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FC Barcelona

A Football/Soccer club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

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More than a Club

  • Jul 8, 2014
The World Cup is currently going on, and perhaps you know Argentina is making a hell of a go at the title. Perhaps you've also heard that Pope Francis is rooting for Argentina. (I assume he's a little biased, you know, being from Argentina himself and everything.) And maybe you've also heard a big part of Argentina's game has been a certain Lionel Messi, a man who shares a spot on the short list of arguable best players in the world right now, along with Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo and Uruguay cannibal Luis Suarez. So, what exactly is up with this Messi guy, and where can you see more of him?

The answer is that you can find him kicking around in the European soccer regular season with FC Barcelona, one of the most dominant teams in La Liga, the top level of professional soccer in Spain. Although the English Premier League's Manchester United FC is widely regarded as the most popular professional sports team on Earth, FC Barcelona would give them a run if popularity strictly according to social media is any indication. Wikipedia runs a line in their FC Barcelona entry that Barca is the most popular secondary club for fans to follow.

Like most European soccer teams, the history of FC Barcelona goes back. Way back. Back all the way to the founding of La Liga, in 1899. To be more specific, is was in October 1899 that a man by the name of Joan Gamper led a group of soccer players from Switzerland, Spain, and England who wanted to create a new soccer club, by placing an ad for open auditions in a newspaper. Ten guys showed up, including Walter Wild, who later became the club's first athletic director. By the following year, Barcelona was already wearing their iconic red and blue color scheme. As for the results of the open tryout, though, well, you would think this would be what would happen these days of a professional team tried such a thing: A bunch of out-of-shape fans who work in the office, believing they know more about the sport than anyone else on the planet Earth because they had a few glory years as the king jocks of their high schools, dropping in and totally embarrassing themselves. Well, I don't know what transpired with the open tryouts in Barcelona, but I do know that it took a mere three years before Barca emerged as one of the best sides in Spain by 1902. That year, Barca won its first trophy - the Copa Macaya in the Campionat de Catalunya - and played in the Copa del Ray final, losing 2-1 to Bizcaya. As the years went on, the Campionat de Catalunya declined in importance before eventually disappearing altogether by 1940. Barcelona won the damn thing a whopping 23 times in that span, and came in second another seven times. The runner-up in titles won? RCD Espanyol, who won (yawn) nine times. The Copa del Ray, however, still exists and is still one of the most sought-after trophies in Spanish soccer.

Barcelona didn't win anything again, though, until several years later. By then, they were on the verge of bankruptcy because everyone loves a winner, and Barcelona wasn't really that by then, having not won anything at all since the now-defunct Campionat de Catalunya in 1905. So in 1908, Gamper took over as president of the team in order to rescue it. The move helped the team open a stadium, thus picking up a stable income. The team responded by winning the Pyrenees Cup every year from 1910 until 1913. The Pyrenees Cup was founded in 1910, and being the first international cup competition, it was set up to be the most prestigious cup contest in Europe. For five glorious years, it looked like it would become just that, with Barcelona winning the first four before FC Espanya broke up their monopoly in 1914.... Then it was cancelled because of a certain conflict you've probably heard of. Goes by the name of World War I.

In June of 1925, a lot of Spaniards were kind of fed up with the country's ruler, Miguel Primo de Rivera, and a Barcelona home crowd let everyone know exactly how they felt by booing "Marcha Real," Spain's national anthem. As a reprisal, the place was closed for six months and Gamper was forced to resign. He committed suicide in 1930 after personal and financial problems brought a period of depression. The team also entered a period of decline. Although they frequently fielded players like Josep Escola, Spain's increasingly boiling political situation caused attendance to plummet while everyone met in coffee shops to talk political shop. While Barcelona won the Campionat de Catalunya five times in the 30's, well, that title was only the Championship of Catalonia, and everything higher eluded them. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War began, and a lot of Barcelona's players signed up to fight against the military uprising, right alongside other players from Athletic Bilbao. The conflict had a huge cost to the club when Falangist soldiers murdered their president, Josep Sunyol, who, oh yeah, also happened to represent the pro-independence political party. Now dubbed the Martyr of Barcelonisme, his murder became a defining moment in the history of not only FC Barcelona, but Catalan identity itself. While the team toured North America in 1937, it was received as an ambassador of the Second Spanish Republic, which gave it financial security but also resulted in half the team needing political asylum in Mexico and France.

