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Today marks one hundred years since one of the most significant episodes in FC Barcelona history during the first third of the last century: the tribute dedicated to Joan Gamper in the Les Corts stadium. On Sunday 25 February 1923 the Barça founder was the centre of attention on a day full of emotion organised by the sporting world and the civil society of the time to highlight his contribution to society as a whole via his sporting endeavours.
"Today, thanks to the efforts of Gamper, our town is alive and kicking. It is not just due to the sporting material, no; sporting sentiments have joined forces with popular sentiment, and at all times we have felt as excited as ever," so said the rhetoric of the time in El Mundo Deportivo the day after the event.
The centrepiece of the event was a game between Barça and a Catalan Football XI and it took place at a time when the Club boasted 6,341 members, and when it had just entered into what would becomes its first golden age, consolidating its position both on and off the field. The 22,000 capacity stadium at Les Corts, a record for the time, had opened just some months before on 20 May 1922 and was a sign of the importance of the blaugrana project which would soon see a huge increase in its membership. On the field the departure of Ricardo Zamora, the absence of Sancho and the limited contribution from Paulino Alcántara meant the team ended the 1922/23 season without silverware, nevertheless, Barça and Joan Gamper appeared in good shape at his tribute in February 1923.
In fact, on 29 June of that year the founder of the club ended his fourth spell as president having consolidated the Club's finances on the eve of its first 25 years of existence. He was succeeded by Enric Cardona, who stayed in the role for a year: Gamper returned for his fifth and final stint as president on 1 June 1924.
All except Europa and Espanyol
For the event on 25 February 1923 at Les Corts all Catalan football clubs with the exception of Europa and Espanyol took part. The presence of Barça's main city rivals would have been a surprise given the strong rivalry between the two clubs. As for Europa, they were engaged at the time in a battle with the blaugranes for the Catalan Championship. A week before on 18 February a decisive fixture between Europa and Barça should have taken place but the Civil Governor of Barcelona postponed the game "in anticipation of incidents and altercations of public order that may occur."
In contrast, Real Madrid, a club who at the time enjoyed excellent relationship with FC Barcelona, had no problem in attending the tribute to Gamper. As proof, this genuine dedication can be found in one of the album recording the event: "Real Madrid Foot Ball Club, to the enthusiastic sportsman Master Juan Gamper, in admiration and sincere affection." More surprising is that is of the signatures was that of a Real Madrid player by the name of Santiago Bernabéu.
The event itself
At 3pm on 25 February the stands at Les Corts were full. They had been for quite a while before the start of the tribute which got under way with the eminent composer Joan Lamote de Grignon led the Barcelona Municipal band in different pieces of music, one of which was 'FC Barcelona. Segunda marcha catalana' by the composer himself.
A bust of Gamper was unveiled, the work of sculptor Josep Llimona, and a commemorative plaque for the opening of the Les Corts Stadium. The Orfeó Gracienc choir gave a version of the 'FC Barcelona Anthem' on the field, the second in the club's history following that of 1910, with lyrics by Rafael Folch and music by Enric Morera.
Gamper appeared on the field, gaining the largest ovation of the afternoon, accompanying the Barça players as they came out along with Ramon Bruguera, the former blaugrana keeper who was recovering from serious injury. Visibly emotion, the Swiss founder gave a short speech during the tribute and took the honorary kick off before the game. The referee for the day was former Barça player Roman Forns, with Enric Ducay and Otto Maier running the lines, two men who attended the FC Barcelona foundation meeting on 29 November 1899.
The Barça XI was formed by Pascual, Planas, Surroca, Torralba, Blanco, Samitier, Piera, Martínez, Gracia, Alcántara and Sagi-Barba. The Catalan XI was Bota (España), Cabedo (CS Sabadell), Walter (Figueres), Roca (Avenc), Sancho (Sants), Mauricio (Badalona), Rediu (Terrassa), Homs (Manresa), Mauri (Júpiter), Barrachina (Martinenc) and Galofré (Athletic de Sabadell).
Barça won 2-1 after two goals from Gràcia and one from Barrachina in a game that was far from easy for the team then coached by Jack Greenwell as described by El Mundo Deportivo: "Given the game was a friendly, it was hard fought and Barça's greater unity led to victory although it was not an easy one."
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