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Differences In the Regions of Spain Through Football: Catalonia

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Editor's Note: This is Part II of a five part series about the differences in three of the major Spanish regions, Catalonia, Castile and the Basque Country, and how football united the historically different cultures.

David Ramos

The region of Catalonia has a long history that stretches from the Romans to Medieval times that left many landmarks and towns in the countryside such as Montblanc, Besalu, and Girona that surround the capital. The capital city of Barcelona is composed of three sections that represent ancient history to modern buildings. Though Barcelona is widely considered to be one of the two largest cities in Spain, the region of Catalonia only accounts for six percent of Spain.

Politics throughout Spain heated intensely after the fall of the Spanish Empire in 1898, adding more to the fire that led Catalonia and the Basque Country toward their fight for independence. More independent, local governments in each region were being created such as Catalonia's local council, which was founded in 1914 but that growth was set back in 1923 when Primo de Rivera banned the council.

Progress was finally made in 1975, the year Franco's regime ended, when Jordi Pujol headed Catalonia's regional government called Generalitat and two years later it was finally recognized as the Catalan Parliament. Another symbol of independence was born when Hans Gamper, a Swiss-born businessman living in Barcelona, founded the city's football club called FC Barcelona. Though he was not Catalan, he wished for autonomy from Madrid and even learned the Catalan language, further proving himself to be a firm supporter of the region. Not all of Catalonia wanted freedom however, as Barcelona's other football club RCD Espanyol had many fans that supported Franco.

What differentiates Catalonia from other regions is that it has its own unique culture that was born from a Renaixenca; a renaissance of the Catalan culture. This Renaixenca helped spur on a feeling of intense nationalism called Catalanism that defined the wish of the government for autonomy from the country of Spain.

Created in Catalonia, the new art style of Modernisme was under direct influence from the Renaixenca, resulting in many paintings showing Catalanism. Catalanism is the term used for the emotions or feelings of association from an individual towards Catalonia. From the art in the city to the street signs, the regional differences shine through, especially through the politics and football club of FC Barcelona.

FC Barcelona is the symbol of Catalonia; they are synonymous with each other, a view that is enhanced even more so because of the fact that their first team is mainly composed of footballers trained at their academy, La Masia. The team uses their homegrown players but also uses purchased players, though with a majority of the Spanish players being Catalan, the club really represents Catalonia.

The club was not always like this however, as it took the Dutch legend Johan Cryuff's arrival in Barcelona to start the revival of the club. As a player to his coaching years, Cryuff influenced the game and also helped reinvigorate the Dutch club AFC Ajax much like with FC Barcelona. Under his guidance, La Masia became more vital and recognized which sets the club apart from Real Madrid. When the club motto of "Mes Que Un Club," which translates to "More Than a Club," was imagined in 1968, it created a huge impact because it meant that the club was more than just an ordinary football club; it was part of Catalonia and represented its culture and political struggle.