Being More than a Club: A Talk with Barcelona Handballers


A chat with the players of FC Barcelona

Team Handball News contributor Altay Atli had the opportunity in Istanbul to meet with the coach and players of FC Barcelona before their Champions League game against Beşiktaş Mogaz.

FC Barcelona, or Barça as it is affectionately called by its fans, is all about grandeur. Founded in 1899, the Catalan club has won every trophy in every sports it competes, yet the idea of Barça goes far beyond results on the sports field. For millions of fans in Spain and around the world, Barça is a part of culture, a sense of identity and belonging, a life style, a pure yet very passionate form of love. As the Barça’s motto goes, “Més que un club”: it is more than a club…

These words are displayed in gigantic letters at the stands of Camp Nou, home of the soccer team of FC Barcelona. True, in a soccer-crazy country, this motto is often heard with reference to the soccer team which employs superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar. However, in order to understand the true meaning behind “Més que un club”, one should leave the Camp Nou, forget about soccer for a while, and look at other branches. In this sense, Barcelona’s handball team, which has won the EHF Champions’ League eight times and the IHF Super Globe twice among several other trophies, offers a perfect illustration of what it takes to be more than a club.

When Barça visited Istanbul to face the Turkish champions Beşiktaş Mogaz, a group of Turkish handball writers had the opportunity to meet with the coach of the team, Xavi Pascual, and three star players, Danijel Šarić, Kiril Lazarov and Siarhei Rutenka. Together with yours truly; Fırat Beyde, editor of handball portal; and Zeynur Pehlivan, handball expert and former captain of Turkish women’s national team had a lively discussion with the Barceloníns, about many things, but most importantly about the idea of Barça.

Barcelona is home to the crème de la crème of world handball.But is having big names in the team enough for success? “Handball is a collective sports,” says Xavi Pascual, the head coach, “and there must be rules concurrent with this nature of the game. It is very difficult to bring together these star players; they are geniuses of handball. These are very special people. But the most important thing is that each of them has the desire to become a team. What we are doing is to provide them with the necessary environment for this.”

Kiril Lazarov, the Macedonian right-back, agrees with Pascual, and points out to the importance for young players to join a good club. It’s not only about having star players, but also about integrating them with talented youngsters, when it comes to forming a real team where experience combines with the energy of youth. “It is very important for a young player to be a part of a good club,” says Lazarov who had played hist first European cup game at the age of 17, “in such clubs yo can learn much more. Your friends are good handballers. You get something from them and your careers rise together.”

Stars, geniuses, as well as talented youngsters… Xavi Pascual has them all in his team. But there is one more key ingredient for success: humility. “Yes, we are a good team. But we also know that there are many more good teams in Europe. It is wonderful that people are talking about us, talking about Barça. But if you watch the games in European competitions, you can see that there are teams that can play even better than us. It is not possible to win every match. No matter how great you are, you should always keep in mind that you can lose the match.” Goalkeeper Danijel Šarić agrees: “Especially in the Champions’ League, there are no favourites, there can be no favourites. Anything can happen.” Left-back Siarhei Rutenka reminds us of the last season when Barça lost against SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the semi final of the Champions’ League: “It’s often a single match that determines your fate. You have to perform your best. Last year Flensburg was excellent. Their strategy and tactics were superior and they have beaten us. This year we hope to do better.”

FC Barcelona is a sports club, which is active in several branches. This is a rarity in European handball scene, as the majority of the clubs competing at the highest level are handball-only clubs. In this sense, FC Barcelona, together with clubs like PSG, HSV Hamburg, FC Porto and Beşiktaş face the organisational and financial challenge of integrating handball within a wider range of branches and making sure that handball dis not overshadowed by soccer. However, this is an investment that pays well. In the case of FC Barcelona, the soccer department is actually one of the main providers of funding of the handball team. In other words, the more successful Messi & Co. are and the more revenues the soccer team generates, the better are the conditions provided for the handball team. However, for Barcelona’s handballers, benefits of being part of a multi-branch club go beyond the financial aspect. “Barça can become champions in every sports it takes part,” says Xavi Pascual, “For our fans, it is a source of pride to know that they are part of a club that competes at the highest possible level in every sports. Barcelona is and has always been more than a club. This is what matters for those who love us.”