The Spanish Nationalist side happened to be supported by the Axis Powers, so in 1938, Barcelona was facing air raids from Italy. The club's office was hit by a bomb, and when Catalonia became occupied, the team became a symbol of "undisciplined" Catalanism and faced a shitload of restrictions. Barcelona represented rebellion and resistance while their archrival club, Real Madrid, became a symbol of those in power. Things were heated when the two rivals played against each other in Copa de Generalisimo in 1943. Barcelona won the first match 3-0, but before the second leg, Franco's director of state security dropped into their locker room and just casually mentioned that the only reason they were playing in the first place was because of the regime's "generosity." Second match, Real Madrid kicked Barca's asses, 11-1. The incredible thing about the political situation, though, is that Barcelona still had a successful run during the unrest. With coach Josep Samitier leading players like Cesar, Ramallets, and Velasco, they won La Liga in 1945, 1948, and 1949. They also won the first-ever Copa Latina in 1949, which amounted to another piece of deadweight when the Copa Latina was abolished in 1957.

In 1950, FC Barcelona signed their finest player, Ladislao Kubala. He and coach Fernando Daucik spearheaded runs to just about every available trophy of the period in 1952, including the Liga title and Copa del Ray. They followed it up with Liga and Copa del Ray victories the next year. But it was an event in 1951 that stood out, and by now it shouldn't surprise you to learn said event was political in nature. After Barcelona beat Santander 2-1 one fine Sunday, the crowd left the stadium and refused to ride any trams. That was because the team's fans decided they were going to stand in solidarity with the striking tram workers. At that point, many forward-thinking Spaniards began to view the team as a defender of human rights and freedoms.

The 1960's began with a bang. Barca now had coach Helenio Herrera and players Luis Suarez Miramontes, Sandor Kocsis, and Zoltan Czibor, who won another La Liga title in 1960 and became the first club to beat Real Madrid in a European Cup playoff. Then they lost to Benfica in the final, beginning a down period which saw Real Madrid monopolize the 60's. They did restore a little pride by winning the Copa del Ray a couple of times, but never truly returned to full strength until the mid-70's, when the team finally found something remotely resembling stability.

In 1982, Barcelona signed Diego Maradona, whom many knowledgeable soccer fans recognize as the guy who supplanted Pele as the greatest soccer player of all time. His time with Barcelona was short, but he still scored 22 goals in 36 appearances and took the club to the 1983 Copa del Ray. They also took aboard English top scorer Gary Lineker and keeper Andoni Zubizarreta in 1986, but didn't achieve any success with them. In 1988, the players rebelled against the club's president in an event called the Hesperia Mutiny. That year also had the assembling of the Dream Team, signing a group of Liga stars as well as a bunch of great international players like Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romario, and Hristo Stoichkov. They also brought up Josep Guardiola through their youth program, who went on to international acclaim. Under manager Johan Cruyff, Barcelona started the 90's by winning the Liga title every year from 1991 to 1994. They also won the 1990 Copa del Ray and the 1992 European Cup, and Cruyff, with 11 trophies, became known as the greatest manager in Barcelona's history. In the late 90's, the club signed Ronaldo - NOT Christiano Ronaldo, but a totally different player - who, like Maradona, stayed a short time while shoveling the ball into the net a million times. During the 90's, Barcelona won the Liga title six times overall.

The millennium brought more great things. It's where Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi come in, and where they won three of their four European Cups. The current squad fields Lionel Messi and Neymar. Messi, like I said, shares a spot on the ever-arguable list of best players in the world with Christiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez. Suarez is reportedly going to be let go by his current club, Liverpool FC in England, and there are VERY powerful rumors that he's about to be signed by Barcelona. Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid.

