|FC Barcelona, founded in 1899 by a group of young foreigners living in Barcelona, was the result of the increasing popularity of football, and other British sports, across Europe. These origins have conferred upon the Club its intercultural identity, multi-sport focus and its deeply-rooted allegiance to Barcelona and Catalonia. The foundation of the Club coincided with a time when people were becoming interested in playing sport in Catalonia; this social context and Catalonia’s idiosyncratic culture led to the creation of a new model of modern leisure. Joan Gamper, the Club’s founder, was the inspiration and driving force behind the Club’s first 25 years. His commitment to FC Barcelona went far beyond his role as player, director and president.
Hans Gamper arrived in Barcelona in 1898 for professional reasons. During his free time, he played football with a group of friends in Bonanova. In October 1899, Gamper placed an advert in Los Deportes magazine to find players interested in forming a football team. On 29 November, Gamper and eleven other men (Otto Kunzle and Walter Wild from Switzerland; John and William Parsons from England; Otto Maier from Germany; and Lluís d’Ossó, Bartomeu Terradas, Enric Ducal, Pere Cabot, Carles Pujol and Josep Llobet from Catalonia) came together to form an association that paid tribute to the city’s name and coat of arms: Futbol-Club Barcelona.
Gamper aimed to create an organisation that was open to everyone, regardless of their origin. He envisaged a club that served as a means of social integration, in which everyone could speak their mind, and he created a democratic society that was freely governed by its members. As a sign of his gratitude to Catalonia, the country that had welcomed him, Gamper imbued FC Barcelona with the essence that has come to define it ever since: its commitment to Catalan identity. Catalan identity, democracy, multiple sports and universality: today, Gamper’s original values continue to give Barça meaning.
At the beginning, half the shirt was blue and the other claret, the sleeves were opposite colours and the shorts were white. One of the many theories explaining the origin of the kit colours — blue and scarlet — is that Gamper used the same colours as the FC Basel team, where he had played before coming to Catalonia.
FC Barcelona decided to use the same badge as the city of Barcelona in a show of solidarity with the city that played host the new sports' club. In 1910, the board decided that the Club needed its own badge and organised a competition to find a new design.
Difficulty in finding permanent grounds was due to economic instability and the lack of large open-air spaces at a time when the city was undergoing urban expansion.
The Copa Macaya was the precursor to the Catalan Football Championship. It was begun in 1900 by Alfons Macaya, president of Hispania AC, when he announced his intention to organise a competition between Catalan teams. Hispania AC won the first edition, but the year after FC Barcelona took the title without losing a match.
In November 1908, the Club was struggling with just 38 members who were on the verge of abandoning the project. Gamper was determined to keep the Club afloat and for the first time he became president of the organisation.
This marked a new stage in the Club's history, which consolidated it within the football panorama and social milieu of the city and country. A number of different circumstances played a part in this process, including its strengthening as an organisation via the steady growth of its members; the re-writing of the Club statutes, and the acquisition of the Club's own football grounds for the first time. At the same time, a range of sporting successes and growing recognition accorded to players saw football develop into a mass phenomenon, turning it into a professional sport.
The Club grew rapidly. The number of members increased from 201 in 1909 to 2,973 in less than ten years. During these years, Barça laid down solid foundations in order to define the type of football club it wanted to be. This took it beyond the original dream of the group of friends that had founded it in 1899; the Club was here to stay.
THE FIRST CLUB-OWNED STADIUM. The ground at Carrer Indústria (today Carrer París) was inaugurated on 14 March 1909 and was the Club's home until 1922. A two-tier stand was erected, the first of its kind in a Spanish football grounds; this increased the stadium capacity to 6,000 spectators.
Barça fans associate these football grounds with the origin of the nickname “culers” (literally “arse-people”), used to refer to supporters of FC Barcelona. Far from being offensive, the name refers to fans seated in the highest row of the stadium. From outside, people who passed by could only see their backsides.
During four seasons from 1910 to 1913, the Club won a series of titles, which included the Spanish Cup (also known as the Copa del Rey), and four Pyrenees Cups, which was the first international tournament that Barça played in. Teams from Catalonia, the Basque Country and the south of France played in this competition.
The team’s success led to membership growth and compelled the fans to turn out to welcome the team home after a victory. The players who beat Madrid in the Spanish Cup received a hero’s welcome at Passeig de Gràcia station, with the crowd following them to the building where the celebration dinner was held. The Canaletes drinks stand, in the centre of Barcelona, became the place where football results were announced. Fans have congregated here ever since to celebrate Barça’s successes.
THE CURRENT BADGE. The Club held a competition to choose a new design; the result, with slight modifications, is the badge we know today, and was designed by the Barça player, Carles Comamala. The design is representative of the Club’s identity. It features the St. George’s Cross and the four stripes of the Senyera, the Catalan flag. The Club’s colours, blue and claret, also appear with a football in the centre.
