Football may be a game dominated by the egos of millionaires and the transfer of eye-wateringly large sums of money, but for FC Barcelona, widely considered to be the best side in the world, it’s about a lot more.
From their traditional shunning of sponsorship or member ownership to their role as the champions of Catalonia, there are plenty of reasons why this team lives up to their slogan of ‘more than a club’. In fact, football in Barcelona is much more than a game.
Generations of living legends have worn the team’s distinctive maroon and purple stripes. March 2012 saw then 24-year-old Lionel Messi lead the club to new heights with its demolition of Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at Camp Nou. The Argentinian’s five goals set a new record in the Champions League.
Yet Messi is just one in a long line of goal-scoring gods to have inspired Barcelonans and countless fans around the world, with this new record forming part of a succession of accolades achieved by Barça over the years. Since 2013 Neymar Jr was hired as the new football star showing his incredible skills along with Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, making Barcelona’s game incredibly beautiful!. FC Barcelona has won more European trophies than any other team and has won all the official competitions it has played in at least once. In 2009 the club managed to win the Copa del Rey, La Liga, the Champions League, the Spanish Supercup, the European Supercup and the Clubs World Cup, all in one year.
Visit the Camp Nou stadium
Origins of the club
It all began in 1899 with an advert in a local paper advising anyone who could be bothered to turn up to play football in Barcelona to meet at the paper’s offices. The man behind the advert, Swiss football pioneer Hans Kamper, would go on to lead the club, with its international make-up, to considerable early success. Two decades later FC Barcelona was secure enough to found its first stadium in Les Corts, with a membership of 22,000.
The Spanish Civil War marked the beginning of several dark decades for football in Barcelona – several players fought against Franco’s rebellion and the club’s president was assassinated in a bid to dampen local morale. After the fascists’ victory the club’s role as a potent symbol of Catalan defiance put it under the spotlight of the new regime. This included an infamous changing room visit from Franco’s security chief, after a Barcelona win against long-term rivals Real Madrid – when the two sides met again the latter won by a suspicious 11 goals to one.
The 1970s brought Franco’s death and a new lease of life for the club. Foreign players such as Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona set FC Barcelona on the path of mega achievement that continues to this day.
The club and the city
Over the course of this tumultuous history FC Barcelona has steadily built up a following of 130,000 ‘socis’, or members. As the second-richest club in the world it is these enthusiasts that are the owners, a fact that helps to keep the team welded to the city. Membership is often given to new-born babies like a second football-based baptism.
The team’s influence on football in Barcelona can be seen everywhere. From purple and maroon-bedecked balconies to young kids reliving Messi’s triumphs in their local square, Barcelona is constantly buzzing to the delicate rhythms of the beautiful game.
Walk around the city during ‘El Clásico’, a match between Barça and age-old rivals Real Madrid, and you’ll find almost every bar crammed with locals on the edge of their seats. Even though getting a ticket to see El Clásico at Camp Nou is extremely difficult (despite the fact that it’s the biggest stadium in Europe), fans create a brilliant atmosphere on or off the terraces. Landmark occasions are often celebrated by crowds gathering on Las Ramblas.
With its international appeal, strong pride in its Catalan identity, not to mention its success as a brand, FC Barcelona is like a mirror of the city itself.