The ability to torture and frustrate one of your friends beyond belief made this game very attractive to us as kids. Most people have probably played this game, or a variation of it, at one point in their lives.
But no one does it better than FC Barcelona.
The game -- known in Spanish as "rondo," or "piggy in the middle" -- is a staple in Barca's training system, even in its youth academy, known as La Masia.
A rondo is simple: a bunch of players stand in a circle, while two players are in the middle. The players in the circle pass the ball -- imagine the soccer ball whizzing back-and-forth-and-ping-ponging-all-over-the-place as if it were in a circular pinball machine -- while the players in the middle try to intercept it. The goal is to one-touch the ball to someone else, or zip the ball between the two players in the middle -- using only a split second to think or react. This helps a player to react lightning fast, and it also helps to improve passing in tight quarters. The people in the middle, meanwhile, are pressing, trying to take the ball away, which is a staple of Barca's game. If you're not attacking, you're defending. So rondo fulfills an offensive and a defensive purpose. It was instituted into the DNA of Barca's training system by Johan Cruyff, the great Dutch player and former Barca player and manager.
But the main goal of the game, as always, is to keep possession. Pep Guardiola once said this about his team: "Without the ball we are a horrible team. So we need the ball."
So organize a circle. Put some players in the circle. Put two piggies in the middle. Drive the piggies crazy. Even better, learn how to drive the other team crazy.
Possess the ball -- fastfastfaster.
Here is a video that shows Barca's team in action, practicing the rondo. Xavi once said in an interview that Barca practices the rondo "Every. Single. Day." Now that is what I call an obsession with possession.
Enjoy the video and be sure to check back tomorrow as I show you how Xavi literally ran circles around a player from Granada during Barca's 5-3 victory on March 20. Tomorrow's blog entry will show how doing the ordinary things excellently -- because excellence is a habit -- forms champions.