Josep Maria Bartomeu: “Before Barça won everything, the supporters clubs were already around

Josep Maria Bartomeu: “Before Barça won everything, the supporters clubs were already around"

Interview to Josep Maria Bartomeu, President of FC Barcelona and one of the driving forces behind the FC Barcelona Supporters Clubs World Confederation

When you visit a supporters club, which now always coincides with a 50th anniversary celebration, you look happy.

Indeed, very much. For several reasons: because you get close to that supporters club, learn about its origins, the moment in history and its blaugrana context... But this is nothing compared to the determination and blaugrana conviction of the people with whom you get to spend the day, the most important in the history of the supporters club and in the lives of so many families who, aside from supporting Barça, have chosen to live that feeling in a shared and collective way. It forms a part of our DNA to live and feel the Barça experience together.

What differences do you find between the Barça supporters from one place to another, from the closest to the furthest away?

They all share the same essence of blaugrana spirit, loyalty to the colours and the way of feeling and living the matches and everything that surrounds the Club. Then there’s the character and personality of each part of the world, but there is no doubt about what is truly important: that Barça makes people happy. All people, from all countries, religions, ideals, beliefs, social backgrounds and political inclinations; even in war-torn areas and refugee camps, from third-world countries to the most advanced cities, Barça games are lived with this distinctive and authentic emotional plus. And what stands out most: over and above the score or the victory, is that one can sense this pride of belonging to a club that is different from all the others.

The blaugrana summer, with the debut of Ernesto Valverde, the departure of Neymar and the loss of the Supercup, was not an easy one. Despite this, you have shown faith and optimism from the very beginning.

Although nobody knows how the season will end, I can assure you that the work of the new coach, the technical structure and the attitude of the players have inspired the very best feelings in me. The preseason, let’s not forget, is for conducting trials, rehearsals. We must have the same degree of patience as we do anticipation. We need to give the project, which to a large extent is different because there is another technique and also new coming players, a margin of time and faith. This said, during the process it’s normal for there to be some moments that are better than others. I have learnt the importance of making it to the two last months in the competition in a condition to win titles. This is moment of truth.

Has the role that supporters clubs play in the Club environment changed?

Yes. It has evolved a great deal. Especially over the last seven years it has grown in terms of autonomy and self-government to favour a collective personality that no other club in the world possesses. Now, according to the rankings, we are the second most valuable club in the world after Manchester United. I disagree, Barça is the first because it does not belong to a business corporation, an investment group or an oil millionaire. What’s more, our supporters clubs have embarked upon a path towards modernization, they want to adapt themselves to the world, to each represent the values of the Club, to act as a network that is open to all members, to promote the sport, culture and solidarity and become figureheads of their community.

How has the collective received the exceptional renewal of Iniesta with this format that is unique in the history of FC Barcelona?

It was an appropriate solution and the best way to recognise a career such as his, and a person of his human and blaugrana calibre. Iniesta specifically represents La Masia and integration, success and humility, commitment and the sense of belonging, not only to a club, but to what it represents. I know that Iniesta has visited many supporters clubs over the years, and that he continues to do so because he understands the effort and loyalty of their members. Aside from Andres’s incredible success, I am pleased to recognise in him a penyista who is proud to be so.

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