Don’t let football stop you from studying (and vice versa)


Finding a balance between sports education and academic education is key for young footballers.

He had to leave his friends, family and country to make his dream come true. And he didn’t doubt for a second. Krishna wanted to become a professional footballer and decided that Barcelona was the best place to do it. Football was his priority. But it wasn’t his parents. They were worried about the repercussions his footballing education would have on his academic one. Where would he continue to study? In which language? With what results?

“My parents didn’t force me, they allowed me to choose freely”, recalls Krishna Chaudhary, 18 year old goalkeeper from Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand State in the north of India. “They thought it was good that I wanted to join Marcet’s High Performance Academy, but they also wanted me to finish my 2nd year of the baccalaureate. They knew that in Barcelona I could continue to study but they were worried about the language aspect”.

Krishna speaks fluently in Hindi and English, as well as being able to speak the dialect of his region. “Every Indian grows up learning at least three or four languages”, tells Suprio Bose, director at the Foreign Trade and Investment Office of Catalonia in Mumbai, “Here there are over 30 official languages and 400 dialects. For this reason Indians are much better prepared than most people to learn a new language and when they get to Spain, they don’t have much difficulty in adding more languages to the ones they already know”.

But Krishna had to face an extra problem, time was against him. The Indian goalkeeper came to Barcelona last autumn, when the academic year had already started. “He joined the 2nd year of the baccalaureate three weeks before the Christmas holidays, with a few days to go before the exam period”, Recalls Mercedes Sánchez Casco, Krishna’s school tutor at Colegio Cardenal Spínola. “Due to this we decided that we weren’t able to evaluate him for the first trimester and we told him that the main priority was for him to learn Spanish”.

When he arrived in December, Krishna wasn’t able to start classes at the “aula de acogida” of the school, a dedicated classroom that, in the first weeks of the school year, gathers all of the students that don’t speak Spanish in order for them to quickly advance in learning the language. In spite of that the goalkeeper showed from the first moments his desire to learn. So much so that his tutor says that he is an “ideal student”. According to Sánchez, Krishna has adapted “very well” to the group and he is a student that is very “strong-willed”, “extremely well mannered” and “very intelligent”. If at first the teachers thought it was “practically impossible” for him to complete the baccalaureate this year, his huge dedication to his studies is changing this. “We now want to see how his marks are at the end of the second trimester, as he is taking all of his exams and is doing everything possible to complete his objective”.

“Responsible” and “participative”

“Krishna has worked extremely hard and wants to see a reward”, points out Marta Piera, pedagogue at Fundación Marcet. “The school gave him the option to complete the baccalaureate in two years, but his intentions to complete it this year are firm and he is convinced that he can achieve this. He hasn’t dilly dallied like others would have. He believes in himself and wants to play his cards. It’s true that the language barrier is important, because he’s only been in Spain for a few weeks. But he’s a kid that is always on time, responsible and participative, so all of this plays in his favour”.

The Academic Department at Fundación Marcet explain that Krishna could have chosen alternative academic options like vocational studies, an online school or a course in Spanish to obtain a certificate recognising his language skills. These options are very common with students that come to Barcelona for less than a year. But Krishna chose the baccalaureate.  “When I arrived I had already been studying for a month and a half in India and I didn’t want to lose a year. These studies are recognised in both countries so it wasn’t a problem, so I decided to give it a go. If it doesn’t go well, I always have an option of completing it in India through an Open Board, this will allow me to complete and pass the baccalaureate with a special exam. Anyhow, I’m convinced that everything will go well here in Spain”.

Different options

Krishna also ruled out another option that’s popular with scholars from English-speaking countries: an American school. Indians usually prefer this sort of education, as a lot of them have the same academic curricula in their country, or simple because they know English. Like Madhav Jha, left winger who came to Barcelona just before Krishna. Both of them are in the same team but not the same school.

“Marcet gave us a few options and we thought that the American school was the best”, Smita Jha says, the player’s mother. “As parents we were worried about his education in Spain. We wanted him to continue progressing with his education and for there to be a balance between his sports education and academic education. In fact this was one of the reasons why we chose Marcet. We spoke with other football academies in Spain, Germany and other countries but none of them offered this wide range of options.

Madhav’s mother also highly valued the sanction system that Marcet have in place with the aim of making sure players don’t only concentrate on their football but also on their education. “They’re doing a good job, they are really tracking the kids. If they don’t turn up to school or arrive late, they are punished by not letting them train. This works really well, because football is the thing that interests them most and I think it’s a brilliant incentive for the kids to work hard academically as well”.

“I’ve never been punished”, says Krishna, who is used to a much stricter schooling system compared to the Spanish one. “The way we are taught is much different. Here the teachers are friendly, but in India they are very tough. When they enter a class, everyone has to be quiet. If anyone talks, teachers have permission to hit students. In Spain you feel more comfortable when speaking with your classmates as well as the teacher. Here if anyone is late to school, they punish him with a day without training. In India they wouldn’t even let you into school”.

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