Commentary

An American at Barcelona, again

Ben Lederman is only 16 years old, but we seem to have known him for years. In 2012, Soccer America first reported about the selection of a 12-year-old American from Barcelona's youth academy to a U.S. under-14 national team camp held by Hugo Perez at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

In the subsequent four years, Lederman was often in the news. He was banned by FIFA from playing for Barcelona, returned to the United States to play for the IMG Academy in U.S. Soccer's Development Academy in 2015-16 but is now back training at Barcelona's famed La Masia academy, which produced Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Xavi and Carles Puyol.

On Monday, Barcelona confirmed that Lederman was finally eligible to play again, for its Juvenil B (U-18) team.

Lederman was one of 10 Barcelona youth players cited as irregular signings by FIFA, which ruled them ineligible for games until age 18 and banned Barcelona from signing new players in 2015. Only recently has FIFA started cracking down on teams violating what it calls Article 19 “Protection of Minors.”

With only a few exceptions, the rule bans teams from registering players from another country under the age of 18. It was intended to protect young players, mostly from Africa and South America, who were lured to Europe by unscrupulous agents and ended up on their own away from their families when things didn't work out.

Those impacted by the rule included Lederman, who joined Barcelona’s academy at age 11, and other young Americans who have tried to move to Europe and Mexican-Americans under the age of 18 whom Mexican clubs no longer are able to register.

The major exception concerns transfers within the territory of the European Union and allows players age 16 to 18 to move. That allows players who hold a passport from one European Union member to move to a club in another European Union member. (A new Mexican federation rule categorizing Mexicans players as those who resided in Mexico before they were 19 narrowed the window to one year during which Mexican-Americans can sign with Mexican clubs and not count as foreigners for the purposes of the federation's controversial 10+8 rule.)

Holding a passport from a European Union member has allowed other young Americans to sign with European clubs, most notably, Christian Pulisic, who signed with Borussia Dortmund and debuted for the German club last year at the age of 17. Pulisic qualified because of the Croatian passport he obtained because his grandfather was a Croatian citizen.

Barcelona stated Lederman was now eligible because he is 16 and a citizen of a European nation. The club did not name the country but Lederman is believed to have obtained a Polish passport

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5 comments about "An American at Barcelona, again".
  1. don Lamb, January 26, 2017 at 9:17 a.m.

    This is a good bit of education for Jen Russ, who as of weeks ago didn't know who Lederman was or that Barcelona had produced so much of its historically great team through its academy.

  2. Bob Ashpole, January 26, 2017 at 1:40 p.m.

    Jen, there is an exception for people and clubs in border areas (within 50 km).

  3. charles smith, January 28, 2017 at 7:54 a.m.

    My son, a 14-year-old from San Antonio, just spent last semester training with Granada's La Liga Academy. He too was caught up with the FIFA chapter 19 rule. He was able to train with the Academy but not able to participate in any games. Although he is fluent in Spanish, we have ancestral ties to Spain, but we are in eligible for Spanish citizenship. It is ironic that he had to travel to Spain for the next level of training. Sadly, San Antonio does not host a USSDA team. The closest USSDA team is based in Austin Texas with lonestar SC. It may seem ridiculous, but it is more of a logistical nightmare to have him train in Austin rather than to train in Spain. He has just been blessed that his local club,lonestar SC SA has provided a connection with Granada for training.

  4. don Lamb replied, January 28, 2017 at 12:04 p.m.

    Good luck to your son, Charles.

  5. R2 Dad replied, January 29, 2017 at 12:54 a.m.

    Curious on your thoughts regarding the training your son has received in Spain, Charles...

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