HOW FC BARCELONA WENT FROM A SMALL, LOCAL CLUB, TO ONE OF THE GREATEST TEAMS TO HAVE EVER BEEN
FC Barcelona, professionally known as Fútbol Club Barcelona, is the more renowned of the two clubs to represent Barcelona in the Spanish professional football league, sharing the city with local adversary RCD Espanyol. FC Barcelona is notorious for its historically skillful brand of football that focuses on a flowing, expansive style of play, also known to many as “tiki taka”. The football team is part of a large organisation that also has other competitive teams who participate on worldwide platforms, such as the FCB basketball team. The club is also funded by members who are involved in large club decisions, thus keeping a very close bond between aficionado’s and the club.
Where did it all start?
In 1898, a young man from Switzerland named Hans Gamper arrived in Barcelona for work-related reasons. During his leisure time, he enjoyed playing football with a group of friends in the Bonanova area.
One year later in 1899, Gamper placed an advert in the magazine ‘Los Deportes’ looking for players interested in forming a football team. On the 29th of November, Hans Gamper had found his eleven men, half of whom were foreigners and they met up at Solé Gymnasium. That day, FC Barcelona was born.
Gamper was a serious sports enthusiast, who enjoyed not only football but also athletics, cycling, golf and rugby. Being a foreigner, he wanted to create a club where people from all walks of life could enjoy a simple game of football, leading to the famous slogan ‘Mes Que Un Club’.
If the name ‘Gamper’ sounds familiar here’s why: Hans Gamper later changed his name to Joan Gamper, and the ‘Joan Gamper Trophy’ was named in his honour. This popular pre-season exhibition game is played annually in Barcelona and features international teams such as Juventus and Arsenal. The winner of this game goes on to win the Joan Gamper Trophy.
From humble beginnings to fighting for the top spot in Spain 1899-1992
When FC Barcelona was first founded it didn’t have the same appearance as the club we all know today. The club had Barcelona’s coat of arms as its crest, and featured the famous blue and claret jersey right from the start. It is rumoured that these colours were chosen by two witty brothers who were both members of the newly formed club and had worn these style rugby jerseys at their former school.
The club struggled during its first few years, which saw them move around different football grounds due to their economic instability and lack of large spaces during Barcelona’s urban expansion. Sadly, these historical grounds did not survive the city’s urban expansion. The club’s first playing ground has become Turó Park, and its second playing ground has been replaced by Hospital de Sant Pau. The other two football pitches have been covered by apartment blocks. Despite these difficulties, the club did manage to win the Copa Macaya in its first year of existence.
Growth after adversity
The club struggled for years to come, and exactly nine years later in 1908 the club had just 38 members on the brink of abandoning the seemingly doomed project. When Gamper saw his project on the verge of collapse he changed his role to President of the club in a last ditch effort to keep the club afloat. Fortunately this worked and the club started gaining followers and as a result members followed. Through this period of growth, the club started strengthening as an organisation and went from 201 members in 1909, to 2,973 in less than ten years. The club had successfully cemented its foundation and defined itself as the great team that we know today.
After this growth, the club then reached its first milestone on 14th march 1909 – the purchase of its first football ground. A football pitch at Carrer Indústria (which has since become Carrer París), with a capacity of 6,000 people opened its doors for the first time. The club would then go on to become so popular that people would sit on the walls around the football grounds just to watch the games. This is how the club’s fans obtained their nickname ‘culers’, which literally translates to ‘arsers’ or ‘arse-people’, as people walking past the club’s walls would see the backsides of the people sat on the wall.
The team were initially successful, but a period of difficulty ensued and Gamper took over as club president to ensure the club stayed financially stable. FC Barcelona’s first stadium was the Camp de la Indústria, holding between six and eight thousand fans.
Englishman Jack Greenwell was appointed as Barcelona’s first permanent manager in 1917, and held the role for six years. During his term as manager, Barcelona moved to the Les Cortes Stadium, which held 22,000 spectators and would exist until the Second World War.
Succes after the Spanish Civil War
The hostilities of the Spanish Civil War grounded progress for Barcelona, with political affairs preventing any real progress in Spanish football generally. However, football was still being played and Barcelona enjoyed relative success towards the end of the Civil War and in its immediate aftermath.
Not long after their latest acquisition did FC Barcelona start climbing the ladder of success at a rapid pace. It won one Pyrenees Cup (becoming the clubs first international trophy) and three Copa del Rey trophies which at the time was the most prestigious trophy in Spain. The club achieved these wins in just four years and in 1910, a competition was announced to choose the new design for the club’s badge in an effort to develop its own identity apart from the city. The new badge was designed by Santiago Femenia and this is the same design used till this day only with some minor changes. The badge gave the club a personality, whilst still referencing its roots with the Catalan flag and St. Georges cross.
This badge seemed to bring luck, since that same year FC Barcelona had its first ecstatic homecoming by beating their natural adversary, Madrid, in the Spanish championship in 1910. The players were given a hero’s welcome after their arrival at Passeig de Gràcia train station and were then followed to the building where their celebration dinner was being held. Not long after did the club acquire their first star player, Paulino Alcántara from the philippines. He made his debut in 1911 aged just fifteen and is without a doubt one of the greatest FC Barcelona players of all time, setting an astonishing record of 369 goals in just 357 matches. This record was only broken by one other player, the great Lionel Messi.
