Spanish football: FC Barcelona
The Spain Buddy Spanish football series sees Matthew Hirtes providing a lowdown on the country’s leading clubs. Presently, he’s tackling the Primera Liga teams. This week, it’s the turn of FC Barcelona to receive their close up.
FC Barcelona…in 90 seconds
It took FC Barcelona, more commonly known as Barcelona or colloquially as Barça, 10 years to own their first ground. The Camp de la Industría only had a 6,000 capacity and such was the growing following of FCB that fans used to park their derrieres on the perimeter wall which led to the fans being nicknamed Los Culés (the Arses) because such a rear view was the first thing you saw on approaching the stadium. In 1922, Barcelona moved south west, to the 20,000-capacity Camp de Les Corts. Even trebling the size of the ground wasn’t enough to accommodate the supporters of Spain’s second club. And so FCB built the Camp Nou in 1954 which could at one time hold a crowd of over 120,000 supporters. In these all-seater-stadia days, the capacity’s down to 99,354 which nevertheless makes the Camp Nou Europe’s roomiest ground.
There’s no doubt, even with their various on- and off-field controversies, that the world of football will be going all dewy eyed over Barça’s current forward line made in South America in years to come. Made up of Argentina’s Leo Messi, Brazil’s Neymar Junior, and Uruguay’s Luis Suárez. Just as longtime Los Culés remember the goalscoring exploits of a rather less bloodthirsty Luis Suárez. El Arquitecto was one of the main players in a Helenio Herrera side which won back-to-back-doubles in 1959 and 1960. With such prodigies as Hungary’s László Kubala and Sándor Kocsis as teammates, Suárez scored 61 goals in 122 games for the Catalan club. Relatively fallow years followed with Barcelona not winning the La Liga for 14 seasons. The catalyst for an upturn in their fortunes was the signing of Dutch master Johann Cruyff in 1973. Cruyff would later return to manage the Catalans in 1988, creating the Dream Team boasting the stellar talents of Brazil’s goal-hungry Romario, volatile Bulgarian forward Hristo Stoichkov and maverick midfielder Pep Guardiola, himself a Spain international. History repeated itself with Guardiola taking over as Barça manager in 2008. One of his first acts was to bomb out legends of the calibre of Ronaldinho and Deco, promoting the likes of Pedro and Sergio Busquets who had previously managed as Barça B boss.
FC Barcelona Form Guide
FCB are one of the most decorated sides in world football. On the domestic front, they’ve won 24 top-flight titles and a record 28 Copa del Rey finals. In terms of European competition, Barça have come top in five European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals and a handful of European Super Cup/UEFA Super Cup ones.
Club Shop Essential Purchase
Dress your child like a Catalan with a replica Barça kit that starts at the 3-6 months’ size.
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La Oveja Negra on Carrer Sitges is a great place to watch the game on the big screen if you’ve not been lucky enough to score a match ticket. Or a pre- or post-match meet up. Where you can try and recreate some of the goals you’ve seen during a game of table football.
Barça’s motto is “Més que un club“. And they are more than a club, a symbol of Catalunya especially during the repressive years of Franco’s dictatorship. Former Barcá right back (but left winger politically) and forever fan Oleguer Presas claimed the following: “When Barcelona win the league, we become the Army of joy finally able to face up to [Franco’s troops]. We imagine ourselves halting that pack of tanks, responding to their bullets with song, laughing in the face of the fascist ire.” Famous fans include basketball god Kobe Bryant and opera singers José Carreras and Placido Domingo.
The Cant del Barça is the club’s official anthem. It was written in 1974 to mark FCB’s 75th anniversary. Hear it here and read the lyrics in both Catalan and English.
Damage to Your Wallet
There are three main categories of supporter in the FC Barcelona home seats at the Camp Nou: season-ticket holder, member, and football tourists. The season-ticket holder has priority access, obviously. But any unsold tickets are able to be snapped up first by members. In a bid to beat the touts, a season-ticket holder can inform the club if they’re unable to make a match and their usual seat can be bought by you if you’re fortunate.
Matthew Hirtes, our resident broadsheet journalist, moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria back in 2004. He’s travelled extensively through Spain, covering it for such publications as Telegraph Travel, Metro, and The Independent. The author of Going Local in Gran Canaria: How To Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, Matthew truly is a resident expert.