More than a relationship? Barcelona-Celtic

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Lionel Messi Barcelona newsXavi Hernandez – lynchpin of one of the greatest midfields in footballing history, winner of the Champions’ League, the European Championship and the World Cup, as well a player who embodies the unique spirit of his club – has been quoted as saying:”Celtic, like Barcelona, are more than a football club. Our clubs are a symbol of a culture and community that has not always been made welcome in their respective countries.”

Meanwhile, F.C. Barcelona’s official website states that Barcelona has become a symbol not only of an identity in sport, but also an identity with a social, political, and cultural dimension, which ‘in periods of difficulty has flown the flag of Catalunya, thereby representing the longing for freedom of the Catalan people.’

It also describes Barça as an ‘open and democratic club’ which, throughout the world, identifies itself and shows solidarity with a variety of Causes. For these reasons, and many more, Barça’s motto is ‘més que un club’. Like their Catalan counterparts, it’s no exaggeration to say that Celtic, too, is more than a club.

Indeed, on the official homepage of Celtic’s website, current Chief Executive Peter Lawwell succinctly captures the club’s guiding ethos and spirit:

“Celtic will always be much more than a football club and as a major Scottish institution we will always ensure our social responsibility remains of paramount importance. As a Club open to all since its formation in 1888, Celtic at all times aims to promote inclusion, diversity and opportunity for all. Celtic was formed to help an immigrant community in need and in the 120 years since the Club’s formation, a charitable spirit and openness has characterised the Club. These are qualities which will always symbolise Celtic.”

Such parallels between the clubs may lead one to wonder why this is so. In other words, what do we mean when we talk about Celtic or Barcelona being more than a football club?

The answer, of course, resides in their supporters, that is, in the nature of the relationship between club and fan. Understanding the special bond, the unique feeling, that Celtic and Barcelona fans have for their clubs is key to understanding how a football team can come to represent a social and cultural institution whose influence and ‘brand’ is recognizable and admired not only within their respective countries, but throughout the world. In essence, I believe it’s a matter of identity.

Catalans, having for a long time had their culture, their language, and their political freedoms either banned or suppressed by the Castilia Establishment – symbolized by the Spanish Crown – have Barcelona as the unacknowledged capital of the Catalan nation. Denied independence and, as such, the right to a national football team, for the Catalan people – a proud, civilized, and industrious bunch – F.C. Barcelona can only understatedly be called a “club” team since it also represents the hopes and aspirations of the nation whose identity it moreover symbolizes.

Few outside the Iberian Peninsula might be aware of Catalunya’s long struggles in this sphere. Or how, renouncing violence, it has opted for the political route and through its industry, patience, perseverance and guile, Catalunya has attained a degree of political independence that more universally recognized nations like Scotland have, as yet, not attained. In this sense, the Blaugrana– the blue and claret stripes on their shirts – and the Catalan flag that is borne on the badge of the same jerseys unite to symbolize a club that is also representative of a nation.

Their fans’ love of the club is also a celebration of their own unique national identity. But, unlike some national identities, this one is not exclusive and insular, but rather inclusive and open to all, regardless of colour and creed. As the club’s anthem indicates (El Cant del Barça/ The Song of Barça) ‘whether from the south or the north, we all agree…we’re all made brothers by the flag’ and, by implication, by the values of freedom, tolerance, and respect that the flag represents.

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  • Good write up Joe, well done.

    • dansleftpeg says:

      Good write up if true. Unfortunately it’s all too good to be true. The day our club embraces it’s identity within Scotland and the UK whilst rightly celebrating our heritage I’ll be much happier. The support harping on about the IRA “Freedom Fighters” and the tenuous arguments that it’s nothing to do with the ne’er do wells of the 60’s forward doesn’t sit well with this supporter.

      There’s plenty of ways of celebrating heritage without that, as is done in Irish ex-pat communities across the world.

      Do that and we really can claim to be more than a club, and not seen as something much murkier.

  • schoosh71 says:

    Great read, but I believe the comparison between our beloved Celtic and Barca ends with Xavi’s quote. I maybe wrong and frequently am, but doesn’t Barca belong to the fans in some sort of collective.

    They actually have a vote in who runs the club and in which direction it is taken. Namely it was the fans who decided that unicef was a fitting logo that the club could have on their shirts.

    If only that dutch guy on a horse had went to Spain in the 1600’s and Cruyf had came here in the 1980’s we’d be playing a blend of football that would make everybody proud of Celtic being a club from Scotland.


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