Page last updated at 04:51 Asia/Manila, Tuesday, 04 August 2015 PH
Last June 7 at 2:45 a.m., some 150 football fanatics gathered in the Handle Sports Bar in Makati to watch the finals of the Champions League, considered by some as even more demanding than the World Cup because it is a competition among European football clubs made up of the best football players in the world, whatever their nationalities. The best of the best from Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia are recruited at sky-high prices by these clubs. This year the final match was between FC Barcelona of Spain and Juventus of Italy. The trophy was won by FC Barcelona (also referred to as Barca) with the three goals of Rakitic, Suarez and Neymar vs. the one goal of Morata (former Real Madrid player). The atmosphere in the bar was electrifying because the two teams were evenly matched. The Juventus players were no pushovers. Needless to say, the majority of those who woke up that early to watch the game were FC Barcelona fans. There were a few Juventus fans (from Indonesia) and some Real Madrid followers who will cheer for any team opposing Barcelona (the Ateneo-La Salle syndrome). I actually welcomed the presence of some opposing fans because it made every goal on the Barca side even sweeter.
Barca fans will have many more victories to celebrate as long as the dynamic trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez are around. They have three more trophies to win this season: the Spanish Supercup that will be played between Barca and Atletico de Bilbao. Then there is the European Supercup between Barca and Sevilla. Finally, there is the World Club Championship, which last year was won by Real Madrid when it beat the Pope’s favorite football team, the San Lorenzo of Argentina. This year Barca will play with the title holder of the Latin American equivalent of the Champions League. Of course, as the eternal optimist, I predict that Barca will win all three, duplicating what they did in 2009 when they won all six titles possible for a club to obtain in a given season. At that time, Pep Guardiola was their coach.
Providentially, at this time of glory for the Blaugrana team, a Catalan by the name of Frederic Abello has organized the FC Barcelona Official Fan Club, which was launched during the Champions League finals at the Handle Sports Bar. The club will be officially named Penya Blaugrana Manila and will focus not only on football but other sports such as basketball, futsal, handball, baseball, rugby, ice hockey, field hockey, roller hockey, figure skating, volleyball, and athletics. It is meant to be a platform so that Barca fans can meet, enjoy, and watch Barca games together. I can attest to the fact that there is a big difference between watching a Barca match on Balls channel in my living room and watching it with more than a hundred other fans in a sports bar. At the latter, it is almost like being in Camp Nou! And to add realism, as I said above, there will always be some fans of the “Los Blancos” (Real Madrid) whom one can outshout!
The members of the Club can participate and assist in activities related to FC Barcelona in the Philippines. For example, over the last two years, experienced players and coaches of Barca conducted football clinics for children ages 6 to 14 in both Manila and Cebu. More than 300 children from all social classes were able to participate since generous sponsors financed the participation of street children from distressed areas. FC Barcelona has plans to tie up with local corporations and football clubs to put up a permanent academy somewhere in the Philippines. Members of the Fan Club can help to promote Barca values such as social integration, respect for the dignity of each individual, tolerance, sportsmanship, unselfishness and team spirit. Contact with Barca fans can also lead to greater understanding of the strengths of Catalan culture which is rich in art and entrepreneurship. Having lived in Barcelona for a couple of years, I can attest to the enriching contact with the Catalan culture. The Fan Club may encourage more of our young people to go to Barcelona to study not only business in such famous business schools as IESE and ESADE, but also such other professions as medicine and dentistry, architecture, fine arts, information technology, and, of course, sports management.
Among the benefits of belonging to the Penya Blaugrana Manila Fan Club are 20% discount in all official FCB stores; discount on FC Barcelona first division games; free entrance to second division football games; free entrance to other FC Barcelona sports such as futsal, handball, etc.; free official FCB merchandising goods. Those who apply before December 2015 will be admitted free for the current year. Starting 2016, membership fee for adults is 500 pesos and for those below 18 is 250 pesos. Interested parties may inquire at email address email@example.com to get the application form. They may also follow the Facebook page of penyablaugranamanila. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.