Football: A Barcelona dream come true for two youngsters

Wayne Lim (above) juggling a ball during the freestyle skills competition at the La Masia academy, while Mohammed Faizaan Shaikh practises during a training session.
Wayne Lim (above) juggling a ball during the freestyle skills competition at the La Masia academy, while Mohammed Faizaan Shaikh practises during a training session.PHOTO: FCBESCOLA SOCCER SCHOOL SINGAPORE
Wayne Lim (above) juggling a ball during the freestyle skills competition at the La Masia academy, while Mohammed Faizaan Shaikh practises during a training session.
Wayne Lim juggling a ball during the freestyle skills competition at the La Masia academy, while Mohammed Faizaan Shaikh (above) practises during a training session.PHOTO: FCBESCOLA SOCCER SCHOOL SINGAPORE

Wayne Lim began his love affair with football when he was eight years old, spending hours after school kicking a ball around on a street soccer court, imitating his idol - Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Now 14, Wayne was one of two youngsters selected by FCBEscola Soccer School - the official Singapore outpost of Barca's renowned La Masia youth academy - to spend a couple of days training at the very place that nurtured his hero.

Together with Mohammed Faizaan Shaikh, 13, Wayne followed in the footsteps of Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez for a few days of training at the La Masia academy earlier this month.

During the week-long training camp, the duo also received a holistic education covering diverse topics including nutrition, Catalan lessons and club history.

For Wayne, the highlight of the trip was experiencing going to a school that is wholly focused on football.

"I like the idea of having two training sessions a day. The intensity is really high. We have to run a lot. It's also more tactical," said the Queenstown Secondary 2 student.

"They allow you to make mistakes and then stop the game to explain where you went wrong."

Faizaan found the dedication to player nutrition eye-opening.

"You hear a lot about eating pasta before training or matches. It really was the case. We ate pasta for almost every meal," noted the Secondary 2 Overseas Family School student from India.

The duo were chosen from a pool of 400 youth players by FCBEscola technical director Marc Reyes Custal and his coaching team.

Said Custal: "It's not just individual abilities. They embody our values and use their talents for the best of the team.

"They represent what FC Barcelona is all about."

Wayne believes he is a more confident player after placing second in the camp's freestyle skills competition.

The captain of Queenstown Secondary's C Division football team intends to build on the experience and lead his team to a medal in next year's inter-school tournament.

"I really want to win something with my school team. I want us to finish in the top three," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'A Barcelona dream come true for two youngsters'. Print Edition | Subscribe