September 16, 2004
How a special talent can get you a good general education – Chetham's and Real Madrid

Last time I was in touch with her family, the news of Goddaughter II was that she is hoping to get to Chetham's School of Music, on the back of her cello playing, which is apparently improving fast.

The great thing about Chetham's is that (a) it produces lots of excellent musicians, and,(b) just as vital, it produces lots of excellent non-musicians, people who excelled at music when they were kids, but who then went on to do other things in later life, with equal enthusiasm and distinction. Chetham's supplies great music education, and great non-music education. No wonder Goddaughter II's family are so keen on her to try to get there. Hope she does it. Even if she doesn't, the attempt will stretch her in all the right ways, I think. (I hope.)

And now here is another story, this time culled from googling about strangers, of a kid with one great talent, who is about to have his education built around that.

Spanish football giants Real Madrid have added a seven-year-old boy from Brighton to their ranks of superstars.

Niall Mason impressed Real at a two-week summer course at the club so much that they asked him to join their prestigious Escuela Deportivo de Futbol Federation Madrid.

He becomes the latest English player on Real's books following the signings of David Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate.

Niall will train twice a week for eight months at the academy with his schooling continuing at a local English school.

The Mason family, including his mother Mimosa, father Russell and three-year-old sister Maya, are all moving to Madrid where they will live in a flat close to Real's Bernabeu stadium.

Sounds like a somewhat Spanish family already, doesn't it? Well, good luck to them all.

Everything depends, with a story like this, on the way that the adults handle things. Do they bet everything on Niall becoming a soccer star, and then treat him, and make him treat himself, like a total failure if that doesn't work out? Or do they teach him soccer, and teach him the kind of things that a star institution like Real Madrid can teach him about life in general, and thereby prepare him well for whatever life may bring him.

I'm optimistic about Niall's chances. I don't think that Real would have gone to all this bother for Niall if they didn't like the look of his family background as well as his soccer skills. And I have enough respect for Real as educators ("Escuela Deportivo de Futbol Federation Madrid" sounds like they take all this pretty seriously), not only to hope that things will go well for Niall, but actually to think it, regardless of whether he ever makes it in big time soccer. Sorry: "Futbol".

Besides which, the Real futbol team may find themselves needing him quite soon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:35 PM
Category: GlobalisationHow to teachSport