At the 2016 Copa Coca-Cola International Camp, 82 talented teenage footballers from more than 20 countries received some expert coaching and inspiring words from Xavi Hernández, Copa Coca-Cola Ambassador and a true legend of the game.
During his illustrious career, Xavi was part of the infamous Barcelona system for more than 25 years, and reached the pinnacle of the sport, winning almost every trophy possible while helping create the much-imitated but never matched "tiki-taka" style of football. As well as playing an integral role on the victorious Spain team that won the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and both UEFA EURO™ 2008 and UEFA EURO™ 2012, Xavi won 28 trophies during his career, with four UEFA Champions League victories, eight La Liga titles and two FIFA Club World Cup championships.
During his time at the third Copa Coca-Cola International Camp, Xavi shared his thoughts and perspectives on footballing issues ranging from youth football to his tip for the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament underway.
Why did you choose to be an ambassador for the Camp, and what do you think of the players here today?
Even after all these years, my real passion remains playing football, and during the Camp I have taken part in games with Copa players and been able to give them some advice I have learned. It is always inspiring to see young players who love the game, and you can see that the players are enjoying an unforgettable time with the coaches and together. When I was playing in the matches, it made me feel like a teenager again! The standard has been very high and I’ve been very impressed by the quality of the teenagers taking part in the games.
How important are youth football initiatives in developing young talent?
Programs such as Copa Coca-Cola are incredible. There are over one million players taking part around the world each year, and that gives opportunities to players who may not have had them otherwise. It’s a spectacular event both for the players at the Camp, and for those who play at home in the local tournaments. I also have my own summer camp in Barcelona, and here today it’s the same – it’s great to spend time with players who love the game and are passionate about succeeding! When I was a child, there weren’t many similar tournaments, and so teenagers that love football should look to participate when they can to improve their skills.
Over the course of the Camp, the teens have been receiving training to play different parts in the team – the machine, the heart, the artist and the joker. What part do you play on the field?
My part today has been to be the joker, the passer. I’m always enjoying the game, and I like to have fun when I play. I’m a natural passer, and I like to socialize on the pitch, and have been like that throughout my professional career. I was trying to play today without interfering with the game – because since they are in a competition, teens are very competitive and they want to win.
Looking back over your career, what do you consider as your greatest achievement as a player?
It’s hard to say! Being on the pitch with Barcelona or with the Spanish national team were both enjoyable, and I can’t choose one of the other. Everyone reminds me of winning the FIFA World Cup, and people also remind me all the times we were champions with Barcelona. Football is so competitive, both at a club level and for international matches, that we need to celebrate all of the achievements and successes that we have.
One of your other achievements is inventing the ‘tiki-taka’ style of attacking passing football. Do you think this style can still be successful today?
Yes, I like this approach to football and while there are other styles, other systems and other ideas, Spain and Barcelona both have won many trophies and titles with this system. “Tiki taka” basically means a more attractive football, an offensive football. And that’s what I like and what you see with teams like Belgium or Germany today. I like football without limits, going on the attack and attempting to win the game from the first minute.
Is there one bit of advice you would give to young footballers, both those at the Camp and others around the world?
The most important thing is to enjoy football and let football become their passion. Try to improve every day, don’t conform or be satisfied, and work hard with your coaches and teammates, because being a team is really important. Most of all though, just enjoy football. It is an amazing game that is loved around the world and you see this enjoyment from all of the teenagers here today taking part in Copa Coca-Cola. Try and take part in Copa Coca-Cola or other youth initiatives as it really helps to improve your game.
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