Barcelona Football Club
Businessman Hans Gamper, born in Winterthur on 22 November 1877, was the man who decided to start a football club in Barcelona, by putting a note in a local sports magazine on 22nd October 1899, calling for players.
Gamper, known in Barcelona as Joan, had moved to the Catalan capital in 1898 for business reasons and just over a month after placing his ad, on 29th November 1899 he preside over the first club meting at the Gimnas Sole. Together with Gamper, Gualteri Wild, Lluís d’Ossó, Bartomeu Terradas, Otto Kunzle, Otto Maier, Enric Ducal, Pere Cabot, Carles Pujol, Josep Llobet, John Parsons and William Parsons attended that historic gathering. The meeting established the club and Englishman Gualteri Wild became the first President, combining his executive duties with his playing skills, since Wild, like the rest of the founders, was first and foremost a player.
The first kit
From the start, the players wore the famous blue and claret colours, half the shirt one colour and half the other with the sleeves the opposite colour and white shorts.
The first club coat of arms
At the beginning of its history the club shared the citys coat of arms, as a demonstration of its commitment to the city. Later, in 1910 the board decided that the club needed its own coat of arms and organized a competition to find the best design which was won by an anonymous member who produced the present model.
The first game
In their first ever match, Barca played a team made up of English expatriates in Bonanova (now known as Turo Park). The English team, which actually included a number of Barca players, won 1-0.
The first grounds
Barca’s early search for a permanent home saw them playing at the Hotel Casanovas (1900), la carretera d’Horta (1901), el carrer Muntaner (1905) and carrer Indústria, which was the first ground owned by the club and had a capacity of 6,000 with a two tier stand, unique for its time. The ground was officially opened on 14th March 19 1909, by which time the club had already begun to collect titles, having won the Copa Macaya in 1901-02 and the Catalan Championships of 1904-05 and 1908-09. Spurred on by their new surroundings, the club went on to win the Catalan Championships of 1909-10, 1910-11, 1912-13, 1915-16, 1918-19 1919-20, 1920-21 and 1921-22, and the Spanish Championships of 1909-10, 1911-12, 1912-13, 1919-20 and 1921-22, as they enjoyed their first big period of sporting and social expansion.
Founder, Joan Gamper
Born on the 22nd November 1877 in Winterthur, Switzerland, the young Hans Gamper was interested in following sports. He was already a keen on athletics, cycling and football and above all, had already founded FC Zurich. He arrived in Barcelona aged 20 and began mixing with others interested in sports; he began raising money for the foundation of Barça, with the principle interest in practising sport. He was a good player and in 1901 he scored 49 of the 88 goals scored by the team. He was a player up until 1903 and in 1908 became president of the club for the first time in order to save the club from disappearing. Joan Gamper was to become president a total of five times in his time up until 1925. Gamper became fully integrated into Catalonia; both speaking and writing in Catalan. In 1925 he suffered the repression of the dictator of Primo de Rivera due to the dictator’s preference to Real Madrid. In 1930, Gamper again suffered a setback with his business and finally ended up committing suicide.
From Les Corts to Camp Nou (1922 – 1957)
The Les Corts stadium, inaugurated in 1922, set the stage for the growth of the Club throughout our golden era (1919-1929).
This wonderful period was also followed by the crisis decade of the 30s, which saw the stadium closed by the fascist dictator Primo de Rivera and also used as a kind of military camp during the civil war. However, the Les Corts stadium was still to live through yet another magnificent period, that of the Barça of the Five Cups, which was the reason behind the big increase in member numbers (from 20,000 in 1944 to 30,000 in 1950). Samitier in the 1920s and Kubala in the 1950s were among many players who lit up a stadium that clearly marked the blaugrana history.
The start of the Glory Years – El Camp dels Corts
The decade between 1919 and 1929 is considered a golden age for the club, when the team boasted players such as Samitier, Alcántara, Zamora, Sagi, Piera and Sancho, whose skill drew in the crowds and the club began to take on its identification with Catalan nationalism during a particular difficult period.
The 20th May 1922 saw the inauguration of the new Les Corts ground, which soon became known as ‘the cathedral of football’. It was a magnificent stadium with a capacity of 30,000, later doubled to 60,000. On the celebration of the club’s 25th anniversary in 1924, marked by the famous poster drawn by Valencian artist Josep Segrelles, FC Barcelona had a total of 12.207 members and the future looked bright for the club. Five years later, season 1928-29, Barca won the first of their many Spanish League titles, a fitting climax to a period that had seen them conquer the Catalan Championship in 1923-24, 1924-25, 1925-26, 1926-27 and 1927-28 and the Spanish Championship in 1924-25, 1925-26 and 1927-28. This last victory came after two replays with Real Sociedad and a heroic performance from Barca keeper Franz Platko, which was later celebrated in a poem by Rafael Alberti.
