Catalan Dreams

Hayden Jose The success of Barcelona’s youth academy was never more evident than in 2010, the year in which its graduates Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández and Iniesta were the three finalists for FIFA Ballon d'Or award. La Masia, the academy, is well and truly regarded as one of the finest sports academies in the world. The Catalan giant’s academies all over the world follow the same system that they follow in La Masia academy in Barcelona. Working with Barcelona, as a player or as a coaching staff, is nothing short of a dream for footballers. Same is the case of a 23-year-old Malayali man, who is still awestruck even after getting selected to the coaching team of Barcelona’s academy in Bengaluru.

Thrissur resident Hayden Jose has been striving hard to achieve his dream of becoming a professional player ever since he started playing football.Now, all of a sudden he has been blessed with the best job he can get – something that he hadn’t even dared to dream. “I was part of Al Ethihad Sports Academy back home in Kerala. There, I happened to help a kid who was struggling during a game and I realised what I am supposed to do in this sport.”

Hayden sounds like a professional coach. But how did he end up in a Barcelona’s academy? “During my studies, I earned the licence required for professional football coaching as I had my eyes set on coaching. So, after studies, I expressed my ambition to become a professional football coach, but my friends and family welcomed it with a lot of skeptical thoughts. But moving to Bengaluru and pursuing the dream was the only thing mattered to me, and now, I have answered all my critics.”

Hayden joined Gameday Academy in Bengaluru, which is being run in association with the Scotland football club Rangers FC. “Life in Gameday was a turning point in my career, and I trained players of different age groups there. Three months into the job at Gameday, I received a phone call that would go on to change the course of my career forever,” shares Hayden.

“When I got a call from Barca Academy, Bengaluru, asking me to appear for trials, I was not expecting it and really didn’t understand what was going on. You can’t imagine my situation. I got chills when I heard about the offer. I could not say ‘no’ to it and did further proceedings to get relieved from Gameday before joining Barca.”

Quizzed how it is there in Barca Academy and how different it is from other academies, he says, “You cannot ask for anything more. Everybody knows how big La Masia is and what they do there in Barcelona in Spain; they do it here too. Same drills everywhere.”

Though he is where he wanted to be – coaching players at one of the greatest football clubs in the world – Hayden says there is a long way to go. “Coaching job is not a child’s play and I know it. Sometimes, people are amazed at how far I have come in this short period of time, considering my age and experience. So, it’s a huge ask and I have to deliver well.” He feels, in India, the attitude towards football coaching and coaches needs to change as people do not give much credit to the job. Also, he is of the opinion that just because you used to be a player, you can’t just start coaching one fine day. “Playing football and managing a team is two different things,” he says.

The Bengaluru academy was launched officially in November and Hayden says it would take one or more weeks to get a clearer hang of every duty he is about to carry out in the term. Hayden also dreams of becoming a part of the national football team’s coaching staff one day. “As a football player and as a professional coach, it is my dream to represent India. I would love to join the coaching staff and represent the country in big tournaments.”

A die-hard Manchester United fan, he is not hiding his emotions when asked about the Red Devils prospects this season. “We are having a shaky season so far and this is unlike us. Manchester United have a great team, and though I have been very critical about manager Jose Mourinho, I trust in him and hopefully, there will be a turnaround soon,” shares Hayden.