Focus on Barcelona Sporting Club’s recent travails and you might overlook the significant role the institution has played in the history of Ecuadorian football. A glance at the record books is enough to put anyone straight, the team from Guayaquil having amassed more trophies, points and Copa Libertadores appearances than any other side in the land.
Yet there is more, much more, to the emergence and development of the club known as *El Torero *than mere statistics, as FIFA.com reveals.
*Birth of an institution *Founded in 1547 as a shipyard and trading port at the service of the Spanish crown, Guayaquil would develop over the years into a charming city where many cultures came together. It was in the heart of its shipyard area, El Barrio del Astillero, that a group of friends – mainly Catalans, but containing Ecuadorians, Italians and a Uruguayan too – decided to set up a football club.
The year was 1925 and the plan came to fruition on 1 May in the house of the Barcelona-born Eutimio Perez Arumi. As a mark of gratitude for the support of Guayaquil’s Spanish community, and out of the admiration that the club’s founders felt for the then Barça keeper Ricardo El Divino Zamora, they decided to call their new outfit Barcelona SC.
Though the club’s first shirt was black, it was made a little less sombre by the addition of a badge virtually identical to that of their European namesakes. Two years later the dark jersey became the club’s change strip, giving way to the current yellow top.
*The making of a legend *Barcelona’s first steps were faltering ones, and it was not until the middle of the 1940s that their legend began to take shape, thanks to the achievements of a team made up entirely of Ecuadorian players. Led by the inspirational Sigifredo Chuchuca, they began to challenge the supremacy of another Guayaquil giant, Emelec, a side studded with well-known internationals, giving rise to a rivalry known as El Clásico del Astillero.
One of the club’s defining performances came on 31 August 1949, when the crowd-pulling Millonarios of Colombia came to town, with established stars such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Alfredo Pedernera and Nestor Rossi in their ranks.
The local press did not rate Barcelona’s chances very highly against a team widely regarded as one of the best in the world, a correspondent in *El Universo *writing: “There is the hope that Barcelona can, as they have on so many other occasions, put on a good show against great rivals, though they would be advised to take steps to avoid a catastrophe.”
Defying the odds, however, the home side prevailed 3-2 courtesy of goals from Enrique Cantos, Jorge Rodriguez and Victor Lindor, a success they capped the very next year by winning their last amateur league title. The good times continued to roll following the creation of the national league in 1957, with Los Canarios winning the title three times and finishing runners-up on another three occasions between 1959 and 1968.
As well as becoming the first Ecuadorian side to appear in the Copa Libertadores, Barcelona also welcomed a number of powerful European sides to Guayaquil in the 1960s, giving as good as they got against all of them. Though beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in 1961 and 3-2 by Benfica six years later, they saw off their Spanish namesakes 2-1 in 1966 and earned respective 2-2 and 1-1 draws with AC Milan that same year and with Borussia Monchengladbach in 1964. So well-drilled was their defence, in fact, that it was nicknamed La Cortina de Hierro (The Iron Curtain).
A year after their championship win in 1970, Los Toreros made their mark in the Libertadores, inflicting a first-ever home defeat on defending three-time champions Estudiantes, a victory known in the club’s folklore as La Hazaña de La Plata (The La Plata Exploit). “God (and Bazurco) go with Barcelona,” headlined the Argentinian daily Clarín, lauding the scorer of the game’s only goal, Juan Manuel Bazurco, the priest-cum-footballer who gave his salary over to his parishioners.
Though their Copa run would end in the semi-finals, Barcelona still went on that year to be become the first side to win back-to-back Ecuadorian titles.
The remainder of the decade proved barren, and it was not until 1980 that the championship trophy was secured again, the trigger for a golden era in which Barcelona added five league titles to their trophy cabinet, finished second twice more and took up residence at their current stadium, the Estadio Monumental.
While the 80’s were a time of domestic glory, the 90's were notable for two near-misses in the Libertadores. The first of them came in the decade’s opening year, when the Ecuadorians went on an unexpected run to the final only to lose to Olimpia. Reaching the final again eight years later, with a much-changed side in which Jose Cevallos, Holger Quinonez, Luis Gomez, Jimmy Montanero and Nicolas Asencio all excelled, they came off second best against Vasco da Gama.
In between times, Barcelona won the league in 1995, amassing a still-unbeaten tally of 101 points, before securing their 13th and last title to date two years later.
*The present *The club they call El Ídolo del Astillero has found success elusive since the turn of the millennium, to the extent that domestic rivals El Nacional have now equalled their haul of championship trophies. Relegation became a distinct possibility in 2009, Barcelona eventually avoiding the drop by two points to maintain their proud status as the only side in the country never to have gone down. Though much-improved campaigns in the following two seasons failed to bring them silverware or a return to the Libertadores, Barcelona would appear once more to be on the up.
*The stadium *Situated in south-west Guayaquil, the Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo was inaugurated on 28 May 1988 and adopted its current name two years later in tribute to a former president of the club. Boasting a capacity of nearly 60,000, it is the largest stadium in Ecuador and one of the most modern in Latin America. The venue for two Copa Libertadores finals (1990 and 1998), it also hosted the showpiece matches of the 1993 Copa America and the 1995 FIFA U-17 World Cup, as well as FIFA World Cup™ qualifying matches for Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998.