance was a great end to a busy day.
It was amazing to see how quickly to boys had bonded, sitting together at every meal, chatting and joking in the back of the bus on the journey to the games and tours, and opting to walk around the town together as a group rather than with their families.
Tomorrow another fun day with a trip to medieval Girona, practice and some evening entertainment.
If you’re interested in an LAGOC tour, please contact Tours Director Francis Davin.