Sunday, 29 May 2011

Barcelona - Are they more than just a club?

This is a preview of the standard of writing that I'll be offering. This article has been published on quite a few websites, and it's one of my favourite pieces, which is a good way to get the site off and running.

FC Barcelona. They are recognized by football fanatics as the God’s of football. The Spaniard’s elegant, precise and immaculate nature of the passing game is pure brilliance and something which is widely appreciated everywhere – even by people who aren’t dedicated to the sport. Their tendency to arouse people from different cultures around the world is breathtaking, and by keeping their highly thought of performances consistent, it only moves them up to another level. A level of where not many teams have gone before.  Barcelona is the cream of the crop, and it will take no shortage of a miracle for teams to compete with them on a regular basis.
Some of the sport’s finest players have graced the alluring Nou Camp pitch. Michael Laudrup, Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona, are a few of many who had become legends in Catalonia.  Cruyff’s “Dream Team” in the early 90’s were perceived as the new football giants of two decades ago, with the current Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola, being the linchpin in the great side. However – not to disregard the team of the 90’s – the latest update of the “Dream Team” is certainly an advanced edition.
Mastered by former player, Pep Guardiola, Barcelona has stepped up a gear, and produce football you could only dream of playing. In every game the Spaniard’s play, you examine Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi bringing back their La Masia days by dribbling around opponents effortlessly, whilst looking for team-mates in tight positions. Why do they pass to their mates in tight positions you may ask? It’s trust. Trust which takes years to form. They trust each other to kill the ball with a deft touch and move play on within a second.
That brings me to my next point – La Masia – the academy that produces everything great and dandy in football. Right? La Masia isn’t a norm. It isn’t every day that you hear about an academy so controversial, yet so illustrious. The exquisite farmhouse on the perimeter of the Nou Camp has functioned as a factory of talent since 1979, and has produced some of the world’s most iconic players (perhaps even the best ever in Lionel Messi). FIFA last year named the three best players in the world. The names, you ask? Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi. Yes, some of the crop from La Masia that has grown into the world’s biggest harvest. They are mastered from a young age in how to adapt to the tika-taka that Barca faithful are in need to see.
Young boys are being trained with the utmost intensity and dedication to make the top level, but their feet are solidly kept to the ground. Not by nails, but by having to be educated. They are transported to city schools around Barcelona every morning, which is surely an attempt to mix them  with the children not so fortunate and talented as they – the scholars – are. There is no higher or lower class. Each, and everyone of them is equal, and the hierarchy stance is in the club boardroom, and not with the children.
La Masia only costs five million to run a year, but the income of money if everything goes to plan is absolutely priceless. When a Barcelona newcomer steps into the first team from the B team he will instantly have the technical ability and work ethic to fit into the side, as he has learnt from all the years beforehand what is needed to succeed at the club. Succeeding at the club will only bring fame and fortune; not only to the club, but to the player himself.
Despite the positive talk about arguably the best academy in the world, there has been some controversy concerning Barcelona and La Masia. Tapping up. Does that ring any bells? With La Masia being filled with hundreds of artistic like footballers every year, it is almost a certainty that clubs from abroad will have interests in many of their young stars. Barcelona has publicly shown their outrage through Barcelona President, Sandro Rosell. That was evident in late February when he had this to say about Arsenal’s signing, Barca youth product, Jon Toral: “We are two philosophies – ours is to invest in La Masia, and the other is to fish around Europe for kids of fifteen like Arsenal”. That quote from the President is highly questionable considering the nationalities of some of the players who ply their young trade at La Masia.
The exciting Park Sheng Yo, is currently in the Barca youth system, but is thirteen years old and of Korean descent. Now, isn’t there is whiff of hypocrisy coming the way of Sandro Rosell?  Isn’t that “fishing” around Asia? I doubt he would see it in that way and the inevitable excuse would be that the child wanted to join the undisputedly best team in football. Sure, it may be legal, but Arsenal’s successful attempt to lure Jon Toral to the Emirates was also perfectly legal yet was spat on by a sceptical comment by Rosell. What should this dubious argument conclude to? From my personal assumption, Barcelona do assemble bunches of ballerina-esque footballers, but needs to understand that if you take skilled children from all over the world, then there must be interest from other big European clubs for the best of La Masia. Football isn’t only seen as a passion anymore, it’s now commonly indentified as a business. 


On the 7th September 2006, Barcelona had given evidence of the club saying,  “more than just a club”, by signing a highly moral boosting partnership with Unicef. This sent waves of truly beholding messages throughout sport. One of the biggest clubs in the world was going to donate just more than one million pounds a year to have “UNICEF” – a charity which supports the world’s destitute children. This deal wasn’t about the money; it was a brilliant manoeuvre by FC Barcelona to spread the word – that they were more than just a club. This was to be the first sponsorship on the Barcelona shirt in their entire history, and it was going to a charity in need to nourishment.

As financial ruin was beckoning for the club in the summer and Barcelona had to act fast. They were three hundred and sixty nine point five million in debt. How does a club of that stature get into such tremendous financial debt announced in the summer? Only the experts know this, but a club earning massive sums of money shouldn’t even get close to such a situation.
In early July, financial news came out of Catalonia which pretty much surprised everyone. They were seeking a one hundred and thirty million loan to fight their short-term money problems, and this prompted the newly appointed Sandro Rosell to blame the appalling debt on the previous regime where Joan Laporta was in charge. Wouldn’t it have been feasible for Rosell to move on from the past and blame the ruins in secret, rather than going to the media to share his concerns? Back to the point, Barca had failed to pay their players and staff, and needed a quick solution to that problem. Barcelona agreed that Dmytro Chygrynskiy wasn’t up to any good following his move from Shakhter Donetsk in the summer of ’09, and sold him back to his former club for half the fee they paid for him the year before.  The sale did bring some much needed money to the club, but the crisis wasn’t going to be solved by just one transfer.
At the end they did get the loan, but serious action had to be taken so that the debt in the summer was to never get into the same position once more. After losing more than sixty four point thirty six million in the 09/10 season, Barcelona acknowledged that they had to look at other sponsorships in search of funds and paying off debt whilst being exempt for debt in the foreseeable future. This led to an unsurprising deal with the Qatar Foundations for a record one hundred and twenty five million (a year) deal, who had connections with Guardiola, with him being an ambassador for the successful Qatar 2022 bid. Barcelona say that they hope that Unicef will still play it’s part as a logo on the shirt, but having two sponsorships on the shirt is doubtful and I certainly won’t be taken aback if Qatar Foundations were to be the sole sponsor on the famous Barcelona shirt.
What does this tell us? I’ve just spelt it out really. Barcelona was in such desperate needs that they had to take desperate measures by ditching their morale-boosting Unicef sponsor as their prime sponsor in search of a big money Qatar deal. Sure, Barcelona will still sponsor/be sponsored by Unicef, but they assuredly weren’t on Barca’s mind when they were signing the deal. When things were going great, the Spaniards could show off and show their class by signing an admirable deal with Unicef, but when the going got tough Unicef went right off the minds, and in came Qatar.
Barcelona in a way is more than a club. They have a basketball, handball and hockey team, but as a football cub they really contradict each other. The club is one big oxymoron. On the pitch, they invent enticing football – football that isn’t often seen– and to see displays of such magic and classiness every week makes us very lucky football fanatics indeed. But off the pitch, and into the boardroom, there is a big mess to be sorted out and there is another accident waiting to be happen at the ever controversial Nou Camp. 

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