In the midst of the glorious 20s, Barca suffered a precursor of the non-sporting conflicts which were to mark the following decade. On 14th June 1925, during Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship, the crowd at a game in homage to the Orfeo Catalan jeered the Spanish national anthem and as a reprisal the government closed the ground for six months, later reduced to three, and forced Gamper to give up the presidency of the club. Five years later, on 30th July 1930, the club’s founder died. Although they continued to have players of the standing of Ventolrà, Raich or Escolà, the club now entered a period of decline in a period when political conflict overshadowed sport throughout society. Barca faced a crisis on three fronts: financial, social, with the number of members dropping constantly, and sporting, where although the team won Catalan Championships in 1929-30, 1930-31, 1931-32, 1934-34, 1935-36 and 1937-38, success at Spanish level evaded them.
The effects of the Civil War
A month after the civil war began, Barça president Josep Suñol was murdered by Franco’s soldiers near to Guadalajara. Fortunately, the squad was on a tour of Mexico and USA, which although it proved the financial saving of the club, also resulted in half the team seeking exile in Mexico and France. On 16th March 1938 the fascists dropped a bomb on the club’s social club and caused serious damage. A few months later, Barcelona was under fascist occupation and as a symbol of Catalan nationalism, the club, now down to just 3,486 members, was facing a number of serious problems. In March 1940 a close collaborator with the Franco regime, Enric Piñeyro, marquès de la Mesa de Asta was appointed President. At the same time, the name of the club was changed from its anglicized original Futbol Club Barcelona, to the more Spanish Club de Fútbol Barcelona,(a change which was finally reversed in 1973), and the four red bars of the Catalan flag on the coat of arms were reduced to two, the original not being put back until 1949.
From near relegation to the Copa Latina (1949)
During the 40s, the club gradually recovered from a crisis which had seen them nearly relegated in 1942, although they did win the Spanish Cup in the same season. During the next season, the scandalous game against Madrid, saw the Barca players threatened by referee and police and Piñeyro, a fascist supporter, but honestly disgusted at the treatment his team had received, resigned from the presidency of the club. With the conquest of the Spanish Leagues of 1944-45, 1947-48 and 1948-49, as well as the Copa Llatina in 1949, the club finally seemed to have turned the corner and put the problems of the previous few years behind them. Barca celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1949 boosted by member numbers of 24,893 and boasting a total of 21 Catalan Championships, 9 cups and 4 Spanish League titles.
Kubala and the five cups
From the construction of the Camp Nou to the 75th anniversary (1957-1974)
The club came of age with the construction of the Camp Nou stadium. It was an unprecedented project on an architectural level, as well as being extraordinarily ambitious on a financial scale.
But with the team going from strength to strength, there were plenty of reasons to justify the construction of a new home for the team. However, the earliest years of the stadium bore witness to one of the club’s most mediocre periods, with very little sporting success.
But the fan base was increasing regardless, in no small part due to the increasingly more important social significance attached to the club. This was made particularly clear when Narcís de Carreras became president in 1968, and coined a phrase that has gone on to become something of a club slogan, ‘More than a club’. FC Barcelona had become associated with some of the most fervently pro-Catalan and anti-Franco sentiments in Catalonia, and this contributed to making the club hugely influential in local society, bolstered by an increasingly closer relationship with the cultural world. After signing Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff, Barça went on to win the league title in 1973-1974, which happened to coincide with the club’s 75th anniversary, a moment that brought Barça fans closer than ever, despite the limitations that were still being imposed by the Franco regime.
The Camp Nou becomes the stage
In the late 1940s it started becoming patently obvious that despite being extended, Les Corts was simply not big enough for Barça, and the club started investigating the possibility of purchasing anew site. Francesc Miró-Sans, president from 1953, was one of the driving forces behind the project, and the Camp Nou was eventually inaugurated on September 24, 1957. The new stadium could hold 90,000 spectators, including 49,000 club members, and was the new stage for a team that was promising big things after winning the 1957 Cup final at Montjuïc.
The league championships in 1958-59 and 1959-60 and the Fairs Cup wins in 1957-1958 and 1959-60 were due in no small measure to the presence of legendary coach Helenio Herrera, who had a host of talented players at his command, including Kocsis, Czibor, Evaristo, Kubala, Eulogio Martínez, Suárez, Villaverde, Olivella, Gensana, Segarra, Gràcia, Vergés and Tejada. But that veritable constellation of stars would not carry over into the sixties. The lost European Cup Final in Berne 1961 set the scene for a disappointing period in which the only major titles Barça won were the 1963 and 1968 Cups and one more Fairs Cup in 1966.
