Colombian parents say they were cheated by FC Barcelona-linked soccer academy

Bogota, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- More than 60 Colombian families say that the Barça Academy Colombia, a soccer school operated by a local firm on behalf of FC Barcelona, is refusing to refund the money they paid upfront for training the aspiring footballers never received because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“My son is called Mateo, he is 12 years old, and we enrolled him in the academy in January 2020 precisely because we were confident that as it has to do with Barça, it was going to be a very serious project,” Victor Garcia told Efe.

He and other disgruntled parents wrote to the academy, run by the Caribbean Colombia Football Club, asking for their money back, but have yet to hear back.

“Hiding behind the pandemic,” Garcia said, the Barça Academy Colombia is trampling on the rights of 300 Colombia families with youngsters enrolled in the schools in Bogota and Cali by not returning the money paid in advance for training programs in 2020.

Some parents, he said, even included money for airfare so their kids could travel to Barcelona in April 2020 for a Barça Academy World Cup that was cancelled because of the coronavirus.

A group of parents met on Feb. 5 with Ramon Señe, a representative of Caribbean Colombia Football Club, who told them that in lieu of refunds, the academy was offering the students a three-week training camp at the end of the year.

Señe did not say exactly where the camp would take place or who would be providing the training.

“We don’t consider the compensation that Barça Academy Colombia and Caribbean Football Club are imposing on us in a unilateral and arbitrary way to be fair or appropriate,” Garcia said.

Efe tried to contact the management of Barça Academy Colombia, but received no response.

The parents, who say they paid “billions of pesos” (1 billion Colombia pesos = $272,000) to the academy, are now exploring the possibility of filing a grievance with Colombia’s SIC consumer protection agency. EFE