GPB Águilas: A pioneering spirit in the region of Murcia
REPORTS 19 Feb 2020 - Supporters' Clubs World Confederation
The largest FC Barcelona supporters’ club in the region of Murcia was also the first to organise a Supporters’ Meeting outside Catalonia
In the summer of 1971, around fifty FC Barcelona supporters residing in the coastal city of Águilas decided to get to work on one idea they had been mulling over for some time: to create the first FC Barcelona supporters’ club not only in the city, but the entire region of Murcia. As a result, next year the Gran Peña Barcelonista de Águilas was officialised with an institutional visit by then president of FC Barcelona, Agustí Montal.
The main driving force behind this supporters’ club was José María López Casado, who served as president for 40 years: “I was born in Águilas, but my family soon moved to Barcelona. When I came back, 29 years later, I was a member of FC Barcelona, and the passion for this club was a big part of my life, so I knew I wanted to create a supporters’ club with all the other Barça supporters in the city”. He is currently the club’s honorary president.
Once active, the supporters’ club quickly took off, so much so that it reached more than 850 members within the first year. In the first few years, the club played a key role in promoting sport in the city. “Thanks to us, the city of Águilas was able to start its first women’s basketball and handball teams, and we also sponsored other local teams”, López Casado recalls. Parallel to this, they also organised recreational and cultural initiatives for the benefit of the entire city, such as pushing for a Three Wise Men Day Parade through the city’s streets.
New paths for the Supporters’ Meeting
The GPB Águilas holds a very special distinction within the movement: it was the first supporters’ club to organise a Supporters’ Meeting outside Catalonia. The Meeting was held in 1991, year of the club’s 20th anniversary, and organising it was no easy task. “Moving the event to a location outside Catalonia meant breaking with one of the Club’s long-standing traditions. But thanks to our perseverance, the supporters’ clubs community accepted the proposal and the 15th Supporters’ Meeting in Águilas became a reality”, explains the honorary president.
The event took place in late September and was attended by all members of FC Barcelona’s Board of Directors, headed by president Josep Lluís Núñez. The two days the meeting lasted included numerous sporting, recreational and cultural events, all of which revolved around FC Barcelona, and everyone was astonished by the passion inspired by this club in Murcia. By hosting this event, the GPB Águilas, as well as the city of Águilas, became pioneers in the movement, as well as a point of reference for all FC Barcelona supporters’ clubs outside Catalonia with an aspiration to organise a Meeting.
Support for all teams
A couple of times each season, members of the GPB Águilas travel to Barcelona to watch the first team play. Yet their visits are not limited to this. “Every time we go to Barcelona we really take advantage of the weekend; we see which teams are playing at home and go to as many matches as possible. We love to cheer on Barça B and the women’s first team, but we also make sure not to miss out on handball, hockey or futsal”, remarks Miguel Ángel Soler, the club’s current president.
Historically, the GPB Águilas has been present at all of the Club’s major European milestones: the 1979 and 1989 European Cup Winners' Cup Final in Basel and Bern, the first European Cup in Wembley in 1992... At all of them, members of the supporters’ club were in the stands. And, more recently, more than twenty club members attended the last two King Cup finals in Madrid and Seville. This year, they hope to repeat the experience and celebrate a new FC Barcelona title.