Barcelona has nothing missing in its handball trophy cabinet. They have a team followed by thousands in Palau Blaugrana, and millions world-wide through television and internet. So, what is the next step for such a team, which has won everything that is out there? Xavi Pascual declares Barça’s ultimate goal: winning the next game! “I believe in the importance of gradual progress. What matters for is us reaching that end point, step by step. For us the final game is always the next game ahead.This is how we and our club see it.”

Més que un club… After thanking Pascual and his players for their time, and bidding farewell as they left the hotel for Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Dome, we took the time to reflect on this motto and what we have learned in our discussion. One question directly popped up: Could FC Barcelona Handbol have been this successful and this popular if the club did not have a soccer team? Who knows, perhaps… But the important thing is—and here we are talking from a European perspective where soccer is the game—if a soccer team contributes to the handball branch of the same club, not only by providing finances, but also by recruiting fans, and offering an established institutional structure, this should be welcomed.

UNC Team Handball:  USA Team Handball's #1 Collegiate Club Success Story as it relates to sustainment.  How can more Carolina Handball clubs be created?
Written by

Charting a Way Forward for USA Team Handball: Option 4: Upgrade and Expand Collegiate Handball (Part 2: Strategies to Implement)

Tweet Part 1 for this option provided some background on the state of collegiate handball in the U.S. Part 2 takes a closer look at U.S. Collegiate Rugby, the UNC Handball program and how some of their successes might be more broadly applied to U.S. Collegiate Team Handball. In the Facebook replies regarding the first […]

April 4, 2015 0
Gut Check Time:  Does USA Team Handball have a plan to hike its way out of the forest or is it just walking in circles?
Written by

Commentary:   USA Team Handball Fails to Qualify for the Olympic Qualifier: An Opportune Time for a Status Check and to Set Plans for the Future

Tweet This past Saturday, the USA Women and Men lost to Uruguay in the 2nd Leg matches for the Last Chance Qualifier for the PANAM Games.  The Women lost 24-22 and the Men lost 28-20. The USA Women ended up with a 7 goal aggregate loss and the USA Men ended up with a 4 […]

March 18, 2015 0
Newcomer, Greg Inahara, helped spark Team USA to a 25-21 in the first leg.  Up next:  The return leg in Uruguay.
Written by

Preview: USA vs. Uruguay Last Chance Qualification (2nd Leg)

Tweet The 2nd legs of the Last Chance Qualification series between the USA and Uruguay will take place this Saturday in Canelones, Uruguay. The Women’s match starts at 6:30 PM (Local) and the Men’s match starts at 8:30 PM (Local). Uruguay is currently GMT-3 or 1 hour ahead of U.S. East Coast Time. Livestream […]

March 13, 2015 0
The USA Women had a much needed offensive outburst against Puerto Rico last weekend.  Can they repeat that performance tonight against a better Uruguay side?
Written by

USA vs. Uruguay Last Chance Qualification to be Live Streamed: What to Look for

Tweet The USA Women and Men will be taking on Uruguay in the first match of a two game series tonight in Auburn, Alabama. The Women’s match starts at 5:30 PM (Local) and the Men’s match starts at 8:00 PM (Local). (Auburn is located in the U.S. Central Time Zone which is GMT-6.) Livestream site: […]

March 7, 2015 0
42 Alberta youth athletes at the Blue Lagoodn in Iceland, 11 Albertans at the Aarhus Academy, 10 Albertans on the Canadian Team that took Gold over the primarily Expat American Team,  Legitimate HS and MS championships.   What the heck is going on with Alberta Grass Roots Development?
Written by

Charting a Way Forward for USA Team Handball: Option 8: The Alberta Strategy

Tweet Background This past weekend the U.S. Men’s Team played 3 matches against the Alberta Sr Men’s team, winning 2 and drawing one.  The U.S. was clearly the better side this weekend, but Alberta proved to be a worthy opponent and a good tuneup for next weekend’s critical match vs Uruguay.  But, it does beg […]

