100 years ago, Nicolau Casaus was born, the vice president of Barça from 1978-2000 and the greatest ambassador the club has ever had
Identity and football model
“Barça, the Catalan Choral Society and the Abbey of Montserrat are the three pillars that have maintained the Catalan identity of our country” he once said. As far as football was concerned, he had a clear philosophy: “Our team has to be essentially formed of local players with the incrustation of the greatest phenomena from abroad.” Casaus always remembered fondly the team of the ‘Five Cups’, made up of such extraordinary Catalan players, along with César from Leon and Kubala from Hungary, two close friends of his. But above all, his premise was the following: “Bigger than any individuals should be the club and its colours, because Barça is not the exclusive property of any one person.”
The son of an Andalusian father and Catalan mother, Nicolau Casaus de la Fuente i Jené was born on February 12, 1913 in Mendoza (Argentina). He lived his long life to the full, and FC Barcelona was always closely associated to everything he ever did.
Casaus and Barça were bound to each other by an emotional yet curious story. Nicolau became a Barça fan as a young boy thanks to Josep Samitier. In 1922, aged just nine, the Barça of the ‘golden age’ were playing in Igualada, where Casaus’ family had moved when he was five, and he offered to carry the legendary goalkeeper’s bag into the ground, thus managing to get into see the match.
Samitier was touched by the gesture, and the two would become close friends for life. In 1927, Samitier paid the three pesetas for the now teenage Casaus to become a member of the club. By now fully dedicated to the cause, it was in 1931 that Casaus founded the Penya Barcelonista Germanor d’Igualada, for whom he was president and a member of the social team that represented the club.
In 1940, the new Franco regime made him pay for his republicanism during the Civil War by sentencing him to death. This was later changed to thirty years in prison, although in 1944 he was released on probation and twelve years later all charges for his alleged crimes were dropped. He was able to re-establish himself in Barcelona by setting up a textiles company funded by his old friend Samitier, who had not forgotten him.
This was the turning point for Casaus. Devastated by the suffering he had endured, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to his one great passion, other than his family, which was none other than Barça. Years later Casaus would say: “I am grateful to Barça because it gave me hope and helped me to live”. The fascist authorities refused to allow Casaus to assume any position on the board of directors, but Casaus was still able to enjoy Barça to the full. He barely missed a match at the old Les Corts stadium, and frequently travelled to away matches too.
The Penya Solera
In 1947, shortly before being readmitted as a Barça member, Casaus joined the Penya Solera (and would later become its president), founded in 1944 and the oldest of the post-war supporters clubs, for all the clubs formed before the conflict (including his own Penya Germanor d'Igualada) has been forced to cease operations. The Penya Solera was a group of fans that used to meet in the Solera bar in Barcelona, close to the Canaletes fountain. It was there that such Barça stars as Antoni Ramallets, Mariano Martín, César Rodríguez and Gustavo Biosca used to meet up and relax.
Following the formation of this club, others soon sprang up in such places as Castellar del Vallès and Calella that also called themselves Solera. By now, Casaus was becoming the main man in the world of FCB supporters clubs, and actively participated in the foundation of dozens of other associations over the next few decades (in 1978 he claimed that of the 152 supporters clubs in existence at the time, 140 had been founded by himself). He became one of the most popular men ever to be associated with the club, and in 1957 president Miró-Sans chose him to organise the festivities for the inauguration of the Camp Nou.
The Democratic Era
When Spain moved into the democratic era, Casaus was finally able to live his dream of standing for Barça president in 1978. Casaus came third in the election behind Josep Lluís Núñez and Ferran Ariño, but the new president Núñez offered to make him a vice president and put him in charge of the Social Commission. He then became a regular representative of the club at away matches and was there for such events as the Basel final of 1979, by far the biggest displacement of travelling FCB supporters to date. His face was everywhere to be seen, and not even the most radically anti-Barça minded people could help admiring this charming and widely respected gentleman. His optimism regarding Barça was infectious – no matter how adverse the circumstances, he never lost faith in his team’s possibilities.
Nicolau Casaus became a particularly well known public figure from 1978, when he became a Barça ambassador, focusing especially on the supporters club movement. These clubs, in his words, “are the lungs of Barça”, and his insatiable desire to expand the movement saw him involved in some 200 events every year for 22 years. His dedication was simply extraordinary. In 1978, there were 152 supporters clubs. By 2000, when Casaus stepped down from the vice presidency, the number had risen to 1,450.