Cardiff Corinthians provided Barça with their first ever British opposition in 1910 / PHOTO: http://www.cihefe.es

March 1 is St David’s Day, the national day of Wales, so we thought we’d celebrate with a look at some historic connections between FC Barcelona and the Principality.

First ever British opponents

The first ever British club to visit FC Barcelona was Cardiff Corinthians AFC for a friendly played in Ciutadella Park in June 1910. Barça, fresh from winning the Spanish Cup for the first time ever, won 4-1 with a hat-trick from Carles Comamala and another goal by Enrique Peris de Vargas. The Corinthians are the only Welsh side ever to have played FC Barcelona, and they were back eleven years later, in 1911, to play three matches. Barça won them all, 4-0, 2-1, 2-1

He was the ref

In the last sixteen of the 1975/76 UEFA Cup, FC Barcelona defeated Vasas SC of Budapest 3-1 at the Camp Nou with goals from Migueli, Rexach and Neeskens. The Welsh connection? The referee. None other than the most famous British referee of the era, the great Clive Thomas in the only FC Barcelona game he ever whistled. The Catalans progressed as far as the semi-finals, where they met English club Liverpool.

Load of Tosh

And the Welsh connection continued in that 75/76 campaign, when the Reds won 1-0. The winner was scored by Welshman John Toshack, who would later spend several seasons managing clubs against Barça in La Liga. This was the first of just two occasions when Barça have lost to an English team at the Camp Nou. The other was in 2007, also against Liverpool and once again a Welshman got on the scoresheet - Craig Bellamy.

Mark Hughes, only Welshman

The current Stoke City manager, Mark Hughes, is the only Welshman to have ever played for FC Barcelona. He joined the club in the summer of 1986 and played for one season under Terry Venables before going on loan to Bayern Munich. He ended up back at his former club, Manchester United, with whom he scored both the goals in a 2-1 win against FC Barcelona in the 1991 UEFA Cup Final.

Barça at the Millennium Stadium

FC Barcelona have only played on Welsh soil once, and that was in August 2004 for a preseason friendly against Italian club Parma. Barça won 1-0 thanks to a solitary goal from Andrés Iniesta. Samuel Eto’o had been signed just a few days before the match, but despite huge anticipation, manager Frank Rijkaard opted to leave the Cameroonian on the bench.

Carles Puyol received this red dragon after winning the game in Cardiff, 2004

Swansea connection

Catalan Andrea Orlandi left Barça B for Swansea City in 2007, where he spent five successful years, and he’s now at Championship side Blackpool. And, of course, one of the most decisive elements of the famous Barça Dream Team of the 90s, Dane Michael Laudrup, was manager of Swansea for two seasons before his somewhat surprising dismissal last season.

Xavi tops Giggs

Welsh legend Ryan Giggs held the record for the most Champions League appearances until FC Barcelona’s own Xavi Hernández topped his tally of 151 last year. But the former Man United star considered it an honour to lose his record to such a fine player. "Xavi is a bit like a chess player” he said. “He is always two or three steps ahead of everybody else. For me, he is one of the greatest players ever who played for one of the best teams ever.” The sense of admiration was mutual. “It shows the class of the man to publicly congratulate me” said Xavi last December. “What impressed me most was that as he got older, he adapted his game. Only the most intelligent players are capable of that.”

Mestalla misery

It does hurt to remember, but we couldn’t really leave this one out… In last season’s Spanish Cup Final against Real Madrid, it was 1-1 with five minutes to go. Then Welshman Gareth Bale scored what was, admittedly, a brilliant goal and Barça’s dreams of a 27th title were ended.

Happy St David’s Day! Dydd Gwŷl Dewi Sant Hapus!

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