Real Madrid won more titles than Barcelona, but in terms of overall trophies to add to the case, Barcelona has Real Madrid trumped. Between every single trophy Barcelona has ever won, the club has a haul of 82 titles, top probably in the world. They've won La Liga 22 times; Copa del Ray 26 times, the record; and the Champions' League (European Cup) four times. There's not a Premier League team with such accolades. As I noted in my review of Manchester United, if you're going to follow European soccer, you can't really go on your American instincts by adopting an underdog team because Euro leagues aren't capped, and there's a process called relegation. That means at the end of every season, the worst teams in the league get booted. And since the top levels of soccer are the ones with the best exposure, you have every incentive to be a fan of the biggest and best. FC Barcelona is one of three La Liga clubs which have never been relegated, along with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid. (What? You were expecting Elche CF?) It's worth noting that while the English Premier League is considered the best overall soccer league in the world, their top clubs are probably still worse than the very best clubs of La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona has a regional rivalry with Espanyol. As everything with FC Barcelona seems to be, the rivalry is very politicized in nature. Espanyol was founded exclusively by Spanish soccer fans, which is a wild contrast to the multinational founding nature of Barcelona. Spanish nationals basically used to look at Barcelona as that foreigner team. This doesn't hold any more relevance, though, as Espanyol eventually translated its official name and theme from Spanish to Catalan. What followers and fans really care about, though, is the BIG rivalry: Real Madrid. Again, this has very political roots, as well as deep-seated cultural roots, plus that thing where the two best teams in any given soccer league are rivals. The Real Madrid/Barcelona game is referred to as El Clasico, and it's the ultimate manifestation of a huge cultural clash. Barcelona and Madrid are rival cities. Catalonia and Castile are rival regions. During Spain's dictatorial years, every language in Spain except Castilian Spanish was officially banned, including Catalan Spanish. So while Real Madrid became symbolic of the ruling hierarchy and prevailing order, Barcelona became a symbol of the Catalan desire for their own cultural freedom. Since Barcelona came to be so important to Catalans in their drive to keep their identities, the team adopted the motto "Mes que un club," which means "More than a club."

Forbes magazine, in 2010, evaluated FC Barcelona's worth to be around a billion bucks in US cash. That ranked them fourth in the world, just behind Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Arsenal, another Premier League team. In 2013, Forbes ranked them third, behind Manchester United and, of course, Real Madrid. Barca uses that cash influx, too; it has THE highest average salary per player of all professional sports teams in the world. The club has an ownership system somewhat similar to that of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, but instead of actual stock shares, Barca supporters are only allowed to buy membership in the club. The members, called socis, form an assembly of delegates which is its highest governing body. Barcelona has over 170,000 socis. Manchester United is believed to be the most popular and beloved professional sports team in the world, with over 300 million people claiming to follow them to some extent. If social media is any indication, though, Barcelona not only tops them, but massively blows them out. Barcelona is the most popular sports team of all on Facebook, with over 68 million followers. For contrast, Real Madrid has around 66 million, while Manchester United has 51 million. They can also add 12 million Twitter followers, again tops on social media. (For those wondering about American sports teams, the Los Angeles Lakers lead the pack with 20 million Facebook followers, and an additional three million on Twitter.)

My favorite European soccer team overall is Liverpool FC from the English Premier League, but I have a strong loyalty to FC Barcelona too. As you can see, Barcelona really gives meaning to their motto, "More than a club." If you've ever gotten sick of the rich coffeehouse intelligentsia who keep on bitching about professional sports and how they don't really mean anything (a view which I admit to largely agreeing with most of the time), it's FC Barcelona, perhaps more than any other sports team in the world, which makes the argument that it isn't always just former high school hotshots trying to live failed dreams of professional sports glory who are emotionally tied to their favorite teams.

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Quick Tip by . October 27, 2009
My second favorite team in La Liga!
Quick Tip by . October 27, 2009
I watched their game this weekend and they ended up winning 6-1!!! Was never a big fan but the more I watch, the more I'm becoming a fan!
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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Fútbol Club Barcelona, also known simply as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is a football club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The team was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Spanish men led by Joan Gamper. The club has become a Catalan institution, hence the motto "Més que un club" (More than a club). The official Barça anthem is El Cant del Barça by Josep Maria Espinàs.

FC Barcelona is one of three clubs never to have been relegated from La Liga and the most successful club in Spanish football after Real Madrid, having won nineteen La Liga titles, a record twenty-five Spanish Cups, eight Spanish Super Cups, four Eva Duarte Cups and two League Cups. They are also one of the most successful clubs in European football having won thirteen official major European trophies in total, including ten UEFA competitions. They have won three UEFA Champions League titles, a record four UEFA Cup Winners' Cups, a record three Inter-Cities Fairs Cups (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup) and three UEFA Super Cups. In 2009, Barcelona became the first club in Spain to win the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. The club is also the only European side to have played continental football in every season since its inception in 1955.

The club's stadium is the Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 98,772 seats. Barcelona enjoys a high rate of popularity; about 25.7% of Spanish ...

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