Those who live outside of Spain tend to think the word Barca (pronounced barce-uh) is an abbreviation for the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona. For those of us studying here, it became clear very quickly that Barca was not a nickname for the city, but for its world-class fútbol (European soccer) club, FC Barcelona.
If you ask the fans here, following FC Barcelona is similar to practicing a religion. Locals who do not support them are basically shunned-it’s that serious. These Spaniards eat, sleep, and breathe fútbol. On match day you will find 99,000 rabid fans watching the game live at the incredible Camp Nou stadium. The arena is the largest in Europe. Those unable to secure a ticket view the game at a bar with friends or watching at home glued to the TV with family.
FC Barcelona’s motto is “mes que un club” (more than just a club.) It represents something bigger than athletics – it represents Catalan independence. Barcelona is one of the four coastal regions that make up Catalunya, the Catalan nation that has struggled to find independence from the rest of Spain for years. From the 1920’s under Miguel Primo de Rivera’s rule to the severe fascist ruling of dictator Franco, the Catalan culture and specifically its team, Barca, have been severally oppressed.
After Spain’s switch to democracy, Barca has grown to represent not only Catalan independence, but important life values as well. These five key values include Respect, Effort, Teamwork, Humility, and Ambition. Barca and its fans take pride in the fact that the way they play fútbol is not only inspiring the world in the athletic sense but morally as well.
Barca can credit its amazing history of feats on the field to its long list of world-class players. The current stars are Lionel Messi, Louis Suarez, Neymar Jr. and Gerard Pique, to name a few. Messi, 34, has been charted as the best player in the world for quite some time. To Barca fans, Messi is a god, and he is the key component of the on and off field success of Barca’s current team.
Venturing into Camp Nou for the first time was a life changing experience. I thought I was prepared for the intense atmosphere and the insane fans, but the game and the venue itself had no comparison to American football or basketball on any level. I got to my seat an hour before kickoff, and the cheering and drums heard from all sections of the stadium had already started- they would not stop until the last second ticked off of the scoreboard.
After attending a Barca match, it’s a bit funny to think about how sports fans in the US refer to themselves as dedicated or obsessed. Merely spending a week in Europe would be enough to realize that our fan followings are far too limited to compete with the addiction that fútbol is here. If we want to consider ourselves avid fans, we need to take some advice from the fans of FC Barcelona.