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05.08.2008 03:13

In the heart of Manhattan

David Saura (enviat especial)

Central Park was the setting for an unusual training session. Mixed in with the citizens enjoying this privileged space, Pep Guardiola’s men did some running and stretching.

After several days going round lots of training camps (in Chicago the team trained in three different centres), the Barça first team trained this Monday in a place with no goalposts or balls. They didn’t use football boots either. You see Pep Guardiola’s players trained in Central Park, in the western part of this huge extense of 3.4 square kilometres.

A race among the trees

henry_en_el_central_park.jpgAt around half past six in the evening, the team bus left the players right inside the park, near 100th street. After walking a little they arrived at North Meadows Field, where after a short talk with the manager, they began running. In fact the running continued and a few stretches were the only exercises to keep the players busy for just over half an hour, whilst many baseball fans practiced their favourite sport in fields alongside the Barcelona cracks.

The physical coaches were in charge of this session in the heart of Manhattan, characterised by the stifling heat and by the difficulties caused by having to run on the long grass. Only Víctor Sánchez and Jeffren, both with muscular problems, trained separately from Pep Guardiola’s team, who when he played for Roma took part in a physical training session in Central Park.

Very close to the police

nypd_fcb.jpgAs well as the public, the session also had the company of 15 members of the New York Police Department (N.Y.P.D.) who took care of security. But they were no ordinary officers, but rather part of the forces two football teams. They worked voluntarily out with their working hours in order to be with Barça. “When I mentioned it, I didn’t have to say it twice”, commented Rena Mejía, lieutenant in the N.Y.P.D. and responsible for this group of police officers, the majority of whom were of Hispanic descent.

After training, the players and the police took a group photograph, at the same time as they gave away N.Y.P.D. caps, t-shirts and badges to the Barça committee. The club, on the other hand will send a shirt signed by the players to be raffled to raise funds for the teams expenses.
In the heart of Manhattan
Permits and authorisations
In order to carry out this training session, the tour organisers started the proceedings with ‘Central Park Conservancy’, the non-lucrative company that runs the park, to gain authorisation. The possibility to train in Central Park was looked at for the 2006 tour, but was finally rejected and has now been resumed.

FC Barcelona’s training session in Central Park was not made public until Monday morning for security reasons and to avoid too many people gathering. Even so, lots of curious people turned up at the site where the session took place and in the end were able to take photos and get the players’ autographs.

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