Photo by Nacho Caravia Nogueras
FC Barcelona veterans
A quick strike to the corner of the net receives scattered praise from teammates on the pitch. The scorer, proudly wearing the azulgrana colours, nods his silver head in acknowledgment and trots back to position. Age does not matter in the glory of the Barça football tradition.
Every Tuesday and Friday, a group of FC Barcelona veterans gathers at the Club’s Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despí to play football. These faithful, most of them over 60, have embraced the bi-weekly session as a way of maintaining their connection to the storied football club as well as exorcising some of their competitive demons.
The group is a mixed assortment of ex-players, from Barça greats such as Eduard Manchón and Pepito Ramos, to reserve players who were never called up to the first team. Nevertheless, on this field, the aura of Barça football transcends personal accomplishment, and each proud player is united by the tradition of one of football’s greatest clubs.
The matches are taken quite seriously. Some players arrive early to stretch and warm up. Some jog laps around the pitch, briefly stopping every now and then to adjust their knee braces. Others form circles and begin passing drills, reenacting the pre-game rituals of years before. Former goalie Alberto Maiquez stands in front of a net, eyes and gloves ready to defend practice shots. Conversation is at a minimum—the focus is on playing, not socialising.
After enough veterans arrive to form teams, positions are taken and the match begins. At first, the old men appear slow and cumbersome. However, the pace of play increases, and it becomes clear that while age has surely slowed and dulled capability, the skill to formulate an attack remains. Carefully setting up possible scoring opportunities, passes are directed with precision.
The game is competitive, as several players push and shove during a corner kick, jockeying for better position. The long passes are powerful and the shots on goal remarkably accurate. A header by the 77-year-old Manchón sends Maiquez diving. The former first team goalie extends his body in mid-air to punch it away, landing hard on the ground. He gets up slowly with the help of his teammates, claps his gloves together, and resumes his stance.
After 45 minutes of play, the veterans start to show signs of wearing out. Arguments break out over fouls being committed, and several players walk off the field in disgust. The game comes to a gradual end when players begin falling to the ground with various minor injuries. The final score is 6-5, which is heavily disputed by the losing side. Weary and battered, the players head to the locker room to shower and dress for lunch, which takes place after every match at a nearby restaurant.
The matches and other events are organised by the Barça Veterans Association, which was founded in 1959 to promote the quality of life for retired players after their careers ended. The Association has over 800 members, according to FC Barcelona, comprised mostly of ex-players and a small contingent of supportive fans. Besides the bi-weekly matches, the Association also organises trips to football events throughout the region, as well as providing a meeting lounge at Camp Nou.
José Rodríguez Martínez, former player for the B-team, said the main draw to staying connected to the club is the legacy of being a veteran. “It is a very great tradition, and I feel proud to be a part of it."
Agrupació Barça Veterans
Tel. 93 496 3639