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A Friendly Tribute To Two Legends Of Barcelona!

When AC Milan comes to Nou Camp on Wednesday, most people who connect with FC Barcelona will like the idea of getting together with the magician Ronaldinho again. But, the match is much more important than that. It’ about remembering the man who thought upon a novel idea that the Nou Camp faithfuls cherish even after 111 years. It might send a shiver along the spines of the Culés if they have to think what would have happened if this man did not put an advertisement on les Deportes to invite interested people to form a club of their own. Yes, the man is Joan Gamper, the founder of the club and the man who ruled the club as a player and then the President since the day the club was found, till 1925.

The last pre-season match that Barcelona plays, Trofeo Joan Gamper, is to remember this man, whose dream millions of fans are cherishing now. In 1966, Enric Llaudet, then President of the club, thought of the idea to start a tournament to commemorate  Joan Gamper, and since then the club plays a tournament normally at the end of August every year.

Initially, four teams participated in the tournament and the first tournament was joined by Belgian club RSC Anderlecht, French club FC Nantes and German club FC Koeln. Barcelona defeated FC Koeln 3-1 in the final to win the first edition of Trofeo Joan Gamper. For the next 30 years, this format of the four team tournament continued with two semi-finals, one match for third-place and one final. From the year 1997, the tournament was reduced to two teams where one guest team played the Blaugranas every year.

Of the 44 editions of Trofeo Joan Gamper that has taken place so far, the host have won 33 times. The runners up in the inaugural edition of the tournament FC Koeln is the only other team to have won more than once, twice. Ujpest FC (Hungary), Borrussia Monchengladback (Germany), SC International (Brazil), FC Porto (Portugal), KV Mechelan (Belgium), Tenerife FC (Spain), Valencia (Spain), Juventus (Italy), Manchester City (England) are the others teams to have a share in the trophy.

However, the important thing about this year’s Gamper is that the opponents are AC Milan. And in the opponent team is a player with a few big teeth and long hair who used to set the field on fire every time he touched the ball in his five year career at Barcelona. Ronaldinho is the man who took Barcelona up when they were in their worst time. Barcelona were as low as 16th in the league table in December and were competing in the UEFA Cup. Then came Ronaldinho from Paris Saint Germaine, and the script was overturned. The Blaugrana juggernaut did not look back again with their new driver. Barcelona finished 2nd that year and won la liga and Champions’ league the next year. Despite being infamous for having hard party-going life, he had a good effect on the junior players. As Messi, who just could not mature as the man as quickly he was doing as a player and the magician lend his hand. Soft-spoken Messi gradually became the man and took the role that his mentor and best friend had, after he left.

This match in Nou Camp is not about the number of goals the teams will score. This is about the sentiments that the people from both sides will demonstrate. The following two quotes will make some of the emotions clear. The first one is by Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola when he speaks about Ronaldinho-

He was the key reference point for the change the club needed. When he arrived, the club was a bit down and I’d seen nothing like it when he came in – he was so decisive. His physique, his skill… he was a real help to this club.

And the following is the open letter by Ronaldinho to the Barcelona fans and officials:

As you all know, I don’t normally talk in public a lot and I’m not one for big farewells, but I would like to take advantage of this occasion to thank you all for everything we shared together during the five years I defended the Barca shirt. They were certainly the best years of my life, both professionally and personally. I honestly think we enjoyed so much whilst we were together.

I don’t like farewells and I prefer to think this will be a chance to meet with old friends and renew friendships and relationships we had in the past.

Coming back to the Nou Camp is very special for me. This will always be one of my favourite stadiums and one where I enjoyed myself so much and hopefully helped the Barca fans to enjoy themselves too.

A sincere hug to all the Barca family and especially to Sandro Rosell.

Ronaldinho.

One thing is clear, whomsoever wins this match, doesn’t matter, here football is the winner and FC Barcelona faithfuls will not really be unhappy if the magician scores a few past hapless goalkeeper today. Its a tribute to him on the day they pay tribute to the great Joan Gamper.


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