Barça 116th anniversary — Why do you support the club?
Originally published in ESPN FC Brasil: es.pn/1IhaBjj
I’m in Manila, Philippines and when you go out at night, you will see that almost all houses and business establishments are decorated with Christmas lights. I mention that not only because it is exactly a month before Christmas but because how I became a Barcelona supporter is similar to one of Christmas’ most known stories.
The Bible says wise men from the East went out looking for the newborn Jesus and they were guided by a star: “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Like them, a star guided me to FC Barcelona. Not just any star but the brightest one of all — Lionel Messi. And to me, he’s not just a star, but what a star represents: light to guide you through darkness.
That is how I became an FC Barcelona supporter. The details won’t fit in two or three paragraphs, but I know that there are million others like me — brought to the Camp Nou by Messi.
Although it’s difficult to recall a world in which FC Barcelona coverage wasn’t constant and omnipresent, the 1990s was such a time.As a person in a nation that had experienced World Cup fever and was beginning to like and learn about the game, the sole outlets for fixes were the occasional match, and match highlights. But even those were sufficient to sate some of the needs of a person already tiring of American football, and being intrigued by the millionaires in short pants.
And then I saw, as the commentator described it, “a goal of the millions, to win many millions next season,” the Rivaldo bicycle against Valencia, at the very death of the match. It’s hard to describe the electric sensation that accompanied that, but it grabbed me. Even though I wasn’t yet fully culer, I began to follow Barca, began to learn about the club and the politics, and later became a soci. And here we are today.
I grew up in a football-crazy family. Every weekend, my dad and my uncle watched almost all the games that were on TV. By the time I was 6 I knew the starting XI of Dinamo Bucharest, our team. In 2000 I saw a Barça game. I don’t remember much from it, but I was completely fascinated by Patrick Kluivert. He was so quick, strong, skillful and (an important aspect for 11 year old me) gorgeous to look at. I kept following the team when my parents would let me stay up (games in Spain were always late). That time period, between 2000 and 2003 lacked trophies and happiness, but I kept following the team for him.
By the time he left, in 2004, I was already a Barça fan, not just a Kluivert fan and Ronaldinho had come in, completely mesmerizing everyone, changing the club, making people happy. Glory, joy, love, heartbreak, sadness, loss and whole bunch of other emotions followed. This club is now a part of me, of who I am, I couldn’t let it go even if I wanted to.
The first World Cup I truly followed from the very beginning was the 2002 World Cup. I say that because my memories of the 1998 World Cup are a bit vague. For my father, there was only one nation to support: Brazil. He considered it the nation that plays the most entertaining , intelligent, and passionate football. Unlike many supporters, Ronaldo was not his favorite player; it was Rivaldo. In the 2002 World Cup final Rivaldo’s intelligent dummy allowed Ronaldo to have more freedom to shoot, thus scoring the second and winning the match. My father asked me to notice Rivaldo’s intelligence and awareness. Rivaldo was special to say the least. While my father, a Barcelona fan, was saying goodbye to Rivaldo, I was already falling in love with another major Brazilian who shined at the World Cup: Ronaldinho.
I started being a dedicated Barcelona fan by the time Laporta became president. It was followed by Frank Rijkaard being appointed as coach and Ronaldinho becoming the main star. I saw the genius I loved and I could not stop watching. My father always used to say “if it is intelligent football, it belongs in Barcelona”. As the years went by I noticed more intelligent players. I witnessed success and my first Champions League final will always be my favorite moment as a football fan. I witnessed several failures as well. However, I knew that a club of such a philosophy, that is intelligent passing football, would always bounce back up.
Much like Rivaldo or Ronaldinho, Barcelona players don’t make runs because they need to put on an “effort”. They are trained to make the better choices and the more important runs at the more important instances of the match. You can say that Barcelona is the peak of efficient football and it gives lessons to the world.
Growing up, a lot of my family were Manchester United fans and I was mostly exposed to the Premier League. One day however, I turned on a Barça match to find this crazy Brazilian dribbling past defenders, shooting from 30–40 yards out, and somehow finding the back of the net. I was instantly hooked. Of course I had heard of FC Barcelona before this, but Ronaldinho and that era of Barça showed me the real magic that the club can bring. The team went from struggling to reach second place in La Liga to becoming European Champions and eventually even greater milestones. Some of my favorite memories have been watching a Clasico at Camp Nou (2–1 last season) and getting to meet Jordi Alba, Pedro, and Neymar at Ciutat Esportiva. I also accidentally stepped on Florentino Perez’s foot one time. (Complete accident, I swear).
I have watched Barcelona from the Rijkaard days all the way to our double-treble glory under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, and throughout all these times you are constantly reminded that even though there are many fantastic clubs out there, Barcelona is ‘mes que un club’. From their days at La Masia, to the bright lights of Camp Nou, our players feel the blaugrana colors with all their being. This isn’t a club where you play for individual glory or records; the aim is something bigger. With the huge fan base worldwide, to the immense Catalan pride present at home, the team knows that with every kick of the ball they are representing the heart of a nation and millions around the world.