FC Barcelona is probably the most widely known, sought after and most prestigious soccer club in the world. If it’s not the top club then it’s tied for first (feel free to argue with your friend about the other J). One of the remarkable things about FCB is its extensive reach world wide. Today we will talk about the infamous “Penyas” and in our next article we’ll discuss the FCB “Escolas.” In order to give you the most accurate information possible we interviewed Paul Walker, the President of Total Futbol Academy, a prestigious youth soccer club as well as an official FC Barcelona Penya based in Los Angeles, CA.
In the mid-1940s, the club invented the notion of Penyes, a mix between a fan club and a financial support club, during a time when the club was in need of financial and public support. The first one, Penya Solera, was formed in 1944 by a group of supporters and former players of the team. After that, many more FCB Penyas were formed that ultimately took an important role in the physical and financial growth of FCB.
When we first sat down with Paul, we began to talk about FC Barcelona and its extensive international reach. He told us about Barcelona’s attempt to run soccer schools and camps in the US in the early 90’s however these schools and camps didn’t quite catch on at the time. Soccer was at the beginning stages of growth at that time and not nearly what it is today in the states.
When Paul decided to start a soccer club in LA, he wanted to officially represent a powerful and well respected European based professional soccer club that had a distinct philosophy of player development as well as a powerful history, and in that, it all culminated with FC Barcelona.
Paul wrote a letter to FC Barcelona in 1999. He reached out to inquire about the process of how to officially represent them in the US. He didn’t even know who to send it to nor if anyone would response. For you Millennials reading, this may be a hard concept to grasp that there was literally no place to just search for the information, no online submission forms, no email address or anything like that at that time.
To his surprise he received response months later from FCB’s Penya division. They explained to him that there was a specific procedure and process to follow that required him to fill out an application as well as to submit specified legal documents for a review. By mid 2000, Paul’s club had grown in size as well as an organization and now had the required legal docs he needed to send them for approval. By Spring of 2001 Paul received a letter of approval that his Club had been approved as an official Barcelona Penya, not to mention the first Barca Penya in their then 103 year history based in the United States of America! What an honor to hold.
“A Penya” has nothing to do with FCB’s Escola program nor their official camps. A Penya is all about the passion and support of the true FCB fans. The equivalent to it in our country would be a University’s Boosters and Alumni Club. A Penya has tremendous power and influence over the club since a Penya has many “Socios” which are official members of the club. Socios have a say in everything that goes on with the Club including voting for the President, building a new stadium, etc. FCB has 1,500 Penyas worldwide. Becoming a Socio today is no longer available unless you are less than 15 years of age or a family member of an existing Socio. Many Penya members also have season tickets.”
Total Futbol Academy is a youth soccer club that is also a Barca Penya. Typically a Penya is just a social club, but in this case TFA is a youth soccer club that also has many benefits of being a Barca Penya. Quite the rarity. Thanks to this advantage, TFA has received a lot of privileges. Paul is able to use his Penya connections to provide many wonderful benefits for his club. One of these benefits includes an annual coaching clinic for his TFA American coaches to attend in Barcelona that is hosted by alumni from FC Barcelona’s Players Veterans Association. Through this relationship a coaches mentoring program was created.
Through hard work and establishing connections, Paul has been able to develop his program with as much talent as possible. The FCB Penya connection and associated privileges have ultimately helped to develop the high his Club to a very high standard. Today, his L.A. based Total Futbol Academy Club is known as one of the top clubs in the country.
“As an official Penya, TFA takes annual trips to Barcelona. We usually take about 100 people on average including players and parents. The trip has many layers to it which includes events such as: attending an FC Barcelona home match as well as to participate in local friendly matches against other youth academies. This is an amazing experience for players and their parents to be engulfed in the Barcelona ‘futbol’ culture. Being there in person allows them to fully appreciate our Clubs official affiliation to FCB and they all come back proudly wearing their jerseys that include their official FCB Penya badge,” Paul tells us with a high sense of pride and accomplishment.
TFA is an official partner of Bownet Soccer and the club takes advantage of the versatility of the Bownet systems, barriers and portable soccer goals. Stay tuned for an original warm-up designed professionally by TFA that will be filmed soon by Bownet’s production team.