MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is appealing a FIFA directive not to select a French youngster to play in one of its youth teams.
According to Barcelona, FIFA sent a communication instructing it not to select 15-year-old Theo Chendri to play in its Youth A squad. FIFA said on Wednesday it had been contacted by Spain's federation about "the international transfer of the minor player Theo Chendri." FIFA declined further comment because "the matter is still pending with our services."
Barcelona is renowned for training and educating young players such as Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta at its Masia academy in the hope they develop the talent to graduate to the senior team. FIFA exerts rigid control over transferring minors across international borders.
Barcelona said FIFA initially sent a directive through the Catalan federation not to play Lee Seung Woo, a South Korean whom the club value as one of its most promising talents at Masia. The club said the ban was based on a possible violation of Article 19 of the "regulations for the statute and transfer of players."
Barcelona spokesman Chemi Terres said FIFA's communication caught the club by surprise. Confusion at the club grew when FIFA extended its ban to Chendri and four more Masia students: Koreans Paik Seung-Ho and Jang Gyeolhee, the Nigerian-Dutch minor Bobby Adekanye and Cameroon player Patrice Sousia.
FIFA did not comment on the five other youths. Barcelona said all six minors would not play until a decision on its appeal was received. The club said it educates minors in a complete manner, including training in personal care, culture and nutrition, apart from sports and normal studies.
All of this education takes place at La Masia — a regional name used to describe a traditional Catalan country house — which it described as "a first-class residence" staffed with good coaches and teachers.
The club said Spanish law allows minors to live and study in Spain as long as they are accompanied by a legal guardian. FIFA tightened its rules on transferring minors in 2010, to help end what UEFA President Michel Platini and global players' union FIFPro described as the equivalent of "child trafficking."
FIFA aimed to close loopholes which allowed clubs and agents to bring youngsters to Europe on the promise of getting a lucrative contract, only to abandon them without a job or education.
Associated Press writers Graham Dunbar in Zurich and Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, contributed to this report.