Barcelona Football Club was founded by Hans Gamper on November 29th 1899, when the game was still relatively unknown in that part of the world. It is the second most successful Spanish football club after its long-time rival, Real Madrid FC. It is said that about 26% of the Spanish population support the club; it was recently claimed to be the most popular club in Europe with about 44.2 million fans. It has a long history of success in Spain, being one of only three clubs never to have been relegated from La Liga (Spanish football league). Its most recent success came in the 2008-2009 season, when the club won the treble (La Liga, La Copa del Rey and the UEFA champions league), making it the club’s most successful season to date. FC Barcelona have dominated national football competitions over the years, winning the Copa del Rey 25 times, which is more than any other club has managed, and also winning 19 Spanish league titles.
However, FC Barcelona is about more than just football. Over the years it has become a representation of Catalonia and the Catalan people’s desire for freedom. This was particularly prevalent during Franco´s dictatorship, when all forms of diversity were repressed, including the region´s language, Catalan, and its strong individual identity. During the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship that ensued, Barcelona FC became a symbol for those who wanted to show that they did not support the fascists without openly joining an anti-fascist group, hence the club´s motto “més que un club” (more than a club).
The club’s success is represented by its stadium, Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 98,787 seats. In the club’s first few years the team had to constantly switch between different grounds, until they finally found a permanent home in Les Corts stadium. This stadium opened in 1922 but was remodeled several times to make room for the growing fan base, particularly after the Spanish Civil War. However in 1948 the directors became increasingly keen for a new ground, and were finally convinced by the signing of the now legendary Ladislau Kubala, who is one of the finest footballers to ever have played for the club. The impressive stadium was finally opened in September 1957.
Another of the club’s previous legendary players, Josep “Pep” Guardiola became the club’s manager in June 2008. The former Spanish midfielder spent the majority of his playing career with the Barcelona Football Club, and was part of the “dream team” that won FC Barcelona’s first European Cup. In his very first season as manager he led the club to win the treble, making him the youngest UEFA Champions League winning club manager ever.