THE FIRST STAR PLAYER. Paulino Alcántara, from the Philippines, played his debut season in 1911-12, aged just fifteen. He is, without doubt, Barça’s first star player and the Club’s top goalscorer until the arrival of Leo Messi. He scored a staggering 369 goals in 357 matches, representing an impressive average of one goal per match. It is said that his kick was so powerful it could rip through the goal net. Alcántara always wore a white scarf tied round his waist.
The 1908-1909 season marked the beginning of FC Barcelona’s dominance in the Catalan Football Championships, which lasted until 1922. Impressive results led Barça to win the title eight times, and in the 1909-1910 championship, the team won every single match it played.
During the 1920s, football became a sport of the masses. FC Barcelona continued to attract huge amounts of support and was viewed as a dream team, comprising star players that became the first Barça idols, such as Samitier, Alcántara, Zamora, Sagi, Piera and Sancho. This legendary team saw a growth of its fan base, which “prompted” the construction of the football ground at Les Corts, in 1922; this was the first great Barça stadium. By 1923, the Club had in excess of 10,000 members.
Matches played against Barcelona’s other team, Espanyol, Barça’s biggest rival at that time, were always met with great expectation from devoted football fans, who followed the team to all its matches. The team enjoyed many years of success at the Les Corts football ground.
THE FIRST GREAT BARÇA KEEPER. Ricardo Zamora was one of the best goalkeepers in the history of football. Hedebuted alongside Samitier and, together, these players marked a turning point inthe Club's sporting history. Zamora, nicknamed "el Diví" (The Divine One), only played with Barça for threeseasons, but his performances meant he left his mark on the team.
JOSEP SAMITIER BURSTS ON TO THE SCENE. Considered as one of the most emblematic players in the history of FC Barcelona and the best forward in Europe at that time, Josep Samitier led the formidable Barça through its golden age, during the 1920s. Samitier was known by the nickname of “home llagosta” (lobster man) because of his acrobatics on the field and was the first major idol of Catalan football. He became a society figure and was often seen alongside artists like Carlos Gardel and Maurice Chevalier.
NEW STADIUM AT LES CORTS. It was one of the best football grounds in Europe at that time. It was designed by Santiago Mestres and Josep Alemany, and cost a total of 991,984.05 pesetas. It had an initial capacity of 22,000 spectators and successive enlargements tripled this capacity to 60,000. The Les Corts football grounds witnessed three decades of hope and glory, but also saw less successful periods.
25TH ANNIVERSARY IN 1924. FC Barcelona celebrated its 25th anniversary on 7 and 8 December 1924, with two matches against Real Unión de Irun at Les Corts football ground. The occasion was also marked by the “III Challenge Pere Prat” race, in addition to an athletics convention with Spanish and French representatives. At that time the Club had 12,207 members.
The most significant victory of the decade was the Spanish Cup in 1928. At the final, which took place in Santander, Barça beat Real Sociedad (3-1), after the first two matches ended in a draw. The goalkeeper, Platko, suffered serious injuries during the match and was the day's hero. For the first time ever, Barça’s victory was broadcast on the radio and the newspapers published special editions.
THE FIRST LEAGUE TITLE. On February 12 1929, a new competition began: the League. In only a few years, this competition would become the championship par excellence of Spanish football. It lasted four and a half months and FC Barcelona was the first champion with twenty-five points, two more than Real Madrid, which finished in second place. Manuel Parera had the honour of being the team’s first goalscorer in the Spanish League. However, this victory was not met with great enthusiasm at the time, as football fans thought that the League was an insignificant competition.
FC Barcelona was committed to social, political and cultural reform, initiated by the Republican Catalan government. The official Club newsletter in October 1932 made the Club’s position clear: “Our club’s popularity undeniably includes elements that are not related to sport.” Participation in political and cultural acts formed part of this commitment.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the Club’s employees were faced with the threat of having FC Barcelona taken from them, prompting them to make an important committee decision that ultimately saved the organisation. The committee demonstrated its firm resolve not to break away from its pre-war leadership.
The 1930s were marked by political instability and general crisis, which inevitably took its toll on FC Barcelona. During this decade, the Club endured many cataclysmic events, which included its founder’s death, the Second Spanish Republic, the Spanish Civil War and the assassination of its president, Josep Suñol. In summary, it was a period characterised by uncertainty, which saw a reduction in membership and the cancellation of some players’ contracts.
On 30 July 1930, Barça received the worst news it had ever had: Joan Gamper had committed suicide due to personal problems. The Club’s founder — a dynamic businessman and sportsman, responsible for the creation and development of a unique football club — had died, aged only 52. The demise of FC Barcelona’s founder was a bad omen for the years to follow.
BARÇA DURING THE REPUBLIC. During the 1930s, society showed more interest in the political meetings than it did in football matches. Barça entered a period of history characterised by its commitment to social, political and cultural reform. The new Club statutes, approved in May 1932, redefined the organisation. According to its first article, FC Barcelona was “a cultural and sporting association”. October saw the creation of the Cultural Committee, which promoted activities for members. In July 1935, the new president Josep Suñol i Garriga made it clear that he believed in political ideals based on Catalan nationalism. Using the motto “Sport and Citizenship”, he emphasised the link between society and sport.
