Bernardo M. Villegas
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FC Barcelona Win Or Lose

           I must confess that for a rabid Barca fan like me, it was hard to swallow the trashing my favorite football club got from Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the European Champions League.  Painful as it was to witness the Catalans helpless in the two matches that ended with an aggregate score of 7-0, I did not regret for a single moment having awakened at 2:45 a.m. on both occasions to give moral support to what is still considered the best football club in the world by most sports pundits.  Together with all loyal Barca fans, I console myself with the knowledge that FC Barcelona is sure to bag the Spanish League championship after just a few more games.  It was also a consolation (but no excuse) that the best football player in the world today, Lionel Messi, was still suffering from his hamstring injury and could not play at all in the return match in Camp Nou.  As my favorite football commentator Rob Hughes wrote in the International Herald Tribune:  "Barca is wounded without him (Messi), but not only him.  Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal all were missing in defense.  Barcelona properly saluted Munich's superiority but will never know whether it might have won this semifinal if it had been at full strength."

          I have no doubts that Barca will rebound strongly in the very near future. Their strength is mainly due to a culture loaded with human virtues and values that transcend winning and financial gain.  The very fact that Tito Vilanova, the coach stricken by cancer in midseason, refused to risk a further injury to Messi or to other key players who could have helped counter the German machine, is yet another evidence of the outstanding humanity of the Barca culture.  Its motto, "more than a club", is no motherhood statement.  I saw this at close range last April 17 to 21 at the Alabang Country Club when two coaches of FCB Escola, the school that trains future Barca players form childhood, conducted a football camp for 148 Filipino children, including street kids from Tondo, thanks to the financial assistance given by Caltex.  The camp was organized by the Team Socceroo Football Club that was put up by four brothers who got hooked to football when they were students at the Southridge School for Boys and later on at the University of Asia and the Pacific.  Wool (who just recently passed away), Nicolas, Mike and Paulus arranged for the FCBESCOLA camp to train Filipino children (both boys and girls) in the Barca style of playing football.  It is no exaggeration to say that in the Barca culture, football is more than a sport.  It is an entire system of contributing to the integral human development of the youth.  No wonder business enterprises steeped in promoting human values like Alaska Milk Corporation, The Business Mirror, Caltex and Mapfre Insular Insurance Corporation were among the major sponsors of the football camp.

          Here, let me quote extensively from the Message sent by HIs Excellency Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq to the organizers of the camp and the campers themselves, including the doting parents who were very much part of the whole show.    "It is a please for me to address the participants of the first FC Barcelona Escola Camp held in Manila.  I believe that this event proves that the close ties between Spain and the Philippines are not only grounded in our common past and history but also in other new fields of cooperation such as sports, particularly football.

          "In sports, Spain has been growing in recent years and is currently acknowledged as a great power in many different sports, and our athletes are the great ambassadors of our country.  In football, Spain's National Team won, for the first time, the European Cup in 2008, the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and another European Cup consecutively in 2012.  FC Barcelona is one of the flagships of this leadership.  Since it was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers, el Barca has won the national league 21 times, la Copa del Rey 26, Supercopa de Espana 10, Copa Eva Duarte 3 and 2 Copa de la Liga trophies.  In international events, FC Barcelona has won four UEFA Champions League, a record four UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, four UEFA Super Cup, a record three Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and a record two FIFA Club World Cup trophies.

          "Barcelona is also the only European club to have played continental football every season since 1955, and one of three clubs never to have been relegated from La Liga, along with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid.  In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the treble consisting of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League.  That same year, it also became the first football club ever to win six out of six competitions in a single year, thus completing the sextuple, comprising the aforementioned treble and the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

          "But Football Club Barcelona is not only important because of its sports triumphs.  Football Club Barcelona is 'mes de un clb' (more than a club).  It is an entity that not only competes athletically in the pitch, but also constantly beats to the rhythm of people's concerns.  The exercise is therefore not only a sportive milestone, but also a social one.  It is a demonstration of the close ties, the friendship  between Spain and the Philippines."

          I am very glad that, according to the Reyes brothers of Team Socceroo FC, The FCBESCOLA Camp will be organized on a yearly basis and can also be held in other key cities like Cebu and Iloilo.  Already there are talks of FC Barcelona putting up a football academy permanently in the Philippines.  Win or lose, FC Barcelona is already part of the long-term football development program in the Philippines, together with other clubs from other parts of the world that can help our country become more like our Asian neighbors where football is a national obsession. Even in sports, now that we are no longer economically the "sick man of Asia", we no longer have to stick out like a sore thumb because of our lack of passion for the beautiful game.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia