PB Perpinyà: “We feel very close to Barça, and very far at the same time”

President of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, with supporters some years ago. / PB Perpinyà

REPORTS 27 Apr 2021 - Supporters' Clubs World Confederation

The penya, based in the French town in North Catalonia, is viewed as the social and sporting link between the two Catalonias

They are 197 km away from Camp Nou, but that doesn’t make them any less devoted than their peers in the city of Barcelona. There is something about the Penya Barcelonista Perpinyà that makes them very different to any other supporters’ club. Located in Perpignan, just across the French border, the supporters share the same cultural identity as their cousins to the south, as well as the same immeasurable love for everything Barça. “We feel very close to FC Barcelona but at the same time very far”, says its president, Thierry Teixidor. “Every time we go to the stadium it’s 400 km there and back, four hours of driving. And passion for football isn’t experienced the same way on the two sides of the Pyrenees.”

The ‘Penya’ exists in the peculiar duality of being located within French territory, yet also being part of North Catalonia, and indeed it belongs to the Federation of Penyes of l’Empordà and North Catalonia. Because Perpignan shares such historic ties to Catalan language and culture, the president feels the supporters’ club represents “a social and sporting bond between two Catalonias” and is very closely tied into the meaning behind “Més que un Club”: “It makes us feel a part of it, despite the distance. Such an identity is a strong attraction for Northern Catalans, because through the football club we build a sense of identity and unity”, says Thierry.

Rise in the eighties

The PB Perpinyà was founded in 1985 by two football lovers, Jaume Roure and André Auset, who regularly went to see games in Barcelona. They were also high up in the business and cultural worlds of Perpignan, and with a dozen or so friends they decided to form the first official penya in Northern Catalonia. “From the eighties, there were increasingly more people who wanted to go and watch Barça and see the fabulous Camp Nou stadium, and it was a natural progression to start organising a structure that was able to take large numbers of people to Barcelona”, says Thierry. They have especially fond memories of a trip to Turin in that era. Barça were playing Juventus, and they filled as many as eight coaches with supporters who went to support the team in person.

With much effort and loyalty, the supporters’ club kept growing to its peak of 300 in the 2008/09 season. The numbers have dropped by half since, due to the internationalisation of the movement, as there are now new penyas in Banyuls, Rosselló, Cabestany, Prats de Molló, Prades and Colliure, the most recent. They are also very proud of holding the 1995 Penyes Meeting, only the second time the event was held outside of Spain, after Andorra. “It was a huge honour”, remembers Thierry Teixidor with pride.

Activity on hold

All of the penya’s activities are now on standby, but everyone is keen for things to get back to normal. The PB Perpinyà puts on events every year, such as the end-of-season dinner and Christmas gatherings to eat the Three Wise Men Day cakes. Its youth football teams regularly travel to play in Barcelona and the club works in close association with La Bressola School of Catalan, which is looking to recover the language and culture in France. The club also works closely with local charities for families and Alzheimer patients, and is continually coming up with new fundraising ideas.

The penya is always highly implicated in any other events that take place in the city, and has been described as “privileged interlocutor” with the municipality, local associations and even the Catalan Government’s building in Perpignan.