FC Barcelona is one of the most powerful and best supported clubs in world sport. Renowned for its hugely successful football team, the club also boasts prize-winning squads in other sports including basketball, ice hockey and handball. However it is in football that Barça excels, with the attacking flair of its teams, past and present, winning fans from all around the globe. FC Barcelona play their home matches at the Camp Nou; an imperious fortress that seats almost 99,000 spectators
Closely connected with Catalan identity, Barça’s current slogan is more than a club (més que un club); a slogan which relates to the team’s importance, not just as a sporting organisation, but as a regional institution.
Founded in 1899 by Swiss sports pioneer Hans Gamper, Barça was, initially, a very international team made up of players from Spain, Switzerland and England. Gamper became a defining figure in Barça’s history. After naming himself Club President, he led the blaugranes (‘blue and reds’, named for the team’s strip) to their first Spanish trophy – the King’s Cup (Copa del Rey) – in 1910. Gamper, who later changed his name to Joan (a typical Catalan name) was also instrumental in constructing Barcelona’s first major stadium, a 60,000-capacity ground in the Les Corts neighbourhood.
However the Swiss born sports enthusiast would not be at the helm to witness Barça’s first Spanish League title in 1929, having stepped down a year earlier. In 1930, following several bouts of depression, Joan Gamper committed suicide. It is thought his problems stemmed from various personal and monetary issues.
Following Gamper’s tragic demise, the soaring development of the club halted; Barça won only one league title throughout the Thirties. The Spanish Civil War saw Barça’s then president, Josep Sunyol, murdered by Fascists in 1937 and after Franco’s victory, the club was forced to change its name to the Spanish Fútbol Club de Barcelona. It was a bleak time for both Barça and Catalunya.
Nevertheless repression only ignited the club’s determination to succeed. The signature of Slovak superstar László Kubala in the Fifties sparked a return to form for the blaugranes and he led them to an astonishing five trophies in 1952. Moreover, 1957 saw the opening of Barcelona’s new stadium, the Camp Nou. Not only was it the most impressive stadium in European football, but it became a place where the people of Catalunya could speak their native Catalan language, which had been outlawed by Franco.
The Seventies saw the arrival of one Johann Cruyff to the Camp Nou. Cruyff dazzled fans from Terrassa to Tarragona with his skill, and brought home Barça’s first Spanish league title in 14 years. Cruyff later returned to manage Barcelona, bringing long awaited European glory to his adopted city in 1994. His reign is the most lauded in Barça’s history having developed players such as current boss Josep Guardiola and winning four straight league titles between 1991 and 1994. However it was securing Barcelona’s maiden European Cup that cemented his place in Catalan folklore.
Recent years have seen Barça clinch the European Cup for a second time in 2006 under the guidance of Dutchman Frank Rijaard, and in 2009 the team won a historic triple: the King’s Cup (Spanish national cup), the Spanish League and the Champions League.