Two years on in May 2018 and I still use this example when talking about impact beyond talent. It's a Saturday morning at Easter time 2016 and the full time whistle has just blown at game six of the Academy Cup hosted by St Kevins Boys Football Club. FC Barcelona had just been beaten by tournament hosts St Kevins Boys. I had all access on the day as I was looking after recording of the tournament. What I got to witness that day and indeed that weekend has stuck with me ever since. At full time in the aforementioned FC Barcelona versus St Kevins Boys game the Barca captain by the name of Xavi Simons can be seen walking off the pitch inconsolable, the then thirteen year old kid is absolutely distraught, tears flooding down his face as he sits into the dugout away from view of those around him with his head held in his hands, his team mates also looked upset as they stand waiting for their coaches to return from shaking the hands of the opposition bench. Less than a minute passes and Xavi jumps up from the dugout calling his team mates around in a circle. The Barca skipper begins his post match speech, I couldn’t understand a word of it but I certainly felt it, the passion and way in which he was speaking seemed to focus those around him.
FOCUS AT MEAL TIME
There was a gap of three hours before Barcelona would play again in the semi final versus Lyon. Inside the St Kevins Boys clubhouse the host club Kevins fed the players from all the teams competing at the tournament, I was very grateful to be looked after also that day during the break. Before Barcelona sat for their meal I could see Xavi talking once again with his team before they sat to eat their pasta. I approached the Barcelona translator on the day who was stood close by and jokingly stated that "they sure took that defeat to heart". Although the translator Marc was not directly involved with Barcelona he had also noticed the manor in which the defeat affected Barcelona. Marc explained that the first thing the kids were asking is what time the next game is at, he explained that the coaches briefly gave input about the game afterwards in the changing room but it was in fact the kids themselves motivating each other and lifting each other, all led by the captain Xavi Simons.
With the Barcelona game less than an hour from kick off I took up a vantage point to record the FC Barcelona warm up. The kids arrive out in their blue warm up tops and straight away Xavi Simons gathers them around in a huddle before the warm up begins. I begin recording and the kid Xavi can still be seen clapping the hands of teammates and motivating them, you can tell this game can't come quick enough.
PRIOR TO KICK OFF
As FC Barcelona arrive out before kick off their coaches give no final instructions. It's Xavi Simons leading the way once again with a huddle and talk. As he enters the pitch with his teammates he looks like a kid possessed, demanding maximum effort from those around him, this looks like a kid not accepting the possibility to lose again. I focus in on the kid for a moment with the camera, I have never seen such passion, leadership and maturity from a kid this young, he has literally being motivating/managing the side since the defeat to St Kevins Boys some three hours earlier in the day
What a talent and what a leader. Xavi is exceptional right from the off driving his team forward. Barcelona in no mood for messing around go on to beat Lyon 5-0 and secure their place in the final. As the full time whistle blows once again it's Xavi doing the talking as the coaches shake hands. Marc the translator stood close to the dugout told me that Xavi had told his teammates that they do not stop here and they must continue this into the final. 13 years of age and already demanding more from his teammates for a game that is scheduled for the Sunday, I just smiled. Marc then tells me that according to the Barcelona coaches the kid Xavi Simons is always like this, even at training sessions in La Masia he refuses to be beaten and is always demanding more from those around him, his reaction to failure is to always step up and come back stronger.
LEADERSHIP AND ATTACHMENT
FC Barcelona went on to win the tournament by securing a victory over St Kevins Boys Football Club in the final. Xavi Simons once again leading by example on and off the pitch. I couldn't get over the leadership and attachment to a club I had witnessed that weekend from this kid. Even as FC Barcelona were about to lift the trophy I could spot Xavi Simons unhappy. I asked the Barcelona translator what Simons was saying to the Barcelona representative on the stage and I was told Xavi was not happy the trophy was draped in the team colours of St Kevins Boys. Xavi asked if he could remove the ribbons and proceeded to do so. A small detail but one showing how attached this kid was to his club.
LOOK BEYOND TALENT
Rightly or wrongly in the months that followed that tournament many of the videos put out by Keepitonthedeck went viral. People both present at the tournament and those watching the videos made some comments on Xavi Simons.
"There is tons of kids like this in England what is special about that"
"This kid is average, Dembele roasted him"
"He only stands out for his hair"
The comments above just some of the comments that can still be read online to this day. The interesting thing is that Xavi Simons has since agreed a pre deal that will see him turn pro at FC Barcelona, the now 15 year old has gone from strength to strength in the two years since that tournament. For me it is little surprise, don't get me wrong, this kid has unbelievable talent, but talent alone is not enough. The special qualities Xavi has I witnessed that weekend both on and off the pitch and it left me in little doubt that this kid providing he remains in good health, continues to love the game and continues developing at the rate he is will have a bright future ahead of him. Perhaps the best way to end is a quote from Andrea Pirlo.