Drew Carey wanted the FC Barcelona style in Seattle soccer
FC Barcelona and superstar Lionel Messi are visiting Seattle and showing how to be "more than a club"
Seattle Times staff reporter; Seattle Times staff reporter
Latest from the Sounders FC blog
Two practices. That's all it took for Drew Carey to develop an affinity for FC Barcelona.
Traveling through Spain a few years ago for a TV program on the Travel Channel, Carey — actor, TV game show host and now minority owner of Seattle Sounders FC — went to practices for the country's most storied soccer teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The Real Madrid practice was too "corporate," as Carey described it. Fans were too far away from the action on a walkway above the field. It seemed too regimented and not much fun.
Not the case in Barcelona, where a chain-link fence was all that was between fans and players. Plus, Carey loved the way Ronaldinho, a player for FC Barcelona at the time, seemed to always be enjoying himself, a spirit that was infectious. And Barcelona, Carey learned, was a team of the people of the Catalonia region of Spain. It was a team that symbolized the fight to maintain Catalan customs and language when former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco outlawed the speaking of Catalan after the country's civil war.
"What they represent to me is that rebelliousness and to keep fighting against the man," Carey said. "Their whole history attracted me."
It's a history that turns 110 years old in November. A history that has included 25 Spanish Cup titles, 19 La Liga (Spanish League) titles, four European Cups, three UEFA Champions League titles (including last season), and a who's who of an all-time roster with some of the greatest players to play the game.
The club, known for its slogan of "Mes que un club," which is Catalan for "More than a club," is just that, having spurned the use of corporate sponsors on its classic blue-and-red jerseys in favor of UNICEF, a worldwide charity, and backed by a fan association that boasts about 163,000 registered members and about 1,900 registered supporters groups worldwide.
FC Barcelona brought all of its tradition and global brand to Seattle this week, culminating in tonight's friendly against Sounders FC before what will be a sellout at Qwest Field.
"Most important for us is our identity," club president Joan Laporta said. "To express our identity, we show football as a sport and spectacle. We represent a way to identify with Catalan society."
One can look at the Barcelona roster and see stars like Lionel Messi — perhaps the world's best player — homegrown talent in Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Puyol, plus Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and many more.
"The tradition of the club, the players, they're very kind, they're very nice, they make me feel welcome," said Ibrahimovic, who joined FCB last week. "The way the team plays, it speaks to me. I like it a lot. I can use my qualities much more, and I enjoy every minute.
"It's a dream and of course every player would like to play for Barcelona," Ibrahimovic said, "but I don't think everybody can play for Barcelona. As soon as I got the [word] that Barcelona was interested in me, I didn't hesitate. I said to myself immediately that I would not lose this opportunity."
The club is rich and spends money to bring in the best players, but it's hard to view Barcelona as an evil empire with all of the work the club does to help the less fortunate.
"That's what I saw in Barcelona," Carey said. "I saw a fan-based and community-based club."
Sounders FC welcomed Chelsea of England to Seattle last month, a game that drew more than 65,000 fans to Qwest and helped show the nation, via a live TV audience, that Seattle is America's soccer capital. The Barcelona match, however, is even more high profile. Barcelona is here as the world's best team, the defending European club champion.
Carey and Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said Seattle's ownership took the best from different sports teams around the world, Barcelona included, to come up with a model for how to run the franchise. One component was including the fans and making them more than just ticket-holders.
Appreciation for Barcelona aside, Carey will be rooting for his Sounders to "beat the heck" out of the Spanish club Wednesday night.
"Everybody wants to put on a good show when we play Barcelona," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. "They're obviously the elite team in the world. They're Champions League champions. It's just a great honor to be able to step on the field with a team like that."
• Sounders FC midfielder Freddie Ljungberg practiced Tuesday, the first time he's taken the pitch for Seattle since leaving the MLS All-Star Game right after it ended July 29 with a migraine. Ljungberg said he shouldn't have taken the penalty kick that he missed to end the game, a loss in PKs for the MLS stars to Everton, because his vision was affected, and that red wine in some food he ate in Utah was what triggered the migraine.
• Schmid said he thinks Ljungberg will be able to play Wednesday against Barcelona, and that Stephen King (hamstring) is the only Seattle player who probably won't play.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 8:54 PM
Sounders lose to another expansion team
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.