FC Barcelona fulfilling a social responsibility

Originally published at The Hindu, Feb. 13, 2009.  http://www.hindu.com/2009/02/13/stories/2009021355841800.htm

FC Barcelona fulfilling a social responsibility (excerpt)

- A. Joseph Antony

ANANTAPUR: Joan Laporta I Estruch is President of FC Barcelona, the largest multi-sports club in the world. The over century-old institution’s motto is, ‘More than just a club.’

To fulfil its social responsibilities as an all-embracing entity without distinctions of colour, caste or creed, it has embarked on the Xarxa Internacional de Centres (XICS) programme. Translating to International Network of Solidarity Centres, it has units in nine countries on four continents, catering to 1400 children.

Laporta was in Bathlapalli, outside Anantapur on Thursday, to formally inaugurate the FC Barcelona Academy, the first in Asia but which has been functional for a year. He was also scheduled to lay the foundation stone for a branch of the academy at Atmakur on Friday.

Both ventures are partnered by the Rural Development Trust (RDT), an Anantapur-based NGO.

Laporta shared his thoughts with The Hindu on what made Barca among the best in the business.

On the biggest challenge he’s faced in two terms as President: The pressure is permanent, with every day being a challenge. As pioneers in carrying out social corporate responsibilities, we have also to maintain sustainable profits. To defend Barca is a 24 x 7 job, 365 days of the year.

On curbing violence at Camp Nou, the club’s stadium and Europe’s biggest: It’s not enough to make statements, but one needs to act against violence. For us it’s zero tolerance against violence. We identify trouble makers and restrict their entry into the stadium. Electronic surveillance and cooperation with the police take care of the rest.

On a burgeoning fan-base amidst Spain’s increased sporting success (Nadal in tennis, world champions in basketball): We focus on the youth, who constitute more than 50 per cent of the first team. We are open about our fight against racism, violence and corruption, earning us respect. Our efforts to help the marginalised have seen our club membership grow to 165,000 along with a 100 million fans worldwide.

On huge crowd attendance for Barca’s matches: Our quality of football, fast and attacking, brings in the crowds. Typical of our fiercely independent Catalonian psyche (that saw the province oppose the Fascist General Franco), we don’t speculate but ensure ball control. With our open approach to social integration, even foreigners find acceptance with us.

On spectator facilities: We invest every year to improve facilities to make the spectators comfortable and crack down on violence for their safety.

On celebrities in the side and the difficulties in their management: Our coach and manager inculcate team spirit, that’s paramount to us. We have greats such as Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Dani Alves and Hristo Stoichkov, 16 internationals in all but each team member is important to us. Our game sets us apart, the ball recovery in rival territory being instant.

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