Dictatorship and The Spanish Civil War
On 14 June 1925, in a spontaneous reaction against Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship, the crowd in the stadium jeered the Royal March. As a reprisal, the ground was closed for six months and Gamper was forced to relinquish the presidency of the club. This coincided with the transition to professional football, and, in 1926, the directors of Barcelona publicly claimed, for the first time, to operate a professional football club. On 3 July 1927, the club held a second testimonial match for Paulino Alcántara, against the Spanish national team. To kick off the match, local journalist and pilot Josep Canudas dropped the ball onto the pitch from his airplane.
In 1928, victory in the Spanish Cup was celebrated with a poem titled “Oda a Platko”, which was written by a member of the Generation of ’27, Rafael Alberti, inspired by the heroic performance of the Barcelona goalkeeper, Franz Platko. Two years after the victory, on 30 July 1930, Gamper committed suicide after a period of depression brought on by personal and financial problems.
Although they continued to have players of the standing of Josep Escolà, the club now entered a period of decline, in which political conflict overshadowed sports throughout society. Attendance at matches dropped as the citizens of Barcelona were occupied with discussing political matters. Although the team won the Campionat de Catalunya in 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1936 and 1938,success at a national level (with the exception of the 1937 disputed title) evaded them.
A month after the Spanish Civil War began in 1936, several players from Barcelona enlisted in the ranks of those who fought against the military uprising, along with players from Athletic Bilbao. On 6 August, Falangist soldiers near Guadarrama murdered club president Josep Sunyol, a representative of the pro-independence political party. He was dubbed the martyr of barcelonisme, and his murder was a defining moment in the history of FC Barcelona and Catalan identity. In the summer of 1937, the squad was on tour in Mexico and the United States, where it was received as an ambassador of the Second Spanish Republic. The tour led to the financial security of the club, but also resulted in half of the team seeking asylum in Mexico and France, making it harder for the remaining team to contest for trophies.
On 16 March 1938, Barcelona came under aerial bombardment from the Italian Air Force, causing more than 3,000 deaths, with one of the bombs hitting the club’s offices. A few months later, Catalonia came under occupation and as a symbol of the “undisciplined” Catalanism, the club, now down to just 3,486 members, faced a number of restrictions. All signs of regional nationalism, including language, flag and other signs of separatism were banned throughout Spain. The Catalan flag was banned and the club were prohibited from using non-Spanish names. These measures forced the club to change its name to Club de Fútbol Barcelona and to remove the Catalan flag from its crest.
In 1943, Barcelona faced rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals of Copa del Generalísimo. The first match at Les Corts was won by Barcelona 3–0. Before the second leg, Franco’s director of state security visited Barcelona’s players in the changing room. He reminded them that they were only playing due to the “generosity of the regime”. Real Madrid comfortably won the match, beating Barcelona 11–1.
Despite the difficult political situation, CF Barcelona enjoyed considerable success during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1945, with Josep Samitier as coach and players like César, Ramallets and Velasco, they won La Liga for the first time since 1929. They added two more titles in 1948 and 1949. In 1949, they also won the first Copa Latina. In June 1950, Barcelona signed Ladislao Kubala, who was to be an important figure at the club.
On a rainy Sunday of 1951, the crowd left Les Corts stadium after a 2–1 win against Santander by foot, refusing to catch any trams, and surprising the Francoist authorities. The reason was simple: at the same time, a tram strike was taking place in Barcelona, receiving the support of blaugrana fans. Events like this made CF Barcelona represent much more than just Catalonia and many progressive Spaniards saw the club as a staunch defender of rights and freedoms.
Coach Fernando Daucik and Ladislao Kubala, regarded by many as the club’s best player, inspired the team to several different trophies in 1952, including La Liga, the Copa del Generalísimo, the Copa Latina, the Copa Eva Duarte and the Copa Martini Rossi. In 1953, they helped the club win La Liga and the Copa del Generalísimo again.