Barcelona FC

   Barcelona FC is much more than just a football club. Founded in 1899 by Joan Gamper, for most of its existence it has been synonymous with a popular Catalanism which defies the Spanish State, particularly during periods of political repression. According to Vázquez Montalbán, the history of Barcelona FC is "la història de la sublimació èpica del poble català en un equip de futbol" ("the history of the epic sublimation of the Catalan people in a football team") (Artells 1972:7). Just as Athletic de Bilbao represented Basque nationalist sentiment during the Franco period, so Barça, as the club is universally known, became the focus of popular resentment against the dictatorship in Catalonia. The pro-Catalan dimension still remains, and feelings regularly reach fever pitch during Barcelona's matches against Real Madrid, the football club most associated with Francoism and Spanish centralism. Those immigrants from other parts of Spain who are assimilated into Catalan life identify with Barcelona FC, while those who are not support the other Barcelona club, Espanyol. This reflects the political dimension of football in Barcelona.
   Barcelona FC is one of the richest and most successful clubs in Europe, and has some 100,000 members. Over the years the club has spent vast sums of money purchasing players. By the mid-1990s, however, the team was made up of quite a number of local players, sprinkled with a smaller number of overseas stars than in the past, when the relationship with such players as the Brazilian Romário was not always a happy one. One of the most famous and durable of the imports seemed to be the Dutchman Johann Cruyff, who served the club as both player and manager, before being replaced in the latter capacity by Bobby Robson in 1996. Football is not the only sport played at Barcelona FC. As with Real Madrid and other Spanish clubs, Barcelona has successful and popular basketball teams, while other sports played include rugby, hockey, ice hockey, cycling and tennis.
   See also: football; sport and leisure
   Further reading
   - Artells, J.J. (1972) Barça, Barça, Barça, Barcelona: Laia (a history of the club until the 1930s; especially interesting is the brief prologue by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán which sees the club as an important sub-cultural phenomenon).
   DAVID GEORGE

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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