Boy Star With Barcelona Comes Home to the United States
Ben Lederman dreamed of being the next Lionel Messi after becoming the first US-born player to train at the Barcelona academy at 11-years-old. Now he may have to settle for becoming the first Ben Lederman.
Ben, now 15, has been forced to return from Spain after spending the past year in bureaucratic limbo because of a FIFA dispute over the registrations of underage players.
During that period he was able to train with his team but was unable to play any matches.
Any hopes of a reprieve and a return to his successful progression at the Spanish club where players like Messi, Xavi, Andres Aniesta and Cesc Fabregas, now of Chelsea, came through the youth system, died earlier this month when FIFA ruled that ineligible Barcelona youth players could no longer stay at the club’s La Maisa academy or use any of its facilities.
Here’s a YouTube video of Ben at Barcelona:
“The only option for him to play is to go back to the U.S.,” Lederman’s father, Danny Lederman, said in a text message to Andrew Das of the New York Times. “And that was the most important thing, as his goal is to make the 2017 under-17 team.”
The Ledermans from Los Angeles, California had uprooted the entire family to pursue Ben’s dream and for now they have decided the best place for Ben is the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which provides live-in facilities for elite youngsters in various sports. DeMarcus Beasley and Eddie Johnson are among the alumni.
Not surprisingly, he scored in his first game for the Academy, a 3-0 victory.
Danny Lederman is considering taking FIFA to court claiming the ban is unfair and violates human rights. He told the New York Times that sport’s scandal-plagued governing body was “killing” his son.
Ben had gone to Barcelona initially on a two-year arrangement and the club was so keen to keep him it allowed him to train without playing in games. That in itself bodes well for the boy’s future.
The US is desperately short of a genuine superstar. A player of genuine world class could help push the national team to the breakthrough in competition it so desires and finally put it amongst the big boys.
Despite his tribulations in Europe, that player could yet be Ben Lederman.
Watch this space.