Hans Max Gamper-Haessig: The man who founded FC Barcelona

Stephen Brandt has a look back at the rich history of FC Barcelona and how the Catalan club started their rise to prominence.

Despite what most people think, especially here in the States, football didn’t start when the Champions League was created. Many of these clubs have been around for centuries which, I know, seems strange to be able to say that now.

One of the most popular clubs in the world is FC Barcelona, but do any of us know how they started or how they enabled their rise to prominence to be a success? This is their story.

Unlike other clubs, and associations, Barcelona wasn’t started by the British in one of their conquered lands. Instead it was started by ex-Basel FC player Hans Max Gamper-Haessig. However, this wasn’t the first club he founded, because that was FC Zurich in 1896. He moved to Barcelona in 1899 to stay with an uncle before heading off to Africa to set up a few sugar trading companies – as you do. He fell in love with the city, became fluent in Catalan, and stayed.

On October 22 of 1899, Gamper-Haessig placed an advertisement in the local paper stating that he wanted to start a football club. A meeting on November 29th, in the Gimnasio Sole, helped create the start of Barcelona. The colours of the club were taken from FC Basel, and some have gone further to say that the colours came from another club he played for, Merchant Taylor’s School in Merseyside. Either way, we have seen these colours in other clubs. He is also responsible for finding their first home pitch after fining a suitable location. Gamper-Haessig really was the real driving force behind the club.

He was only 22 at the time and was elected to be a board member and the team’s captain. Between 1899 and 1903, he turned out for the club forty eight times, scoring 100 goals. He was part of their first trophy victory when they won the Copa Macaya in 1900-01.

After his playing days were done he spent five terms as President of the Club. Through his time as the President, he led the club to its first golden age, winning their first collection of trophies and discovering their first few great managers.

During his time there, he appointed Jack Greenwell, who tied Johan Cruyff for the longest tenure at the club as manager, that only being seven years. Gamper also brought in Paulino Alcantara, the first big time star at the club, and second all time scorer for Barca. Along with Alcantara, there was Sagibarba, Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samitier, Felix Sesumanga and Franz Platko.

The end of his life, and time at Barcelona, was not all that good. First of all, when he was wrapping up his time at the club – on June 24, 1925 in a match – and the fans booed the Spanish National Anthem, and cheered God Save the Queen performed by a British Royal Marine band. The government of dictator Primo de Rivera charged Gamper with promoting Catalan Nationalism and closed the stadium for six months. Gamper killed himself after a period of personal and money problems, due to depression. His grave is in Barcelona.

A sad end to a remarkable story, but Hans Max Gamper-Haessig’s legacy certainly still lives on today. FC Barcelona are booming and are quite possibly the most famous club in European football.

Posted by Stephen Brandt

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