Back in Barça time (2/5): Joan Gamper, Barça's first myth

(Re)discover the history of the Blaugranas, through the most symbolic elements of FC Barcelona, and the help of Manel Tomás, historian for the club

Back in Barça time (2/5): Joan Gamper, Barça's first myth
Back in Barça time (2/5): Joan Gamper, Barça's first myth

(Re)discover the history of the Blaugranas, through the most symbolic elements of FC Barcelona, and the help of Manel Tomás, historian for the club

Last time we went back over Barça's creation at the very end of the 19th century, with a central man at the core of it all. His name: Joan Gamper. Forever associated with Barça, he was one of its founders, and the man behind the idea of this historic football club. How did a Swiss native arrive in Barcelona, and how important was it throughout the development of what is known today as FC Barcelona? Here are some answers.

A man of passion

Born in 1877, on November the 22nd in Winterthur, Hans-Max Gamper had always been a huge sports fan, with football being one of his all-time favourites. It was not rare seeing him trying various sports like golf, tennis, running, cycling or rugby. Very attached to the city of Basel where he moved when he was 8, he still left the country as he was about to Ecuatorial Guinea to give a hand to sugar companies there. Since he had to learn Spanish in order to settle there, he decided to pass by Barcelona and, in love with the city, finally changed his plans and settled down in the Catalan capital.

From there, you already know how the story goes. He managed to bring other people in his passion for football, until he managed to create a club: FC Barcelona. But far from the prosperous time the club is going through right now, his FCB had trouble surviving at the beginning of the 20th century. In a delicate position sports-wise, the club faced a deliquescence of the number of its socios. It was the chance for Gamper to prove his worth and how much he believed in what he had created.

'Salvador' (The Saviour) Gamper

"The five times Gamper became president of Barça it was every time, without exaggeration, to save the club", Manel Tomás told us about the Swiss football enthusiast. The first time such a situation happened was in 1908, on December the 2nd, when an extraordinary meeting of the club was set to decide the future of FC Barcelona between its founders and Board members. Until then, Gamper was "only" the captain of the first team, as only his companion Walter Wild could take care of the presidency since Gamper was too young.

On this day of December 1908, things look bad and Barça, in a very precarious position in the rankings, are also threatened by the exit of their socios, who are only 38 to that day. That's when the Saviour Joan Gamper takes action. Given the circumstances and the look of things, he takes the lead. "That is when he said the famous sentence: Since no one is willing to save the club, I will do it myself, Manel Tomas said. He then sacrificed his working hours - of course, he had a job apart from playing football - and he went door-to-door to each and every socio of the club to convince them to stay."

The start of an identity

As a wise man, even if he was still young at the time - only 31 years old - Joan Gamper got a lesson out of this tough scenario. He knew that something had to be done in order to strengthen the link between this club he had created and the fans that got involved. Being in Barcelona, at the core of the Catalan culture, he decided to make of FC Barcelona a bastion of the Catalan culture, and therefore decide in 1916 to adopt Catalan as the club's official language. This would be the first step on the path to glory for its creation, that went on to become the pride of Catalan people today still.

After that, he came back four more times at the head of his club, each time to deal with a hard situation, more or less urgent, and every time with success. More than the launcher of it all, the initiator of a thriving company, Joan Gamper was the number one salesman of the club, an honest man that never hesitated to give his all to ensure the club's future. Which is why, as a Swiss native but Catalan in all Barça fans' hearts, he became a symbol and a legend of FC Barcelona.