Its motto is “Més Que Un Club”—Catalan for “More Than A Club”—and Barcelona has become exactly that.
Over the past decade, the Blaugrana have won three European championships and two Club World Cup titles while fielding the preeminent practitioners of the beautiful game, from Ronaldinho to Messi.
Barcelonans care deeply about their team. The Blaugrana dominate both the local storefronts and front pages and remain a hometown institution even as they have conquered the world. Many of FCB’s top players, from Xavi and captain Carles Puyol to fellow Spanish World Cup winners Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets, are Catalan natives. Others, like Messi and Iniesta, came up through the vaunted youth system. But through sharing their soccer and all it symbolizes with the rest of us, the locals have seen access to their beloved club reduced.
Our tickets to the Sunday’s game vs. Espanyol, located in the second-cheapest tier, were more than $90 apiece—each more costly than a night’s lodging in central Barcelona. Entry to the derby match at the Camp Nou is more expensive than a game against most La Liga opposition, but Sunday’s diverse and quiet crowd was a sign the rivalry probably doesn’t mean much anymore. Perhaps FCB has won so frequently and easily in recent years that only UEFA Champions League matches and the El Clásico meetings with Real Madrid still inspire any fervor.