More than a club
But although successes on the pitch were few and far between, the club’s membership never stopped growing. One of the biggest attractions of following Barça was its increasing symbolism as being part of the kind of Catalonia that the Franco regime was so opposed to. Incoming president Narcís de Carreras made a famous reference to this in his acceptance speech in January 1968, when he proclaimed that “Barça is more than a club”. President Agustí Montal i Costa (1969-1977) took this a step further, doing his utmost to highlight the club’s Catalan identity, despite the limits imposed by the Franco dictatorship, and fighting for the cause of democracy in football, which led him into several high-profile confrontations with Franco’s sports authorities.
Johan Cruyff arrives
The signing of foreign players had been a controversial issue ever since the Di Stéfano affair in 1953. In the 1970s Barça suffered from the arbitrary nature of the sports authorities, such as in determining the status of foreigners with Spanish parents. But the go-ahead was finally given for Cruyff to join the club and he made his debut on October 28, 1973. The Dutchman made an immediate impact as Barça stormed to the league title. The most memorable night of all was an emphatic 5-0 win away to Real Madrid, Barça fielding a powerful attacking quintet of Rexach, Asensi, Cruyff, Sotil and Marcial. Cruyff was one of a new generation of players, a natural leader both on and off the pitch, and attracting massive media interest.
The 75th anniversary
The club’s social identity hit its euphoric height when the 1973-74 league championship coincided with the 75th anniversary in Autumn 1974. With an avant-garde poster designed by painter Joan Miró, the celebrations were a very public demonstration of what Barça meant to the people at the time, involving the participation of artists, writers, singers and other figures representing the most dynamic aspects of Catalan society. It was on occasion of that anniversary that the song ‘Cant del Barça’ was recorded by the Sant Jordi Choir, and which has gone on to become the club’s official anthem.
From the 75th Anniversary to the European Cup (1974-1992)
The 75th anniversary had clearly demonstrated the full potential of the club and its influence on Catalan society, at a time when civilian life was highly affected by the political conditions being imposed by the Franco dictatorship.
The arrival of democracy not only meant major changes in the country on a political level, but also in all other aspects of society, sport included. Clubs now had to be run democratically, as did federations, all under the auspices of democratic governments, both in terms of Spain as a whole, and in terms of the autonomous region of Catalonia.
At Barça, it was president Agustí Montal who led the club through the transition to democracy until the first elections, in which the members voted Josep Lluís Núñez in as president, somebody who would go on to enjoy the longest presidency in the history of the club. Football was seeing major changes. The contracting of foreign players was consolidated, and on a financial level, the sport was booming, in part due to what was known at the time as “atypical income”, which included television rights, especially when contracts with the main private broadcasters came into play. But the club was heading in the opposite direction. It would be ten years before Barça won another league title, but that would soon be followed with the most coveted title of all, the European Cup, along with the four consecutive League championships won by the ‘Dream Team’.
The 1978 elections
After several years without being able to hold free elections, in May 1978, the members were able to choose their own president. It was a close result between three candidates: Josep Lluís Núñez received 10,352 votes; Ferran Ariño, 9,537; and Nicolau Casaus, 6,202. Núñez would stay in office until the year 2000.
Barça masses flock to Basle
1979 was an important year for Barça, as they won the Cup Winners Cup for the time ever, in Basle. But it was not just the win that impressed, but also the amazing presence of almost 30,000 fans at the final in the biggest display to date of the colours of Barcelona and Catalonia in Europe. There were unprecedented celebrations in the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities. Barça would win the Cup Winners Cup again in both 1982 and 1989.
The club keeps growing
The club never stopped growing through all that time. There were 66,000 members in 1974, which had become 77,000 by 1978, and as many as 98,000 in 1992, although at one point in 1986 the figure had been as high as 108,000. There were also more and more supporters clubs. There were 96 in 1979, while there were almost 700 by 1993. The Camp Nou was also expanded on occasion of the World Cup in 1982, the same year that the Miniestadi was built.
Urruti, I love you
But there were to be no further League titles until the 1984-1985 season, when Barça ran away with it, securing the championship in Valladolid with four games still to play. That game was decided when goalkeeper Urruti saved a penalty in the last minute to mathematically clinch the title. The emotion of the moment was perfectly captured by commentator Joaquim M. Puyal’s famous cry of “Urruti, I love you”, which has gone down in club folklore. The squad that year included such greats as Julio Alberto, Migueli, Archibald, Schuster, and captain Alexanco.
