FOOTBALL IN BARCELONA: THE FIRST TEN YEARS (1892 to 1902)
From the author of the acclaimed two-part history of origins of the world’s different football codes The Same Old Game, comes another journey into footballing history – this time into the origins of the game in the city of Barcelona.
FC Barcelona needs no introduction. From the foundation of the club in the Catalan capital by Hans Gamper in 1899 through to Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team, the Ronaldinho era and the conquest of the world led by the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta and, of course, Leo Messi, it’s a story that’s been told a million times before.
But as Barcelona based sportswriter Mike Roberts discovers, the story of how the club actually came into being is one that has never been properly told. Modern interpretations and values, and political and historical realities that belong in different contexts, have distorted the events as they really happened.
But stripped of the notion of being ‘more than a club’ in any of the many ways that the club’s slogan is so proudly understood today, the story of how Barça came to be is no less fascinating.
Many years before Mr Gamper arrived from Switzerland and insisted on founding a serious association, football was already being played by mainly British expatriates on the outskirts of the city. In a wonderful snapshot of life in turn-of-the-century Catalonia, Mike Roberts delves into the lives of these footballing pioneers, and unearths some surprising characters whose role in Barcelonan football has been long forgotten.
Curiosity for football was growing and was drawing people together from different communities that were otherwise rarely interacted. Different national, political and religious affinities were cast aside as the gentlemanly patrons of Barcelona’s gymnasiums, young Spanish university students, Scottish textile workers and other foreigners speaking French and German gathered to form teams. By 1900 there was sufficient interest for them to compete in Spain’s first football league – the Copa Macaya.
Han Gamper’s FC Barcelona was neither the first of these clubs, nor was it necessarily the best (its battle for supremacy with the red-shirted Hispania AC being no less intense than that its modern-day rivalry with Real Madrid), nor is it the only one of those clubs to have survived through to the present day.
The ‘Spanish Society’ was mainly made up of medical students from the university, and few would have predicted much longevity for Angel Rodriguez’s project. Yet they are still around today, known as RCD Espanyol and the sole survivor of the many clubs of old that fought to stall Barça’s quest for footballing supremacy in the city … and later the world.
And this book explores the origins of Espanyol in much the same way, and dispells many of the myths that have so frequently been attached to this complex and oft-misunderstood club.
Mike Roberts takes us away from the story told countless times in footballing almanacs by referring to the original sources – the newspaper reports of the time, where the columns were frequently penned by the players themselves. Many of the anecdotes will be painfully familiar to anyone who has played amateur football in any era – the animosity between the teams, the bitterness of the excuses to explain defeats, the loathing of referees and the timeless difficulties of getting twenty-two people together on the right pitch at the right time with the right equipment.
Rather than names and statistics, this book takes the trouble to explore the backgrounds of the players, many of whom had fascinating lives outside of the game, while others went on to play important roles in shaping the future of Spanish football.
Fully illustrated with contemporary photographs and with complete appendixes, this book is must for any fan of FC Barcelona, RCD Espanyol or sports history in general, offering page after page of revelations based on painstaking research of a period stretching from the earliest known games in the city through to May 1902, when Barcelona and Espanyol were invited to the Spanish capital by the future Real Madrid to attend a tournament in honour of the coronation of King Alfonso XIII. Athletic Club from Bilbao were coming too. Spanish football was just a few years old, but things were really starting to get serious…
Click here to take a look inside Foot-ball in Barcelona: The first ten years (1892 to 1902) and buy a copy at Amazon.com