Keep fighting, Tito

FC Barcelona have confirmed the unbearable news that their manager Tito Vilanova must take a leave of absence and continue his fight against cancer after a relapse. It’s a sad day for football, and as the battle goes on, we’re all behind you, Tito. [Art by Luke. GIFs via. Posted by Eric]

What does ‘més que un club’ mean?

In theory, ‘more than a club’ means feelings, it means a political idea of freedom and passion… for football, right?

At a time where politics and more importantly, Independència, is buzzing throughout the rambling state of Catalunya - FC Barcelona’s voice in the movement is long established. When Camp Nou makes a statement, people listen. Spanish football expert Sid Lowe explores FC Barcelona’s involvement in such a delicate and important issue - one which can completely transform Spain.

The journalist interviews a series of politicians, former and current board FC Barcelona members. In particularly, he underlines Joan Laporta’s role, the club’s former President and now an upcoming figure in Catalan politics.

"The Catalans had two options. Either do nothing and continue as we were… Or the option that has never been tried, which is to give as a solution the process for the independence of Catalonia."

FC Barcelona is a football club, although they are more than a club, or as they like to express it: ‘més que un club’. However, despite their involvement in Catalan politics, which is certainly pioneered through their board directors and passionate fans - the club must be careful, they can’t be used as a political engineer.

And as Cruyff states, "their attitude is one of the most improtant things - and sometimes it’s a battle."

The next weeks and months will be crucial in Catalonia’s fight for independence, and Barça too will be greatly affected - on or off the field; but it’s important to remember they are neither the protagonist nor the leader.

[This short documentary was first posted on the Guardian, by Sid Lowe - Posted by Dominic]

Imagining the Iberian Championship: Catalunya claims Group A

By Dermot Corrigan, imagining in Madrid

When the Iberian Championships was first mooted (last month, here on A Football Report), there was some skepticism in Spain as to the concept’s viability, given the tightness of the club schedule, rivalries between different footballing authorities with competing jurisdictions, the logistical challenges involved, fraught political atmosphere etc. But due to the diligence and far-sightedness of those involved in the project, and the generosity of a certain gulf-oil-money fuelled TV broadcaster looking to break into vital European markets, the first round of games is now taking place during this week’s international break.

As is customary in Iberia, the draw was organised to give the better supported teams the best possible chance of progressing, with the top four ranked sides - Castilla, Catalunya, Euskadi and Valéncia - securing home advantage for two of their three group games. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque did the honours at the neutral territory of the Andorran FA HQ, with the coaches and captains of all eight teams showing up for the event, along with a healthy smattering of regional political dignitaries and cultural figures. There was a surprisingly positive mood of friendship and fraternity among all involved, especially with the first tranches of TV money being delivered up front.

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Capturing Catalunya and El Clásico

There was a decent game this past weekend, you might have heard about it. The best rivalry in all of sport brought ~400 ~800 million eyes onto the Camp Nou this Sunday to watch Leo be Leo, Cristiano be Cristiano, and witness the undeniable pride between what many Catalans would consider to be two different countries. Barçå vs. Madrid. Catalunya vs. España. It’s often said that if the region of Catalunya is a nation, then FC Barcelona is its army. Our friends at KICKTV were lucky enough to capture the monumental match and its associated political undertones. Times are tough in Spain, and cries of “Independencia!” haven’t been this loud in quite some time. [Posted by EB]

Pep, you kind of have to sign a new contract now…

With only two months left in La Liga’s season, Pep Guardiola has yet to sign a new contract with FC Barcelona. Of course, this is his policy. He only signs one-year contracts because he says he cannot look more than a year into the future. However, things are starting to get desperate in Catalunya. This classroom of Catalan kids did a brilliant Barça-themed take on “Ai se eu te pego” telling Pep to renew, renew! How can you say no to that?

Catalunya’s Annual Match. Professionals from six clubs playing for their heritage.

