The Barcelona Story in 20 Iconic Matches
Barcelona have played their part in some absorbing fixtures over the years.
Both domestically and in European competition, the Blaugrana have woven a common thread throughout.
Every supporter will have a favourite match or particular moment that defines their support of Barca—a stand-out memory from the rich history of the club.
Let's take a look at 20 of the most iconic.
Barcelona's First Match at Calle De Industria in 1909
Barcelona had been a tenant at five different football grounds from their inception in 1899 until the purchase of their own ground 10 years later.
The ground at Calle De Industria was also known as L'Escopidora—or the Spittoon—and it would be here against Catala SC on March 14, 1909 where Barca began their relentless pursuit of excellence.
It would also be where Barca supporters gained their nickname.
Chris Clements of Estadios de Espana explains:
Barça purchased their first ground at Calle de Industria. The ground was inaugurated on 14 March 1909 with a league match against Català SC. In the next match at L'Escopidora, Barça regained the Campeonata de Catalunya and the first Golden era of the club was under way.
The ground was a revelation at the time with its twin decked stand and initial capacity of 6,000. It was also the first ground in Spain to experiment with floodlights. Such was the popularity of the team that the ground was bursting to capacity whenever Barça played, so much so that some supporters had to sit on the perimeter wall.
Passers-by would see the ungainly sight of the fans backsides hanging over the edge of the wall and nicknamed the supporters "cules"—that's "arses" to you and me—and the name has stuck.
The Move to Les Corts
As the popularity of Barcelona grew, yet another ground move was required.
Just down the road from where Camp Nou now stands was Les Corts, a ground that was to be Barca's home from 1922 until the move to Camp Nou some 35 years later. You can see how the ground changed over the years here.
A Catalan Select XI (mainly consisting of Barca players) took on Scottish side St. Mirren in the first game played at the ground on May 20, 1922.
The evolution of the club could be clearly defined by the expansion of the ground, despite their failings on the field.
Yet, with the arrival of Ladislao Kubala in the early '50s, there was a sense of inevitability that yet another move would need to take place in order to house Barca's growing fanbase.
Ladislao Kubala's Debut
Ladislao Kubala signed for Barcelona in June 1950 after arriving from Hungary with a team of refugee players.
His status perhaps explains the bureaucracy that followed and meant that the player couldn't make an official debut until April of the following year.
However, his first match in Blaugrana—a friendly against Osasuna on October 12, 1950, which Barca won 4-0—must go down as one of the most important in the history of the club.
It marked a new and hugely successful era at the club, with Kubala becoming Barca's most influential player of the time.
Indeed, the rise of "Kubala-mania" created the need to move to a bigger ground, hence the eventual decampment to Camp Nou.
Jimmy Burns best describes Kubala's allure in an extract from his book Barca: A People's Passion:
[Kubala] brought a combination of skills that the club had until then rarely seen. He was quick on and off the ball, demonstrated extraordinary control when dribbling, showed an unrivalled vision and was always accurate in shooting and deadfalls.
It was around Kubala’s charisma and footballing skills that Barça overcame its post-war loss of confidence and shattered organisation, developing one of its strongest and most successful teams.
The First Match at Camp Nou
The first match at Camp Nou represented a mammoth leap forward in the club's history.
September 24, 1957 was the day that 90,000 supporters stepped inside their brand new, but unfinished home for the first time.
What they saw was a Barcelona side that included the legendary Ladislao Kubala beat a Warsaw select XI by a score of 4-2 on a day that will live long in the memory.
The date on which the stadium was to be inaugurated was September 24, 1957. A special commission was organised whose task was to organise the kind of opening ceremony that the occasion warranted.
Those days will go down in club history, and were set to words by the great poet Josep M. de Sagarra in his sonnet titled 'Azul Grana', while an anthem was written in honour of the new FC Barcelona stadium, with Josep Badia putting the words to Adolf Cabané’s music.
On the day of the 1957 Mercè Festival, the city was decked out in the FC Barcelona colours. The celebrations continued with the holding of a solemn mass and the blessing of the stadium by the Archbishop of Barcelona, Gregorio Modrego.
The president’s box was packed with the most important personages of the sporting and political worlds of the period, including club president Francesc Miró-Sans; José Solís Ruiz, general secretary for Movement, which was the equivalent of the ministry of sport at the time; José Antonio Elola Olaso, head of the National Delegation of Sportspeople; Felipe Acedo, civil governor of Barcelona, and Josep M. de Porcioles, Mayor of Barcelona.
The new Stadium Anthem was then performed and the first game to be played at the Camp Nou kicked off at half past four in the afternoon.
FC Barcelona played a friendly against Polish side Warsaw. The first Barça line-up ever to appear at the Camp Nou featured: Ramallets, Olivella, Brugué, Segarra, Vergés, Gensana, Basora, Villaverde, Martínez, Kubala and Tejada.
At half time, 1,500 members of the Agrupación Cultural Folclórica de Barcelona danced a huge sardana and freed 10,000 doves.
