Published On: November 4, 2020

Do you dream of feasting your eyes on your favorite football club playing a match at their home stadium? Imagine you did that while interacting with people involved in the club’s management and getting insights directly from the backend. That would be pretty epic, right? Most of us have a special place in our hearts for our teams.

We stay up all night, watch matches, support, cheer, scream, even shed tears occasionally. It’s more than just a game for us. I’m currently pursuing a Bachelor of Sports Management degree from the International Institute of Sports & Management in Mumbai. As an ardent Barça fan, I was wonderstruck when I figured out that our institute had planned a sports experiential learning tour to Spain.

There was so much more to it than just visiting the country as a tourist! I was in for an extremely informative trip, which offered immense practical knowledge and exposure. This industrial visit was an unprecedented opportunity for me to network with professionals that I look up to and aspire to be like.

Sure, we had loads of fun as well. We made visits to historical monuments like La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell, witnessed the beauty of two of the world’s largest football stadiums, went on a trip down the history and achievements of both the clubs, had a close look at their trophy cabinets, and iconic jerseys, etc. We also set off to Toledo for a one-day excursion.

It is an ancient and primeval city close to Madrid, and I found it very picturesque. For me, setting foot in the Camp Nou was the most exhilarating feeling. I got to do that for two consecutive days, and it felt like heaven on Earth. It’s just too good to be described in words, and I think no language can do justice to the stadium’s elegance. After all, it’s not just a stadium. For us Barça fans, it’s a feeling, an emotion; it’s home to all the iconic victories and goals we’ve been watching on loop for years. This is where it all happened!

We attended Barça’s league match against Getafe. Lionel Andrés Messi – The greatest player to ever touch the ball was showcasing his magic tricks right in front of my eyes. I cheered my heart and lungs out, and the outcome was a 2-1 victory for FC Barcelona. What’s more? I was interviewed on LaLiga’s pre-match show. It was a very hearty moment for me to represent my fan club and country on the live telecast, with hundreds of thousands of people watching.

Now diving into the exciting part – What exactly did I learn? What are these unique experiences I’m talking about? Our institute had numerous workshops and masterclasses planned for us along with all the sightseeing in Spain. I was fired up to attend each of those sessions, and they exceeded my expectations by a mile.

Starting in Madrid, the first meeting, and a personal favorite, was a certified masterclass from LaLiga Business School. The speaker for this workshop was the head of LaLiga Global Network – Mr. Octavi Anoro. If that’s not astonishing enough for you, we had the workshop at LaLiga’s Headquarters itself! Mr. Anoro informed us about LaLiga’s International strategy, how LaLiga is actively trying to reach a global audience, and spread awareness about its clubs and players worldwide.

It was a very illuminating session. Apart from the strategy, he also notified us about the courses offered by the LaLiga Business School. It was an exciting topic for me to discuss as I plan on moving to Spain for further education. After the workshop, I briefed him about FCB Mumbai and presented snippets from our past events. He turned out to be a Barça fan too and was galvanized by the zest shown by Indian fans. He offered to be of help if ever required by our fan club.

Next up was a training session at CR7 Crunch Fitness Studio. This session was hosted by Mr. Arturo Castellanos, who has previously trained the man himself – Cristiano Ronaldo. We had a spinning class and a CrossFit session with him. It was very demanding and revitalizing at the same time.

In Madrid, the last workshop was at the Global Sports Innovation Centre. GSIC is a nonprofit organization powered by Microsoft that helps startups connect with sport-tech companies such as LaLiga, Real Sociedad, VICIS, Real Madrid, etc. They innovate new technologies to embed in the sporting industry. “SOLOS Smart Tags” was one of the innovations that I extolled. These smart tags are integrated into fans’ merchandise, and they have multiple uses.

They work as tickets on matchdays. Smart gates installed at the stadiums open upon scanning the tag. Fans are sent exclusive offers and discounts on their club’s existing mobile app during and after the match. Mr. Iñigo Bonilla – the Strategic Alliances & Business Development Director at GSIC, guided us through lots of such genuinely mind-blowing innovations.

Last but not least, in Barcelona, we had a masterclass with Mr. Marcos Picalló – the Manager of Barça Innovation Hub. He conveyed information about FC Barcelona and its strategic innovations, the club’s revenue system, sponsors, etc. He mentioned that the club was running without a strategic plan up till 2015.

He also briefed us about the technological advancements taking place in the club. For instance, the Gatorade Smart Cap tracks a player’s real-time hydration data and relates it to their performance to determine the athlete’s applicable nutritional requirements. Like all the previous sessions, this one was very enlightening and interactive as well.

All in all, I’m sure this industrial visit will prove to be a significant boost to my upcoming career as a sports management professional. It inculcated in me many new management techniques and ideas that can be practically applied in the industry. It was an insightful first-hand experience in the Spanish sports sector.

I could relate real-life scenarios to concepts that earlier, I had only learnt in a classroom. It also opened up new horizons for me to connect and network with multiple international experts and seek guidance from them when required. I want to thank IISM for this unique opportunity. I undoubtedly recommend other management institutes to encourage students for such experiential learning tours. It was an extraordinarily phenomenal experience.

Written by
Ashish Kothari
Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management batch (2018-21)

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