Besides being a popular and successful team, Barca has become a symbol of Catalan nationalism, inspiring the motto “Mas que un club”, or “more than a club”.
Joan Gamper, a football enthusiast from Switzerland, founded FC Barcelona on November 29, 1899. The successful team quickly amassed a dedicated Catalan fan base.
Fans of FC Barcelona are known as culés, the Catalan word for ‘ass’. This nickname originated in the twenties from Barca fans who sat in the highest row of the stadium with their culés visible to passerbys.
Under Franco, the Catalan language and symbols were banned and the team was forced to change their name to Club de Futbol Barcelona in 1939. The Catalan flag was also removed from the club shield. Despite this, the stadium remained one of the only places during Franco’s regime where Catalan could be spoken and their flags could be displayed freely.
The two most successful Spanish football teams, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are also fierce competitors. The rivalry stems from Franco’s dictatorship; Barca represented an opposition to Franco while Real Madrid was a symbol of nationalism and was favored by the regime and Franco.
With Franco in attendance, the club beat Real Madrid 1-0 at the Copa del Generalísimo final in 1968. The club’s coach at the time, Salvador Artigas, was a Republican pilot during the Spanish Civil War.
Barca’s stadium, Camp Nou, was built in 1957. With a capacity of 98,000, Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe and the third largest stadium in the world.
In 1974, the club changed their name back to Futbol Club Barcelona.
Since it was founded, Barca has refused to advertise corporate sponsors on their uniforms. However, on July 14th, 2006, the club announced an agreement with UNICEF that included, for the first time in Barca’s history, the organization’s logo on their shirts. As part of the five year agreement, the club donates €1.5 million a year to Unicef.
Club president Joan Laporta, a self-proclaimed nationalist, requires all foreign Barca’s players to learn Catalan.
In 2007, Laporta dedicated a portion of the ticket sales from the FC Barcelona v Real Madrid match to Federacio Llull, an organization that promotes the spread of the Catalan language. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain since 2004, supports FC Barcelona.