Thursday, 28 May 2009

Icons #11 FC Barcelona

Formed in 1899 FC Barcelona are iconic for many reasons;  Their supporters see them as representing a Country  (Catalonia), their stoic refusal to have a sponsor on their shirts (they are now sponsored by UNICEF), the way they always try to play, the Nou Camp.

Barca have a rich history as a club, one of only three Spanish clubs to never be relegated and a bulging trophy room.  And yet they are not, by some margin, the most successful Spanish Club side.  That of course falls to Real Madrid.  But Barca just have something about them as a club, that transcends success.  

20 La Liga Titles, 25 Copa Del Reys, 4 Cup Winners Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, and now 3 Champions League Titles.  English clubs must look at records like that in disbelief.  It is without question outstanding stuff, still dwarfed by Madrids stats.

Johan Cruyff returned to the club as manager (after playing for the side in the 1970's) in 1988 and it was he that installed something special at the club.  He introduced the Dutch total football ethic and arguably it's never left.  Barca believe in entertaining.  And at their best over the last twenty years Barca have at times been breathtaking.  So many great players have passed through the team since that time.  Not always for very long, but always allowed to make an impact.  You don't get your style or self expression denied at Barca, it appears it is actively encouraged.

The first time I remember Barca being on my radar was in 1986, Terry Venables was manager and they lost in the European Cup Final on penalties after wasting chance after chance against Steaua Bucharest.  But I remember watching the game, and being amazed at the football they played.  I'd not really seen anything like it and when Cruyff got his hands on the side they got even better.  Guardiola, Hagi, Koeman, Laudrop, Romario and Stoichcov were just scintillating and in 1992 the club won its first Champions League title with a 1-0 win against Sampdoria with a glorious free kick from Koeman in extra time.  Nothing lasts forever in Spain and Cruyff eventually was sacked but the side has kept playing the same brand of football.  Glorious free flowing stuff, Arsenal with a cutting edge.  And the great players keep coming.  We've had Figo, Ronaldinio, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Kluivert, Eto,  Iniesta, Xavi, Henry and of course Messi.  All wonderful footballers.

The Nou Camp is one of those stadiums that is an icon all of its own.  Like Old Trafford, Anfied, and the San Siro, it has its own mystique.  Huge and when full, truly intimidating.

Barca refused for many years to have a sponsor and when they finally did get one they make no money from it.  They simply have UNICEF on their shirts and donate money to the charity.  I would love Liverpool to do something smiler.  It just rises above the usual money, money, money, merry go round that is football these days.

Last night they made history by being the first Spanish side to win the treble.  Arguably last night they silenced the doubters.  FC Barcelona are a special club.  Unique in many ways.  Long they may reign in Spain.

Tonight's post is dedicated to @theboycheese and Tobs (the first facebook winner).