FC Barcelona entered a period of decline and the team that had been so promising only a few years previously did not win any League or Spanish Cup championships; its success was limited to the Catalan League Championship. With Suñol as president, the Club's economy underwent a slight improvement and Barça embarked upon a new sporting policy with the purchase of promising players. The war, however, was a massive setback to the team's seemingly brighter future.
TRAGIC DEATH OF SUÑOL. Suñol travelled to parliament from Valencia where he had gone on behalf of Joan Casanovas, the president of the Parliament of Catalonia. The visit was carried out in a political capacity and was not related to signing football players. On 6 August 1936, Josep Suñol was shot dead by Francoist forces. At one of the most difficult times ever experienced by Catalonia and Spain, the Club was without a president and in the midst of a revolution.
MEDITERRANEAN LEAGUE. During the 1936/37 season, the Catalan Football Federation hosted a tournament in which six Catalan and four Valencian teams played. The competition was held instead of the League tournament, which had been cancelled because of the war. FC Barcelona became the Mediterranean League champion. Since 1939, no team has ever won this title again, as it was abolished by a decree following Franco’s victory.
TOUR OF SALVATION IN THE AMERICA. A workers’ committee took control and prevented the Club being collectivised by the CNT-FAI anarchist groups. To escape the war and, at the same time, obtain funds for the organisation’s lamentable finances, Barça set out on a tour of Mexico and the United States. Some of the team’s players never returned to Barcelona. The team was received in Mexico in the summer of 1937 as an ambassador of democracy and liberty.
The toughest moments experienced by FC Barcelona football club were the initial post-war years. The Club would not disappear without a fight. Subject to relentless repression and reprisals by the army and authorities, the identity of the organisation was changed completely.
The purges also affected the players; anyone who had gone on the tour to Mexico and the United States was suspended for two years. Many of the players were exiled abroad. The Club’s coat of arms and name were changed because they were not deemed to be sufficiently Spanish, and the Club’s presidents were scrupulously selected by the sports authorities.
The team formation in subsequent years, however, led to more promising title victories in the 1950s. For many people, Barça’s matches at Les Corts represented an oasis of freedom during years of fear, misery and repression.
LIFE AFTER THE CIVIL WAR . After the war, FC Barcelona experienced terrible times of social, economic and sporting hardships. The team did not have enough players and a bomb had destroyed the Club’s headquarters. It was time to start anew. The new political dictatorship distrusted Barça, viewing it as an organisation that was committed to the Republican cause and Catalan nationalism.
The Les Corts grounds were officially reopened for a match on 29 June 1939. The match was presided over by various military and civil authorities. Speeches were given proclaiming that the Club would cease to be a vehicle for anti-Spanish sentiment and would become a Spanish sports icon under the new regime.
THE ARRIVAL OF CÉSAR . César was one of Barça’s greatest ever goalscorers. He played 433 official matches and scored 294 goals. He became famous for his goals from corners, which he often scored with diving headers. Other players influenced the team’s success, like Basora, one of the best wingers Barça has ever had, and Ramallets, one of the most talented goalkeepers in the Club’s history.
THE RETURN OF SAMITIER. Josep Samitier’s contribution to Barça was not limited to his outstanding performance as a player. In 1944, he began an important stage as team manager. With Samitier in charge, FC Barcelona won the 1944-45 Spanish League. It had not won the title since 1929.
FIRST EUROPEAN TITLE. The 1948-49 season saw Barça win the Latin Cup, a competition organised by FIFA and the precursor to the European Cup. Finalist teams from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain played for the Cup. The participating teams were Stade de Reims, Torino and Sporting Clube de Portugal. FC Barcelona beat Sporting in the final with a 2-1 victory.
50TH ANNIVERSARY IN 1949. The Club’s 50th anniversary coincided with a time of great success, and the Club’s awareness that it had recovered from the Civil War. At this time, FC Barcelona underwent a period of growth, and had a total membership of 24,893. The Club’s foundation was commemorated with a series of events and a three-way football tournament, between Barça, Boldklub from Denmark and Palmeiras from Brazil. Barça won the tournament.
Taking full advantage of this anniversary celebration, the Club reinstated the four stripes of the Catalan flag that it had been forced to remove from its coat of arms. This was a clear demonstration of its desire to recover its identity, despite the limitations imposed by the existing circumstances. The massive turnout of Barça followers at the celebratory events that took place at Les Corts made it clear that the Club had outgrown the legendary football grounds.
BACK TO BACK LEAGUE TITLES. The Uruguayan Enrique Fernández, who had played for Barça before the war, managed the team for three seasons, which resulted in two consecutive Spanish League titles. Fernández used tactics based on attack, which were to the liking of Barça fans.
1899 - The first badge
Walter 'Gualteri' Gustav Wild
The first elected board of directors
The Velodrome Bonanova, the first pitch of Barcelona, but shared with the FC Catala
Entrance to The Les Corts Stedium in 1930s
FC Barcelona Soci de Merit
Joan Gamper's funeral
Josep Suñol i Garriga
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