Victor Valdés: “You will be unstoppable”

Xavi: “You make the difference”

Gerard Piqué: “The superstars are you”

Carles Puyol: “We play for you”

Andreu Fontas: “We are your selection”

Joan Verdu: “We’ll wait at the stadium”

Cesc: “For many years I have waited to play in this game”

Álvaro Vázquez: “You have already won”

Johan Cruyff is the manager, striving for Total Football. Tunisia is the opponent. Beyond FC Barcelona and Espanyol, Gimnástic Tarragona, CF Girona, CE Sabadell, and AS Roma will be represented in the match. This is about playing for the people of Catalunya, and isn’t it a welcome novelty during La Liga’s winter break? [more info and photos]

Transcending culture: On FC Barcelona’s campaign against smoking

By Eric Beard

A newspaper, a café con leche or an espresso, a café, and a cigarette. Maybe a croissant as well. It’s the stereotypical Spanish breakfast. Substitute a few tapas for the croissant and you more or less have lunch covered as well. But on the 1st of January, 2011, a newly enforced law in Spain interrupted the daily routine of millions. On this day, patrons at restaurants were no longer able to smoke inside the establishment, but were instead forced to go outside, where there was usually an added service charge.

I landed in Barcelona for my semester abroad on the 8th of January, and it became immediately clear that restaurant and café owners were desperate. The experimentation with specials changed daily, with local business owners vying for strategies on how to regain their share of the market. Needless to say, restaurants felt the residual effects of the ban immediately, losing up to 20% of customers the month it came into existence.

In Spain, mornings are meant for a trip to the café. And in a heavy recession with rampant unemployment, usually an espresso and a smoke is all the average patron can afford. The café is not only a place to eat, drink, smoke, and keep up with the news, but in Spain is the most natural way to keep up with friends and neighbors. Understandably, customers and restaurant owners were outraged. As I walked to the Metro on a sunny day, cafés would be comfortably filled with people sitting outside smoking, with hardly anyone inside. However, on a rainy day, the café would be entirely empty… 

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Forget Cesc, This is Arsene Wenger’s Defining Moment

By Fidel Leblanc

Arsenal fans, why are we so devastated by the protracted departure of Cesc Fabregas? Its not like we haven’t had three years to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for this, right? Yet, the idea of Arsenal will at the Emirates and abroad without Cesc Fabregas in the squad, let alone leading it, will seem very foreign, perhaps as foreign as it was not seeing Thierry Henry in the starting line up.

But at the end of the day, everyone and their mother (and their great-aunt and grandfather) knew this would happen. Barcelona are, as painful as it is to admit it, the best club side in the world, arguably in the history of football. Arsene knew they were too good to turn down.

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A City Juxtaposed: The Foreign Landscape of Football

By Kyle Morse, writing from Washington DC

The terraces are packed, and the chants are reaching a crescendo as the sides reach the pitch. The passion and fervor is eminent in the air, so thick you could cut through it. The banners unfurled and flares sparked. The San Siro, which houses the Derby della Madonninabetween Inter and AC Milan has become a representation of the elite in Calcio squaring off, but it also represents a class struggle between the working class (AC Milan) and the prosperous upper-class (Internazionale), a concept alien to the American sports landscape.

To identify with an American sports team typically equates to a single determining factor- location. Symptomatic of the U.S. sports business model, leagues rarely place two clubs in a single city, and never outside the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago markets. Saying that you are a Washington Capitals hockey fan says very little about who you are as a person, despite that you are from the Washington metro area. There is no distinction between economic standing, political ideology, or any other form of social stratification.

Bucharest, Milan, Rome, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London, Istanbul, Belgrade, and Athens play host to some of the most passionate yet diametrically opposed derbies in Europe, divided between classes, political ideologies, and social issues. With many people pointing to the tensions and rivalries as a negative aspect of the global game, yet the personality adds a deep and rich context to the game in developing its identity.

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