Fútbol Club Barcelona is the biggest club in the world. Yes, Real Madrid and Manchester United can lay certain claims on the table and get a bit stampy-feet about such a statement, but Barça is the real deal and it is "Més que un club" or more than a club. However, this club that is seen as the unofficial national team of Catalunya, came into this world thanks not to the work of of a Catalan, or even a Spaniard, but the efforts of a Swiss ex-pat.
|Barca's original club crest from 1899|
|L'Escopidora or the Spittoon|
|Insert your own ass-related humorous comment|
|Les Corts on opening day and a Catalan XI take on the mighty Buddies|
The club continued to be at the forefront of Catalan fervour and when Spanish Leader Primo De Rivera attended a match in June 1925, the crowd gave him and the Spanish National anthem the bird. The band from the Royal Marines who had been invited to provide the musical entertainment, were somewhat flustered by the commotion and cut short the Spanish anthem and played "God Save the Queen", much to the delight of the partisan crowd. Primo De Rivera, showing the sort of humour one associates with a dictator, ordered that the ground should be closed for three months and forced Joan Gamper to resign as president. Such was the club’s popularity due to their dominance in the Campeonata de Catalunya and Copa del Rey in the mid-Twenties, that the club needed to extend the stadium. In 1926 a new cover was added to the west side and terracing was extended on the other three sides. Les Corts new capacity was 45,000 which was tested to the full when the club won the inaugural Spanish League in 1929. However, the first golden era was about to come to an end, and with no national titles during the thirties and the small matter of the Civil War, Barça's world had switched from the brightest of lights to the darkest of shadows.
|Extended, but about to experience the club's darkest hour|
|Les Corts in 1940 - A little part of Catalunya in Francoist Spain|
The arrival of Nationalist Government would have dire consequences for the former separatist areas of Catalunya and the Basque Region. However contrary to perceived perception, the 1940's was a very successful decade for Barcelona. Whilst Real Madrid struggled in the seasons following the Civil War, Barça and Athletic Bilbao racked up a series of wins in the league and cup. Buoyed by the improving finances the club set about the further and most spectacular development of Les Corts. In 1944, the existing terracing was extended raising the capacity to 60,000, but the most impressive work took place on the west side. Designed by Eduardo Torroja, an incredibly advanced, deep cantilevered roof was erected behind the existing cover. Gimnástic Tarragona purchased and dismantled the old stand and on 2 June 1945, Barça played Nástic in a friendly to mark the opening of the expanded stadium.
|Torroja's new roof takes shape over the old cover|
The move away from Les Corts was necessary if the club was going to compete with the great Real Madrid side of the 1950's, but it was dependent of selling Les Corts for housing. This proved to be a problem for several years as the municipality was keen to keep some green space within an ever expanding city. Eventually, the club turned to Franco's Council of Ministers who overturned the council's decision and sanctioned the sell of the land for housing. An example, and there are a few, where Barça benefited from Franco's regime.
All this time, whilst Barça were running up a crippling debt following the construction of the Camp Nou, things were not exactly great on the pitch and many questioned the decision to build such a large stadium. Finally, on 2 February 1966 demolition started on Les Corts and three months later, the site was sold for 226 million pesetas. The entire sum received from the sale was used to pay off the club's debts. Here is some great footage of the stadium over its forty-odd year history.
|The Times, They are a Changin' - Barcelona 1957|
|On borrowed time - Les Corts in the Early 1960's|
The first team played their last league match at Les Corts in 21 April 1957. Kubala scored the last goal in 1-1 draw with Sevilla that saw the Andalucians qualify for Europe at Barça's expense. CD Condal, who for part of its history was affiliated to FC Barcelona, carried on using the stadium until 1965 before moving to the Camp Nou. In 1970, SD Condal merged with with Atlético Cataluña CF to form Barcelona Atlético or Barcelona B as they are now known.
|Les Corts stripped-bare in October 1965|