FC Barcelona are arguably the biggest club in the world at this moment in time, primarily down to their irresistible skill on the pitch, but also for what they represent off it.
Those familiar with the club will know that it is a symbol of the region of Spain in which it resides, Catalonia, and more particularly right now of this region’s fight for independence.
However, this is not to say that those outside of Catalonia are excluded from supporting the club, far from it. In his brilliant book ‘Barca: A People’s Passion’, the author Jimmy Burns writes that: “Catalanism can thus be acquired and does not have to be innate; it is something that any settler can aspire to.”
Bearing this in mind, is there anything within this fantastic club that an English football fan can identify with?
The answer, perhaps surprisingly to some, is yes for many reasons. On October 22 1899, when the Swiss businessman Hans Gamper (later Joan Gamper) placed an advert in a local Barcelona sports newspaper asking for ‘anyone who feels enthusiastic enough about the sport’ to come along to the club’s first meeting, there were three Englishmen among those who turned up; Walter Wild, and the brothers John and William Parsons.
Although Gamper is rightfully credited as being the driving force behind this great club’s creation, another Englishman, Arthur Witty (player, member and even club president 1903-1905), was the man who organised the first international match ever played in Barcelona – a 4-0 victory over Stade Olympique of Toulouse.
On the pitch, England is the second-most represented foreign nation to have provided players to the club behind Brazil. In total, the amount of years each of these players has served the club exceeds the actual amount of years the club has even existed. Not bad when you consider the club turns 115 years old this year.
There have been times at Barcelona where the managers have been as much the focus of attention as the players. And yes, there have been English managers throughout the club’s history. From John Barrow in 1917 to the late, great Bobby Robson, there have been eight different men to have led the Blaugrana to 19 various titles including two league championships.
Indeed, FC Barcelona’s first ever club president was English; the player Walter Wild presided for just under the first year-and-a-half of the club’s history. So too was the club’s fourth president – as mentioned above, fellow player Arthur Witty served as club president for two years.
If all these facts have not made a good enough case you need only to look at the club’s badge, yes that is the cross of our very own St. George on the top left. For those not aware, we have yet another thing in common with Barcelona, the celebration of our joint patron saint.
I must insist this is in no way an attempt to try and claim the club as English, I am simply showing a few reasons why I am so passionate about Barca.
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