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8/9/2006 2:45 pm

Futbol Club Barcelona, popularly known as Barça, is a sports club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, British and Catalan footballers led by Joan Gamper. The club has become a Catalan institution, hence the motto El Barça és més que un club (Barça is more than a club) .

The fans of FC Barcelona are known as culers (or culés). In July 2006, the number of socis (club members) reached 144,892 [1], while the number of penyes (officially-registered supporters clubs) reached 1782 worldwide as of June 2006.

The club's main stadium is the Camp Nou and it is best known for its La Liga football team and the reserve football team FC Barcelona B. The senior team were founding members of La Liga in 1928 and, together with Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, they have never been relegated from the Primera División. The club were also the first La Liga champions and are currently champions of both Spain and Europe.

The club includes three other professional sports teams, that compete at basketball (Winterthur FC, handball (FC Barcelona-Cifec) and roller hockey. There are also a number of prominent amateur sports teams that compete at futsal, rugby union, women's basketball, women's football and wheelchair basketball. These include FCB Rugby, UB-Barça and FC Barcelona-Institut Guttman. Other amateur teams represent the club at ice hockey, athletics, baseball, cycling, field hockey, figure skating, and volleyball.

Barça have to date refused to allow commercial sponsorship logos on their football shirts, although since 2005 they have worn the TV3 logo of Televisió de Catalunya on the left arm. On 14 July 2006 the club announced a five year agreement with UNICEF which will see the UNICEF logo on their shirts.

On 22 October 1899 Joan Gamper placed an advert in Los Deportes declaring his wish to form a football club. A positive response resulted in a meeting at the Gimnasio Sole on November 29. Eleven players attended : Gualteri Wild, Lluís d'Ossó, Bartomeu Terradas, Otto Kunzle, Otto Maier, Enric Ducal, Pere Cabot, Carles Pujol, Josep Llobet, John Parsons, and William Parsons. As a result Foot-Ball Club Barcelona was born. Several other Spanish football clubs, most notably Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, also had British founders, and as a result they initially adopted English-style names.

Legend has it that Gamper chose the club colours, blaugrana / azulgrana, after FC Basel, his former club. However other Swiss teams Gamper played for, the Canton of Zürich and Merchant Taylors' School in Merseyside have all been credited and/or claimed to be the inspiration. Initially the club used the same coat of arms as the city of Barcelona, but in 1910 the club organized a competition to design their own. It was won by an anonymous entrant who produced the present model.

FC Barcelona quickly emerged as one of the leading clubs in Spain and they participated in the first Campionat de Catalunya and the first Copa del Rey. They won their first trophy when they won the Copa Macaya in 1901. In 1902 the club also played in the first Copa del Rey final, losing 2-1 to Club Vizcaya.

The Gamper years
In 1908 Joan Gamper became club president for the first time. Gamper took over the presidency as the club was on the verge of folding. The club had not won anything since the Championat de Catalunya of 1905 and its finances suffered as a result. Gamper was subsequently club president on five separate occasions between 1908 and 1925 and spent 25 years at the helm. One of his main achievements was to help Barça acquire their own stadium. On March 14 1909, they moved into the Carrer Industria, a stadium with a capacity of 6,000. Gamper also launched a campaign to recruit more club members and by 1922 the club had over 10,000. This led to the club moving again, this time to Les Corts. This stadium had an initial capacity of 20,000, later expanded to an impressive 60,000.

Gamper also recruited Paulino Alcántara, the clubs all time top-scorer, and in 1917 appointed Jack Greenwell as manager. This saw the clubs fortunes begin to improve on the field. During the Gamper era FC Barcelona won eleven Championat de Catalunya, six Copa del Rey and four Coupe de Pyrenées and enjoyed its first golden age. As well as Alcántara the Barça team under Greenwall also included Sagibarbá, Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samitier, Félix Sesúmaga and Franz Platko.

Rivalry with Real Madrid
There is often a fierce rivalry between the two strongest teams in a national league and this is particularly the case in La Liga, between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. From the start the clubs were seen as representatives of the two rival regions of Spain, Catalonia and Castile, as well as the two cities themselves. However the rivalry reached a new level during the Franco years when Real Madrid was considered to be the "regime team" while FC Barcelona was regarded as the team of the opposition.

Although following the Spanish Civil War Real Madrid received considerable institutional assistance from the Franco regime, as he saw the club as the sporting embodiment of the Spain he wanted to create, during the war itself members of both clubs suffered at the hands of Franco supporters. FC Barcelona president Josep Sunyol was murdered while Real Madrid president Rafael Sánchez Guerra, a prominent Republican, was imprisoned and tortured. They also arrested and murdered a Real vice-president and club treasurer and an acting president disappeared. In 1940 Enric Pineyro, a Franco collaborator, was appointed club president. The rivalry with Real intensified further after the 1943 Copa del Generalísimo semi-final between the two clubs. The first leg at Les Corts ended in a 3-0 victory to Barça, but the return leg saw them defeated 11-1. It has been alleged by some that the FC Barcelona players were pressured into losing the game and even Pineyro resigned in protest. The rivalry with Real also surfaced again in the 1950s after the dispute over Alfredo Di Stefano

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