March 2, 2015 0
The Greater Boston metropolitan area has the population equivalent of 14.5 Iceland’s.  Boston also has a pretty decent chance of hosting the 2024 Olympics which would result in substantial opportunities for local sponsorship.  The Auburn-Opelika metro area is the equivalent of less than half an Iceland.  Which location would be a better candidate for focusing limited resources in the hopes of creating a “home for handball” in the U.S.?
Written by

Charting a Way Forward for USA Team Handball: Option 7: The All the Eggs in One Basket “Iceland Strategy” (Part 2)

Tweet Part 1 of this option highlighted the potential benefits of focusing resources in one geographical area and the historical limited success the U.S. has had in doing so. This part explores how the U.S. might learn from the past should it decide to try and create a “Home for Handball” in the U.S. Building […]

February 18, 2015 0
All the eggs in one basket: What if all of the major handball clubs in the U.S. were in one regional area?
Written by

Charting a Way Forward for USA Team Handball: Option 7: The All the Eggs in One Basket “Iceland Strategy” (Part 1)

Tweet Would the U.S. be wise to develop a very focused development strategy around one metropolitan area? In part 1, I lay out the arguments for doing so and review historical efforts to spark development regionally. Part 2 will focus on the pros/cons, costs, risks and timing for doing so. Iceland: 1,000 Times Smaller Ever […]

February 10, 2015 0
Qatari Referee Saleh Jamaan Bamurtef issues a yellow card warning against Croatia.   Officiating was inconsistent to say the least in Qatar.
Written by

IHF and Qatar ruin the big event

Tweet Former chair of the IHF Playing Rules and Referees (PRC) Commission, Christer Ahl, takes the IHF and Qatar to task for inconsistent officiating and unfair advantages for the host nation. This should have been the exciting, biennial competition, where all the focus would be on the star players and the entertainment and excitement they […]

February 2, 2015 0
Brazil vs Qatar on the opening day.  Qatar may be in the finals, but the real revelation in my opinion is the progress of Brazil and Argentina.
Written by

Breakthrough World Championship for PATHF: Argentina and Brazil Prove they belong with European Sides

Tweet Eight years ago while living in France I saw Qatar play in a friendly tourney in Paris. I don’t think they won a game and as I recall their best player was a naturalized Bosnian playmaker. For sure, if someone had told me that Qatar would be playing in the World Championship Final in […]

January 31, 2015 0
Iona College Rugby in action. Just 1 of 900 collegiate rugby clubs in the U.S.  What can collegiate team handball learn from collegiate rugby?
Written by

Podcast: What can collegiate team handball learn from collegiate rugby’s success?

Tweet In my last post regarding the state of collegiate handball I mentioned collegiate rugby as a possible model to follow.  To find out more about collegiate rugby I reached out to Bruce McLane, the head coach at Iona and a panelist on the RuggaMatrix America podcast. In a wide ranging conversation we discuss the […]

January 4, 2015 0
Written by

Winter Classic Results

Tweet The USA Women’s team hosted Canada and Handball Club Intrepide from Guadaloupe from 17-20 December.  Handball Club Intrepide managed to go 3-0-1 with wins against both U.S. sides and a draw and a win against Canada.  The USA Blue team was the best national side with come from behind wins over both Canadian teams […]

December 24, 2014 0
The Implications of PANAM Games performance row implications for the USA Women and Men should they qualify for the PANAM Games
Written by

Performance Rows for PANAM Games: Break for USA Women; Difficult Path for USA Men

Tweet Ruben Gomez at Mundo Handball recently posted two articles (Men and Women) assessing the Performance Rows for the Drawing of Groups A and B for the 2015 PANAM Games.  With 7 of the 8 teams known for the upcoming tournament it’s now possible to establish performance row scenarios based on who the 8th and […]

December 6, 2014 0
Page 1 of 131123456»102030...Last »



Follow Team Handball News on Twitter

Team Handball News on Facebook

Who's Online

21 visitors online now
5 guests, 16 bots, 0 members
Powered by Visitor Maps