FC Barcelona’s club motto seems boastful. Més que un club – "More than a club". But a look at the club’s history shows its humble roots and admirable themes that prove the motto true.
To Catalans in Spain, Barca has been “a defining institution of Catalan nationalism,” as Franklin Foer wrote in his 2004 book, How Soccer Explains the World. They have a policy not to accept money for a corporate shirt sponsor and, beginning in 2006, they started donating $1.9 million each year to UNICEF in an agreement that allows the club to adorn the UNICEF logo across the front of their kits.
Add to those ideals their worldwide roster that includes players from nine different countries and four continents and tremendous success on the pitch that includes winning the treble last year and it becomes clear why FC Barcelona is considered the most popular club in all of Europe.
When the Catalan flag and language were banned after the Spanish Civil War, Camp Nou – the club’s stadium – was among the few places the language could still be heard. It therefore became a beacon for Catalonia and, over time, a symbol of progress because of the frequent defense of rights and freedoms by the club and its fans.
For all the on-field success they’ve had in the club’s 110 years, none could match that of the 2008-2009 season. And it came as quite a shock. Club president Joan Laporta was nearly ousted when the club’s membership (for which the Sounders FC Members Association was modeled) issued a 60% vote of no-confidence, falling just short of the two-thirds majority required. Laporta hired club legend Josep Guardiola as manager and retooled the roster and let the magic happen on the pitch.
Over a two-week span in May, FC Barcelona won the Copa del Rey (equivalent to the US Open Cup), the La Liga championship and the UEFA Champions League to become the first Spanish club to win the three trophies in the same season.
They bring most of that treble-winning roster to Seattle to face the Sounders Wednesday night at Qwest Field. Some roster highlights include Argentine phenom Lionel Messi, recently acquired Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Spanish veterans Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Puyol and Mexican defender Rafael Marquez. Not to mention Freddie Ljungberg’s former Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry (for whom my two-year-old son Henry was named).
Kickoff is set for 7:30 Wednesday night at a sold out Qwest Field.