Through this chain of events, a failing club that was slipping out of existence and a man that was determined to save his life’s project, FC Barcelona crawled out of its nearly early grave and became one of Spain’s best teams fighting for the most prestigious titles all in the space of 11 years.
Economic struggles and the war
After a series of poor financial decisions, the club found itself in harm’s way again in the late 20’s. The primary issue was that the public interest in football had declined due to the rising political tension and instability. It was during these rigorous times that the club received the unfortunate news that its founder Joan Gamper had taken his life due to personal issues.
Not long after did these political tensions reach a boiling point and the Spanish civil war started. Due to the nature of this conflict and the factions involved, it soon became quite clear that it wasn’t a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the Francoist forces would obtain total power over Spain. FC Barcelona made a commitment to freedom, democracy and Catalan identity in the early 30’s in response to the ongoing political friction. It soon became clear that this war would end with the demise of the Second Spanish Republic and the club knew they would be next.
FC Barcelona faced changes
A pivotal moment in the club’s history happened just a month after war broke out. On the 6th of August 1936, Josep Suñol the president of FC Barcelona and an outspoken Catalan nationalist attempted to visit the Republican front near Madrid with the intention of giving the troops 50,000 Pesetas to help fund the war effort. Unfortunately, reports on the troops’s whereabouts were too optimistic and this saw the President cross past the Republican front into enemy territory. When he arrived at the reported location he was detained by enemy forces and immediately put to death together with his companions, his driver and a reporter.
After this incident, FC Barcelona decided to tour the America’s to explore a new market in search of safety and new fund opportunities. Many players, however, would not return from their tour in the America’s, following the victory of the Francoist forces. When the club eventually returned to Spain it faced changes; the club badge was altered after it was deemed not ‘Spanish’ enough, the players that went on their tour to the Americas were suspended for two years and the following club Presidents would be selected by the authorities.
However, due to the club’s perseverance they gradually managed to climb back to the top, going on to win two consecutive league titles and their first european title in the late 40’s with Enrique Fernández as their manager. FC Barcelona’s stadium Camp de Les Corts and Camp Nou became a temple of expression, a place where Catalans could come together and speak their language free of oppression.
The man that put the club on its path to worldwide glory
Near the end of Franco’s regime in the 1970’s, strict laws began to loosen in an attempt to improve relations with the modern world. This now meant that clubs were allowed to sign foreign players and FC Barcelona saw this as a chance to create new interest in the club. On the 13th August 1973, Johan Cruyff (the legendary Dutch forward who had just won three consecutive champions leagues for AFC Ajax), signed for the club. He instantly lit up Spanish football and irreversibly shifted the club’s philosophy, this was foreshadowing what would happen when he came back as coach in 1988.
Its rise to the top stage - post 1992
Johan Cruyff returned as the club’s coach in 1988 and after just two years as coach, Cruyff managed to win four consecutive Spanish league titles. Cruyff wanted a team that would spark enthusiasm and play his football philosophy like his “one touch play attacking style” and winning mentality.
In 1992 Johann Cruyff got the team he wanted, also known in people’s memories as the dream team. This team consisted of:
- Juan Carlos
- Julio Salinas
which at the time where some of the greatest players on the planet. That same year Johan Cruyff cemented his legendary status after winning the club’s first ever Champions League. All players that led to this historical win also became legends of the club, most notably Koeman, who scored the winning free kick in minute 112’ only eight minutes away from a penalty shootout.
Johan Cruyff is regarded as one of the most important figures in football as he is the architect behind the current style of play for FC Barcelona, Ajax (the Dutch national team) and many other world famous clubs.
How Barcelona cemented its legacy: messi 4 ucl
At the turn of the 21st century, FC Barcelona became the winning club of our recent memories after winning an astounding 4 Champions league in 10 seasons.
In the 2005/6 season the club won its second Champions League title with help of world talents like Ronaldinho and Eto’o. However, this huge feat is often in the shadow of what came next. In 2008 the club made the most impactful decision since the signing of Cruyff as coach, and Pep Guardiola was introduced as FC Barcelona’s new coach. That same year he won the Champions League with what is often regarded as the best football team ever put together. Pep improved on Cruyff’s philosophy which led him to the best years the club has had to this date and as a result, the club won two more Champions Leagues in the space of three years under Pep’s leadership. It became abundantly clear that Pep Guardiola was, and still is, a club legend after three Masia players (the clubs youth programme) were shortlisted on the 2010 Ballon D’or nominations, partly due to his leadership.
Although Pep was the mastermind behind these achievements, there is one man from the Pep era with more credit than himself, and that is ofcourse, 7 times Ballon D’or and 4 times UCL winner Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini from Rosario, Argentina. His contribution to the club speaks for itself, with 18 seasons with the club under his belt, 674 goals scored, 10 league titles, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 7 Copa Del Rey trophies, 4 UCL’s, 4 Catalonia cups, 3 European Super Cups, 3 World Club Championships and 2 Catalan Super Cups he is almost undisputedly the greatest player of all time.