A different eleven took to the field in the second half: Ramallets, Segarra, Brugué, Gràcia, Flotados, Bosch, Hermes, Ribelles, Tejada, Sampedro and Evaristo.
Barça won the match 4-2 with goals from Eulogio Martínez (whose 11th minute strike was the first goal ever at the Camp Nou), Tejada, Sampedro and Evaristo.
And so it was that a brand new period in the history of FC Barcelona had begun.
1958 Fairs Cup Final
The London XI were a representative team specifically created by the English Football Association to take part in the Fairs Cups of 1955 to 58.
They were simply no match for a Barca side containing such legends as Antoni Ramallets, Evaristo and Luis Suarez.
A surprise 2-2 draw at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground on March 5, 1958 was soon put right on May 1.
A Suarez-inspired Barca hammered the Londoners by six goals to nil. It was the last time we would see a side made up of members of various London clubs in the competition.
In all future editions, individual clubs from London would contest the matches.
The First Team to Beat Real Madrid in the European Cup
History tells us that Real Madrid dominated the first years of the European Cup. From 1956 to 1960, Los Blancos were untouchable in the competition.
Their proud record came to an end in the first round of the 1960-61 edition of the tournament against old foes Barca in a 4-3 aggregate defeat.
Barca had to come from behind twice in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, conceding in the first minute to Mateos and in the 33rd to Gento.
Luis Suarez was the star of the show for the Blaugrana. He scored both goals, the first in the 27th minute and a crucial penalty in the 88th minute, in the eventual 2-2 draw.
Barca finished the job on November 23, 1960 in front of 120,000 cules at Camp Nou.
Verges scored for the home side with 33 minutes gone, but the decisive goal was a stunning diving header from Evaristo with just nine minutes left to play. It was a goal worthy of winning such a game.
Canario's goal in the 87th minute for the visitors was nothing more than a consolation.
Barcelona would go on to lose in the final to Benfica.
1968 Copa Del Generalisimo Final
During the 1960s, Barcelona enjoyed minimal success, whilst having to stand back and watch as rivals Real Madrid monopolised La Liga during the decade.
The cost of building Camp Nou meant that there was little money to spend on players in the years immediately after construction of the stadium.
A shining light amidst the Catalan gloom was a win in the 1968 Copa Del Generalisimo (now the Copa Del Rey) final at the Santiago Bernabeu in front of President Bernabeu himself and General Franco.
The "Phantom" Goal
Johan Cruyff will live long in the memory of Barcelona fans for a variety of reasons, some of which you will see over the next slides.
One of his finest individual moments was scoring what is now known as the "phantom" or "ghost" goal, owing to the near impossibility to replicate it.
Atletico Madrid were the visitors to Camp Nou and were party to one of the most outrageous pieces of skill ever witnessed on a football pitch.
As the cross came over, the ball had already travelled wide of the far post, and Cruyff was some yards from it.
Despite this, the Dutchman—at full stretch, with the ball in the air and at roughly neck height—twisted his body in such a way as to back-heel the ball and somehow divert it into the net.
Watch the footage above. It defies description.
Johan Cruyff Inspires Barca to a 5-0 El Clasico Demolition of Real Madrid
February 17, 1974 is a date etched in the memory of those cules old enough to remember the dismantling of Real Madrid in their own backyard.
As instrumental in this game as any other throughout his debut season for the Blaugrana, Johan Cruyff guided Barcelona to their biggest win over their main rivals in 16 years.
It was also the highest scoring El Clasico since the six-goal thriller in September 1969—the intervening years seeing just the odd goal separate the two sides.
The result was never in doubt once Juan Manuel Asensi and Cruyff had put Barca two goals up before half-time. Asensi again, Juan Carlos and Hugo Sotil then put the visitors out of sight before the 70th minute.
1989 European Cup Winners' Cup Final
Cruyff was again the architect of a resurgent Barca when he rejoined the club as manager at the start of the 1988-89 season.
Success had been hard to come by during the late '70s and early to mid-'80s, but Cruyff began to work his magic immediately and moulded a side into what became known as the "Dream Team."
The first trophy of his reign came at the expense of Italian side Sampdoria in the 1989 Cup Winners' Cup Final, and was the catalyst for the many years of success that followed.
Last-Minute Win at Kaiserslautern
After a 2-0 win against Kaiserslautern at Camp Nou, Barcelona expected a relatively easy passage into the next round of the final edition of the European Cup (before it became the Champions League).
Nothing prepared them for what followed.
In the return leg on November 6, 1991, three goals for the home side saw the script flip. With the stadium rocking, the German side's fans were preparing to celebrate a famous victory as Barcelona won a crucial last-minute free-kick.
With just 14 seconds left of normal time to play, Ronald Koeman's lofted delivery was met by the arched frame of Jose Maria Bakero, who somehow got enough power on the header to divert it back across the keeper.
The goal silenced the home support and sent the Blaugrana through to the next round on away goals, and subsequently to success in the final at Wembley.
European Cup Final, Wembley 1992
For a team that had been involved in European competition in every season since 1955, it's hard to believe it took until 1992 before Barca won their first European Cup.
