Barcelona is without question one of the best cities in the world; certainly if not THE best destination it ranks in the top five in the world. Inner city beaches, fantastic architecture, a lively atmosphere, great food, nightlife, fashionable shopping and almost year round sunshine mean that the city is a magnet for tourists yearly. Given its location in Spain there is also the potential to go ski’ing via just a few hours driving to the north.
Such is the way Barcelona expresses itself through its foremost club FC Barcelona you would be forgiven for not knowing that the city and its surrounds are represented by more than just one football club. The city of Barcelona itself plays host to another La Liga side – RCD Espanyol while there are numerous lower league sides just a few miles outside the city.
Successful in its own right, both in Spanish domestic and international UEFA football, Espanyol remain a La Liga side to this day although seldom do they provide a challenge to the big three of Atletico Madrid, FCB and Real. Twice the club have appeared in the UEFA Cup final losing both times on penalties to Bayer Leverkusen in 1988 and Sevilla in 2007.
Barcelona is the capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia. Looking onto the Mediterranean it has a cosmopolitan feel with Roman remains, medieval winding streets and some of the the most beautiful examples of 20th century modernism. It is no surprise that emblematic constructions by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí have been declared UNESCO World Heritage spots.
While once it was Real Madrid who were the Spanish kings the last few decades have seen FC Barcelona strike out in its own independent way as a world football leader. Just before hosting the 1992 Olympic Games Johan Cryuff led Barcelona to its first ever European Cup thanks to a win over Sampdoria at Wembley. Further wins in Europe’s premier tournament have followed in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015. As yet Barcelona haven’t met Real Madrid in a Champions League final, an eventuality that may will occur over the course of the next ten years.
If Barcelona the city owes its origins to the Romans then FC Barcelona owe its foundations to a Swiss. On 22nd October 1899 Joan Gamper placed an advert in Los Deportes newspaper declaring his wish to form a football club. A positive response resulted in a meeting at the address of Gimnasio Solé on 29 November and the club was born. They began playing in blue and grenadine kits (blaugrana) which were also the colours of Gamper’s first club FC Basel.
Espanyol was founded on 28 October 1900 by Ángel Rodríguez Ruiz, an engineering student at the University of Barcelona. The club’s original home was in the well-off district of Sarrià. The royal colours of blue and white were chosen as the playing kits.
Espanyol entered the new millennium having to change name from the Castillian ‘Español’ to its Catalan equivalent of Espanyol. By then they had moved out of the historical home the Sarria Stadium which had been a venue for the 1982 World Cup Finals and the 1992 Olympics. A shabby but unpretentious antidote to the more grand and towering Nou Camp home of FC Barcelona, anger by fans met its demolition.
The club were forced to move to the inner city Olympic Montjuic Stadium for a number of years.
Espanyol like FC Barcelona had used numerous grounds during its early years of football before setting in at the Estadio de Sarria. Such was its intimate feel modern apartment blocks nearby enjoyed an almost unrestricted view inside the stadium interiors on match day.
While the Sarria was loved by Espanyol Socios the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys – Montjuic had always been less than loved, especially so amongst Espanyol fans who met the move with anger. Only after its reconstruction for the 1992 Olympic Games did it rise in the feelings of the city.
Few stadiums have such a spectacular location sitting as it does upon the summit of Montjuic hill surrounded by a parkland and overlooking the city. These days the stadium still hosts public events such as concerts and cultural events.
Today RCD Espanyol play football at the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat. Opened in 2009 it was originally thought that the stadium would be called the Nou Sarria. It currently has room for over 40,000 fans and the club rightfully has a playing surface of its own.
Across town Barcelona continue to play football at the huge and iconic Nou Camp stadium. Plans are also afoot to develop this venue further. In January 2014 Barcelona’s board of directors rejected the option of building a new stadium and will instead remodel the Nou Camp to bring the capacity up to 105,000. The project is expected to cost around €600 million with work beginning in 2017.
One constant whenever Barca play at home is the club anthem ‘El Cant del Barca’ written by Jaume Picas and Josep Maria Espinas with music composed by Manuel Valls i Gorina.
The whole stadium (Tot el camp)
roars with one voice (es un clam)
we all wear blue and scarlet (som la gent blaugrana)
wherever we are from (tant se val d’on venim)
from the south or from the north (si dei sud o del nord)
Now we all agree, we all agree (ara estem d’accord, estem d’acord)
One flag seals our brotherhood (una bandera ens agermana)
Blue and scarlet in the wind (Blaugrana al vent)
Our cry is bold (un crit valent)
We have a name (tenim un nom)
That everyone knows (el sap tothom)
Barca, Barca, Baaarca!
You can see some original images from Barcelona here.