It’s no secret that humanity stands on the shoulders of giants. Athletes are no different—each generation of superstars lays the groundwork for the next one to come.

Iniesta’s Methodology is a soccer academy designed to teach young players the unique soccer style, techniques and vision of the star midfielder from Vissel Kobe, Rakuten Group’s professional soccer team, and former FC Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta. Since 2013, the program has attracted the next generation of soccer players from the world over to its yearly summer camp in Barcelona. Today’s event marks the first time for the academy to be held outside Spain.

The first class of up-and-coming Japanese soccer players gathered at Vissel Kobe’s official training ground “Ibuki-no-Mori” on a brisk late November morning. Hailing from elementary schools around the country, almost 80 children from grades 4 to 6 gathered in Kobe for the one-day only special version of Iniesta’s Methodology.

Emili Ricart (far right) was joined by Iniesta's Methodology camp coaches Marcos Vives, Top Team Assistant Coach, Vissel Kobe (far left), and Albert Benaiges, Academy Advisor, Vissel Kobe (second from left), as well as Iniesta himself.

Emili Ricart (far right) was joined by Iniesta’s Methodology camp coaches Marcos Vives, Top Team Assistant Coach, Vissel Kobe (far left), and Albert Benaiges, Academy Advisor, Vissel Kobe (second from left), as well as Iniesta himself.

Emili Ricart, top team sports performance advisor for Vissel Kobe and long-time personal trainer and friend of Iniesta, kicked off the camp by speaking to the kids gathered on the practice field pitch. Ricart has a long history of training top soccer athletes as a physiotherapist, serving as a fitness coach for FC Barcelona from 2008 to 2013.

His hopes for hosting the soccer academy in Japan were clear. “At Iniesta’s Methodology, we want to provide a soccer academy that not only teaches ball control, decision-making abilities, play style, and soccer training techniques developed by Iniesta, but also brings a holistic approach to the field, giving young players advice on how to cultivate their mindset and conduct themselves as athletes,” remarked Ricart. “Soccer is very popular in Japan right now, and I believe training the next generation of soccer players is essential to taking the game to the next level in Japan.”

Iniesta takes to the field

Rakuten Today spoke with a number of participants before the day’s program began, and one thing was certain—everyone was looking forward to the chance to meet Iniesta himself.

Iniesta joins the fray, offering personal instruction to the participants of Iniesta’s Methodology.

“I want to share my style of soccer, but more importantly I want to convey to [the young players] the drive that’s necessary to fight for your dreams.”

The atmosphere changed the moment Iniesta stepped on the pitch. He methodically moved through each group of up-and-coming players, sharing advice gained from his years of experience at the top of the game and stopping here and there to demonstrate proper kicking technique or giving specific instructions.

When asked what he wanted to convey most to the next generation, Iniesta responded, “Of course I want to share my style of soccer, but more importantly I want to convey to them the drive that’s necessary to fight for your dreams. As for game mechanics, I want them to learn how to hold the ball, what to do when they have the ball, what they should do when they don’t— everything young players should be learning in order to build a solid foundation.”

“It’s not about just wanting to become a soccer player, it’s about thinking about what you need to do in order to become a soccer player. That’s what young players should be focusing their training on, and I want everyone here today to remember that. If Japan masters this fundamental concept, the country will be able to compete at a very high level on the world stage.”

Having one of your heroes congratulate you as your shot sinks into the back of the net after receiving a perfect pass from one of the greatest technicians in the game is its own reward.

Having one of your heroes congratulate you as your shot sinks into the back of the net, after receiving a perfect pass from one of the greatest technicians in the game, is its own reward.

Every player who participated in the camp today received a few encouraging words, a custom uniform to take home and, as a special surprise on the day, a soccer ball signed by Iniesta himself.

As he spoke of his vision for the future, it was clear that Iniesta has high hopes for the next generation of Japanese players.