The game against Sampdoria at Wembley was poised on a knife edge with eight minutes left in extra time.
That's when Ronald Koeman stepped up with an astonishingly accurate strike that changed the recent history of the club.
Gianluca Pagliuca's slight movement to his left just as Koeman struck the ball is probably the reason why it found the back of the net.
Ronaldo vs. Compostela
On October 12, 1996, fans of Spanish football were treated to one of the finest goals ever scored.
Ronaldo was in the middle of what was a record-breaking goalscoring season, and this goal against Compostela in a 5-1 mauling will be replayed time and time again.
His strength at the beginning of the move, the pace to beat the entire defence and the presence of mind to cooly slot home is what puts this goal right up there as one of the very best.
Even Barca's manager at the time, Bobby Robson, held his head in disbelief.
Lionel Messi's Debut
Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona against rivals Espanyol, coming on for match-winner Deco late in the game at Montjuic.
At just 17 years, three months and 22 days, Messi was the second youngest player to play for the first team after all-time Barca goalscoring record holder Paulino Alcantara.
Whilst the moment itself was relatively low-key, Messi's impact at Barcelona and in football generally since then has been anything but.
Ronaldinho's Standing Ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu
When the supporters of your biggest rivals rise in unison to praise your performance, you know something special has been witnessed.
So it was in 2005 with Ronaldinho's match-winning performance at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Not content with running the show from start to finish and already leaving his opponents on their knees with one "golazo," Ronaldinho topped his performance with another stunning solo effort.
Cue a wave of appreciation from the stands never seen before or since for a member of a visiting Barcelona side.
If the importance of the result of this match was lost on you before, just take a look at the celebrations from the president's box after Rivaldo scores his match-winning hat-trick goal.
Back in 2001, Valencia travelled to Barcelona in the final game of the season. The visitors only needed a draw to secure Champions League football, whilst the hosts needed a win.
What unfolded during the 90 minutes is legendary.
Having not scored in his previous eight games, Rivaldo lit up the match with a stunning free-kick inside the first five minutes. After Valencia had cancelled out the opener, the Brazilian's pile driver just before half-time reclaimed the lead.
The visitors restored parity again in the second period, and with a minute to go, they were poised to take their position in Europe's premier competition.
Cue Rivaldo with a superlative overhead kick finish to send the Barca faithful into raptures.
Chelsea vs. Barcelona, Stamford Bridge 2009
Chelsea had done their homework.
A masterful two-legged defensive performance was going to see them into their second successive Champions League final, with an immediate chance for revenge against 2008 conquerors Manchester United.
The game was deep into injury time in West London when out of nothing came the "Iniestazo."
Look at the move in detail and you witness Michael Essien's tiredness and his non-existent clearance, and Michael Ballack's inexplicable turn away from the ball at the last moment.
Both moments are crucial, but they must not be allowed to take anything away from the quality of the pass from Lionel Messi or the first-time strike from Andres Iniesta.
Despite the unbelievable pressure, Messi still had the ability to lay the ball on a plate for Iniesta, whose two steps back to set himself for the strike are just genius.
Surely the most important goal in Barca's recent past?
El Clasico 2010
November 29, 2010 was a very special night indeed for Barca fans.
Jose Mourinho played the pantomime villain, returning to Camp Nou as boss of the Catalans' biggest rivals, Real Madrid.
Hoping to inspire his unbeaten and in-form side to victory over the club he served as Bobby Robson's assistant in the mid-1990s, Mourinho failed spectacularly.
Pep Guardiola's rampant Barcelona side destroyed Los Blancos from start to finish in a performance that many have said was the best that has ever been seen by any club side in the history of football, including Steven Beacom of the Belfast Telegraph.
Do you agree?
The Return of Eric Abidal
To beat cancer once is wonderful. To do it twice and then return to full fitness as an elite sportsman is nothing short of a miracle.
All hail Eric Abidal.
The Frenchman's strength of character and determination to get himself back out on the pitch again was simply awe-inspiring.
The Camp Nou rose as one to praise Abidal as he made his long-awaited comeback in the 69th minute against Mallorca on April 6, 2013.
After the club promised they would renew his contract once he proved his fitness, it was a sad day for Barcelona in so many ways when they called a press conference to announce that Abidal was in fact to be released.
Champions League Final 2011, Wembley
Barcelona arrived back at Wembley hoping to inflict a second Champions League final defeat on Manchester United in three years.
Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to admit, per Dominic Fifield of The Guardian, that his team were well beaten:
They're [Barcelona] the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they're the best team we've faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that.
It's not easy when you've been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that. It's a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football.
In truth, England's best were never really in the match, so comprehensive was the performance. It set a benchmark to the rest of Europe—this is the standard required to beat the best in the business.
Perhaps the best moment of the entire night came at the trophy presentation. Captain Carles Puyol handed the armband to Eric Abidal, who had returned from his first bout of cancer, to lift the trophy.
It was iconic, moving, classy and showed the world why Barcelona are "Mes que un Club" (More than a Club).
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