The ‘Dream Team’ years (1990-1994)
Disappointment followed the 1985 league winning season, when Barça lost the 1986 European Cup Final in Seville. Further problems followed shortly after, culminating in the infamous Hesperia Mutiny, in which the players demanded the resignation of the board. The directors needed to find a way of changing the way the club was heading, and that change came in the form of Johan Cruyff, who had a whole new philosophy of the way football should be played and immediately set about rebuilding the squad. What he created was a team with a new winning mentality, and which would come to be known as the ‘Dream Team’. That legendary side enjoyed success after success, including four consecutive league titles from 1991 to 1994, and the club’s first ever European Cup.
May 20, 1992: an unforgettable day
The first European Cup, won on the night of May 20, 1992 at the legendary Wembley Stadium in London, deserves a special mention. The opposition was Sampdoria of Genoa, and Barça won 1-0 with Ronald Koeman’s brilliant free kick in extra time. The team that won the club’s first ever European Cup title was: Zubizarreta, Nando, Ferrer, Koeman, Juan Carlos, Bakero, Salines (Goikoetxea), Stoitchkov, Laudrup, Guardiola (Alexanko) and Eusebio.
From Wembley to the future Camp Nou (1992-2007)
The Dream Team was going to be an extremely hard act to follow, and defeat in the 1994 European Cup Final in Athens marked the end of an era.
Johan Cruyff left under controversial circumstances in 1996 and new era began, which bore its first fruits in 1997 with another Cup Winners Cup and the Copa del Rey. The following season, Barça won the League, Cup and European Super Cup.
Despite the results on the pitch, the departure of Cruyff created something of a divide between the membership, which would have a profound effect on the way club was run. And this all happened against a background of further major developments in the way football was financed, including huge sponsorship deals, television and image rights, pay per view coverage, and rescission clauses in players contracts. The management of big football clubs in this unstoppable climate of change was becoming an increasingly more complex process. In the meantime, the club celebrated its Centenary year with yet another major expression of the Barcelona spirit. But the fans were still divided, eventually leading to the end of the Josep Lluís Núñez presidency, who was briefly succeeded by Joan Gaspart before, in 2003, Joan Laporta was voted into office.
With Bobby Robson and then Louis Van Gaal on the bench, the club achieved some good results, especially in 1996-97, when the Cup Winners Cup was won, to be closely followed by two consecutive League titles. But there was still a feeling that this was the end of an era, and the rift between the membership grew wider. The poor results of the 1999-2000 season were enough to convince President Núñez that it was time to resign.
Not many organisations get to enjoy their centenary, something which can only be achieved through consistency and continuity. The celebrations of Barça’s centenary went on from November 1998 to November 1999 and involved an intense year packed with all kinds of different events and activities. Painter Antoni Tàpies designed the official poster and singer Joan Manuel Serrat performed ‘Cant del Barça’ from the centre of the Camp Nou pitch. The Centenary sought to be the bridge between a glorious past and a future full of new hopes and expectations. In that historic centenary year, Barça won league titles in football, basketball, handball and roller hockey.
Following Núñez’s resignation, elections were held in the year 2000, won by Joan Gaspart, who had been the club’s vice president for 22 years. The defeated candidate was Lluís Bassat. But the Gaspart presidency failed to produce any major sporting successes, and the club fell deeper and deeper into crisis. Gaspart resigned in February 2003, and the club was left in a state of uncertainty until new elections were held in July. But despite the troubled mood, the club was able to enjoy one of its greatest ever sporting triumphs when the basketball section finally conquered its first Euroleague in May 2003.
Joan Laporta, president
On June 15, 2003 new presidential elections were held, won by young lawyer Joan Laporta ahead of publisher Lluís Bassat. This was the beginning of a bright new era, with renewed optimism at the promise of a new direction, and the signings of such world superstars as Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto’o. That team did not take long to start winning titles, starting with the League in 2004-2005, which was retained the year after. But the finest hour of all was the club’s second European Cup, which coincided with a new move to modernise and promote the social implications of Barça, expanding the values of being ‘more than a club’. The membership was growing to record levels thanks to the ‘Great Challenge’ project, eventually surpassing 150,000 in 2006.
2006, a dream year
2006 will go down as one of the most memorable years in Barça history. The club won its second European Cup crown, beating Arsenal 2-1 in the Paris final. This was the same year that the Joan Gamper Sports Complex was opened in Sant Joan Despí, and that Barça signed its historic agreement with Unicef, in September at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The agreement portrays the most caring side of the Barça spirit and definitively globalises the meaning of being ‘more than a club’.
2007 opens the doors to the future
FC Barcelona is in a constant phase of expansion. The new historical record number of 156,366 members attained in June 2007, paved the way to the major event represented, in the month of September, of adjudicating the work to restructure the stadium to British architect Norman Foster. The new Camp Nou will become the symbol of a Barça that sets standards in every way.