What’s the Goalden Word?

We football fanatics often use terms and phrases without understanding its meaning. We hear them on television or read them in magazines and then wonder what the word really is all about. We shall focus on such terms and their usages and create our own footballpædia. If you would like to know all about any particular word, you can email us on editor@goaldentimes.org

CANTERA: (can·te·ra): [Feminine – Noun – Singular]

The word cantera is of Spanish origin and literally means a pit or a quarry. In ancient times, it would refer to the area where stone carvings would be carried out. And just as the carvings would produce wonderful sculptures, so do canteras of modern day produce footballers. In football parlance, the cantera refers to the youth academies and nursery clubs where future football stars are nurtured and their skills honed. Notable canteras include those of Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, RCD Espanyol and Sporting de Gijón.

The most famous cantera is Barcelona’s La Masia (pictured below), which served as the residential house for young academy players from outside Barcelona from 1979 till the middle of 2011.

The Most Famous Cantera of them all – La Masia de Can Planes which was closed on 30 June 2011

 Some of the most illustrious names in football have come through those gates including Leo Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and the current Barcelona manager – Pep Guardiola. The cantera policy has served Barcelona well, building trust and understanding between the young players coming in and is the real secret behind “the Barcelona way” of playing football.

The other famous cantera is the Athletic Bilbao one who had imposed a strict Basque-only policy for recruiting new players. Their motto is Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación (With home-grown teams and supporters, there is no need for imports). Some of the legends of Spanish football who have come from Bilbao’s cantera include Rafael Moreno Aranzadi aka Pichichi – after whom the top goalscorer trophy is given in La Liga, Zarra – the all-time top goalscorer in La Liga, José Ángel Iribar – who made a record 466 La Liga appearances and was a member of the Spain team when they won the European Championship in 1964 and Andoni Zubizarreta the most capped Spanish international to date.

Real Madrid too have their own cantera in the Real Madrid Castilla and have produced players like Iker Casillas, Raul, Guti and Juan Mata. When Madrid won the 1966 European Cup, they were the first team to win it with 11 home-grown (Spanish) players and a home-grown manager.

The canteras, however, face a real problem in the poaching of wealthy clubs who would have a readymade source of good quality footballers at a cheap price (Think Arsene Wenger recruiting Fabregas at 16). There are occasions when the canteras of the big clubs poach on those of the smaller clubs. In some cases, the players themselves prefer to move on, unable to establish themselves in the main team (like Gerard Pique, a product of Barça’s cantera, at one point of time, had moved to Manchester United).

One thing is certain though, with the UEFA FFP coming in, more and more clubs need to produce their own stars of the future and adopting a cantera policy will help them achieve it.