More than a Club
“Més que un Club”. This has been FC Barcelona’s motto for many decades. Barça is a soccer club… but it is not only a club. It is “More than a Club”. It represents a philosophy, a value system, a way of understanding sports and an interpretation of the world in which we live.
Between 1936 and 1975, Spain was ruled by dictator Franco. In the early days of the dictatorship, many citizens were assassinated for defending freedom and democracy. Among the victims: Josep Sunyol, the President of FC Barcelona. President Sunyol was traveling in his car to Madrid when he was stopped by Franco’s army in Sierra de Guadarrama. When he was identified, he was immediately arrested. A few days later, he was executed without a trial. During this dark period of our history, FC Barcelona was “More than a Club” in Catalunya because the club was the bastion of Catalan opposition to the military regime: people brought Catalan flags and other symbols to the stadium and chanted Catalan anthems during games. President Agustí Montal once fooled the military governor of Barcelona into thinking that the music being played through the loudspeakers in the stadium was Barça’s anthem. In reality, it was the national anthem of Catalonia which was illegal at the time.
Barça was “More than a Club” in Spain also because for many non-Catalan Spaniards, Barça represented the resistance to the regime. The position of FC Barcelona contrasted with that of archrival Real Madrid’s, a club that fully embraced the dictatorship… and was fully embraced by the dictator (thereby greatly benefited from him). Many citizens of Spain, including the current President of the country, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero son and grandson of republicans who opposed Franco during the civil war, supported Barça for this reason. To them, Barça was “More than a Club” because it represented the values of freedom and democracy.
Today Spain is a free, democratic country and Catalunya enjoys ample political freedom and selfgovernment. The Catalan language is no longer repressed and our symbols are no longer forbidden. But Barça is still “More than a Club”. Of course we are still a Catalan club and we continue to believe in and defend freedom and democracy. We still welcome all the fans from Spain that share our values and understand that we cannot reject our roots. But when Joan Laporta, our current president, says that Barça is still “More than a Club”, not in Catalunya, not in Spain, but in the world, he means something else: he means that Barça is a different kind of club.
Barça is “More than a Club” because it emphasizes fair play. Obviously, we want to win. Of course we want to win: we are a soccer club and our objective is to win every game and to be champions of every tournament every year. However, although winning is important, we believe that how you win matters. Hence, we demand everyone involved with Barça, from players, to coaches, to directors, to supporters to behave fairly and civilly. Joan Laporta has fought hard to eliminate violent fans from the Nou Camp. These were very loud fans and their support was important. Hence, banning them from entering the stadium probably hurt the team. But their violent behavior was unacceptable so they were kicked out. Other teams accept uncivilized behavior in exchange for fan support. Not us. Our coach Frank Rijkaard has repeatedly called for our players’ fair play, and we strongly applaud his attitude. If you watch Barça games you will see that our players tend not to waste time pretending they are injured at every play when we are in the lead, a strategy adopted by other clubs. We, at Barça, don’t like to bend the rules in order to win. We want to win fairly. We understand that millions of kids from all over the world watch our games every week. These kids look up to our players. It is our responsibility to teach them an important lesson: in life, there are good ways of winning and there are bad ways of winning, and opting for the good way does not hurt your chances of success. This lesson can only be taught by example.
Barça is also “More than a Club” today because we place an unusually high value in playing beautifully. Again, we want to win. But our soccer philosophy involves playing well also. We want our fans to be proud of our victories but we also want them to enjoy watching our games. We do not accept low scoring games with lots of defense. We aim at high scoring games with lots of offense. As one of our most successful players and coaches ever, Johan Cruyff, once said: “who cares if you receive two goals per game if you score five!” We fully embrace Johan’s philosophy. Not so long ago, Barça’s coach Louis Van Gaal, who had won two consecutive leagues in the late 1990s, was expelled despite his success because the team did not play well. We don’t hire players that are clumsy destroyers. We want them to be creators, magicians, artists. We want them to that make you smile when they do things you did not believe were possible. We want that make you proud of being a Barça fan when they write poetry with their feet. We would not have it any other way.
Finally, Barça is “More than a Club” today because we understand that we are privileged members of our society, and it is our responsibility to use this good fortune to give back to the world. Soccer is one of the most important mechanisms through which we can talk to the underprivileged. And we feel we must use this tool for the greater good. This year, for the first time in our 107 year history, our soccer team wears an emblem in its jersey. It is not the brand name of a corporation. It is not an ad to promote some kind of business. It is the logo of UNICEF. As Joan Laporta said in his speech at the United Nations last September, “through UNICEF we, the people of FC Barcelona, the people of Barça, donate our shirt to the children of the world”. By doing this, we gave up offers from corporations that were as high as 110 million dollars for 5 years. Instead of taking the money, we placed the UNICEF logo in our jersey for free (actually, we donated 1.5 million dollars a year to aids hospitals in Africa). Why? Because we though that the message this gives to the children of the world was more important than the money. Yes, our behavior may be odd and the finance wizards of the world will say we are crazy. Perhaps we are crazy… or perhaps our soccer club is not just a club. It is “More than a Club”
Penya Barcelonista de New York - Nevada Smiths.
Back to Sala-i-Martin's Articles EN ESPAÑOL
Xavier Sala-i-Martín és Catedràtic de Columbia University i Professor Visitant de la Universitat Pompeu Fabra
© Xavier Sala-i-Martín, 2006.