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29 November 1899: The birth of a football giant

FC Barcelona in an image taken in 1903.
FC Barcelona in an image taken in 1903. / SUR
  • FC Barcelona, also known as Barça, was founded by an international group of sports enthusiasts 120 years ago

On 29 November 1899, a group of young men of different nationalities met in Barcelona to found a sporting association. Several of them had answered an advertisement placed in the magazine Los Deportes several weeks previously by Swiss sports enthusiast Hans Gamper, who had arrived in Barcelona the previous year for professional reasons.

Hans, whose name was later Catalanised to Joan, was joined by 11 others keen to get involved in his project, part of the ongoing expansion of the game of football across the continent. Present at the meeting, along with Gamper, were fellow Swiss Otto Kunzle and Walter Wild, English brothers John and William Parsons, German Otto Maier and six locals: Lluís d'Ossó, Bartomeu Terrades, Enrique Ducay, Pere Cabot, Carles Pujol and Josep Llobet.

They decided that the club would be called FC Barcelona (originally Foot-ball Club Barcelona) and that they would use the city's coat of arms as their club badge as a sign of identification with their home. (In 1910 the club decided it needed a symbol of its own and a new badge was designed, still using the flags of Catalonia and St George.)

It was later decided that the players would wear white shorts and shirts that were half blue and half burgundy, which led to them becoming known as the "Blaugranas" (blau is blue and grana, dark red, in Catalan). The choice was, according to the club's own website, probably due to the colours worn by the rugby team of Merchant Taylors' School in England, where the Witty brothers, two of the first club members, both studied.

The club's first triumph came in 1902 when they won the Copa Macaya, a competition among Catalan clubs which the following year became the Championship of Catalonia.

Since then Barça, as the club became known, has maintained its "association" format and is one of only four professional clubs in Spain to belong to their supporters rather than being managed as a privately owned firm.

Today the club's track record is beyond anything those 12 young men could have imagined when they met on that 29 November 1899. Barça now boasts more than 150,000 members and the club has teams competing at all levels of football, as well as in different sports such as basketball, handball and rugby.

Barça is the most successful Spanish football club chalking up 74 national championships and 22 international trophies.