Does History Matter: The Rise of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona

By | February 9, 2015

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Ball is Round, one of the sections in Chapter 9 of this book outlines the climate of soccer in Spain during the 1930s and 40s (World War II). In 1943, during a semifinal match of the Copa del Generalísimo (the renamed Copa del Rey), FC Barcelona played Real Madrid, and as a result of intimidation from the Director of State Security, José Escrivá de Romani Barcelona was forced to lose 11-1, and the popularity of the face off between Barcelona and Madrid. One of the quotes that resonated with me while reading this section was “With that, Real Madrid’s rise to the very pinnacle of global football began.” This struck me as I thought about how Real Madrid and its fiercest rival, FC Barcelona are the arguably the most powerful sports teams in the world.

Looking back on Real Madrid and FC Barcelona’s win records its clear that both teams dominate La Liga by a huge margin, with 32 and 22 La Liga championship wins respectively. Both of their records are significantly higher than the next runner up, Atletico Madrid, which has 10 La Liga wins. After some investigation it seems like these teams have drastically better performance due to their dominance in popularity and political significance in Spain, especially over the last half century. Through the support of the government and people of Spain, both teams have been able to secure significant advantages over other teams in La Liga. As mentioned earlier, Real Madrid had the support of a government which used intimidation tactics to support their victories in the early 1940s. Later, in the 1950s, when most teams in La Liga had a cap of three imported players, both Barcelona and Real Madrid were able to maneuver around this cap to secure the best players for their teams. Leniencies such as these combined with the popularity of both teams have snowballed into making these teams far more powerful than they may have otherwise been. Furthermore some leniencies continue to this day, with many arguing that Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2 game ban during Real Madrid’s match at Cordoba this year was far too lenient for hitting another player. Both teams have benefitted hugely from their rivalry, the money and popularity associated with it, and its early beginnings which have propelled both teams significantly ahead of all other teams in La Liga.

2 thoughts on “Does History Matter: The Rise of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona

  1. Danielle Lazarus

    I studied in Madrid last semester, and it turned me into a HUGE Real fan (honestly, it’s pretty impossible for anyone not to when you’re there). Yet the only reservation I had about my new fandom was that it was too easy in a way–they were coming off of La Decima, I watched 20/22 games of their historic 22-game win streak in Madrid, and, maybe the most important thing that led to my fandom (as sad as it sounds) was that I actually knew the club’s name before I came to Spain (I hardly followed soccer outside of SOMETIMES the Philadelphia Union before being plunged into La Liga), so they must’ve been really, really, really good already. After reading The Ball is Round as well and learning about Franco’s regime and his love of Real Madrid when I was in Madrid, I won’t lie, it added another strange-feeling dimension to my fandom. However, at the end of the day, I am an unapologetic Real Madrid fan, because, as many other people have addressed in this blog, fandom is a pretty indescribable concept, and has the ability to transcend many, many things (from hitting other players to corrupt political dictators, I guess). Also, let Cristiano off easy, he IS the best in the world.

  2. Hyun Moh (John) Shin

    Personally, I worry that the rivalry, with such an astronomical amount of benefit that both clubs are getting at, may lead either clubs to just indulge into spending sprees every season. Some of the transfers that both clubs have made for the past couple of seasons feel more out of “not letting the other club sign the player” rather than necessities (still think the signing of James Rodriguez for RM and Luis Suarez for BC last year exemplify the out-of-spiral transfer policies of both clubs..)


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