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Soccer players never get tired of playing the game.

That’s what this page is all about.

Where your FIRST TOUCH SOCCER book ends, the FREE KICK page begins.

It’s a chance for you to learn more about Barcelona … and for me to talk about some of the great stories I couldn’t squeeze into the book.

Scroll down to get the latest news … and to learn more about Spanish soccer. And check out some of the cool collectibles I have in my home.

If you have any questions about my work, please EMAIL me and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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Lionel Messi
Photo by L.F. Salas

 

What’s up with Barcelona

April 23, 2017: Lionel Messi scored two goals against Real Madrid in a 3–2 victory. His winning goal in stoppage time (the few extra minutes referees add at the end of a half) was his 500th for Barcelona.

     
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Copa del Rey
Photo courtesy of ACruz319

 

Barcelona plays in La Liga, which is Spanish for The League. There are 20 clubs in La Liga. Each plays 38 games—one home and one away against the other 19 clubs. The teams with the poorest records are moved down (or “relegated”) from the Primera Division (First Division) to the Segunda Division (Second Division) of Spanish soccer. A playoff helps to decide the clubs that move up to replace them.


Each year, Spanish soccer clubs compete in a tournament for the Copa del Rey (King’s Cup). Fans call it “La Copa” for short. Barcelona won La Copa for the 28th time in 2016—more than any other club.

 

     
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Laszlo Kubala
© Rikard Magazine

 

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Rivaldo
© Futera FZ

 

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Neymar Jr.
© Panini

 

More treasures from the author’s collection!


Jose Samitier — Midfielder
1919–1932
Jose Samitier was one of Barcelona’s first great players. So many people wanted to see him in the early 1920s that the club had to move to a bigger stadium. Samitier could shoot equally well with either foot, and scored many goals on headers. He scored 333 goals for Barcelona during his career.


Laszlo Kubala — Forward
1950–1961
Laszlo Kubala fled Hungary after World War II and played his first league match with Barcelona in 1951. Over the next 10 seasons, hardly a game went by when he did not score a goal or set up one of his teammates. In 1958, Kubala helped to bring two fellow Hungarian stars—Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor—to the club.


Migueli — Defender
1973–1988
With Migueli (Miguel Bernardo Bianquetti) anchoring its defense, Barcelona won 11 major trophies, including the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1979 and 1982. Migueli had a rock-solid body and a booming shot. Fans nicknamed him “Tarzan.”


Johann Cruyff — Forward
1973–1978
In 1973, Barcelona paid more than $2 million for Dutch star Johann Cruyff. At the time it was the highest transfer fee in the history of soccer. Cruyff saw the game and played the game like no one else. He made Barcelona one of the great teams in Europe, first as a player and later as a manager (head coach).


Pep Guardiola — Midfielder
1990–2001
Josep “Pep” Guardiola signed with Barcelona at the age of 13 and worked his way up to the senior team while he was still a teenager. Guardiola was a creative passer and great defensive player. He became team captain in 1997 and later used his knowledge of soccer to become a winning manager for Barcelona.


Rivaldo — Midfielder
1997–2002
Rivaldo (Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira) used his dribbling and shooting skills to become Barcelona’s most dangerous scorer for five amazing seasons. He is most famous for scoring on an overhead bicycle kick at the end of the 2001 season. The goal helped Barcelona qualify for the Champions League.


Neymar Jr. — Forward
2013–
Neymar Jr. (Neymar da Silva Santos Junior) joined Barcelona for the 2013–14 La Liga season and showed he was worth every penny of his enormous transfer fee. He drove defenses crazy by attacking from every part of the field. His explosive speed makes him a threat to score whenever Barcelona has the ball.

     
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Johann Cruyff
© Barratt Ltd.

 

 

Did You Know?

• Before Lionel Messi became Barcelona’s goal-scoring king, Paulino Alcantara held the record with 369. He scored those goals in just 357 games. Alcantara played for Barcelona from 1912 to 1927.

• In 1936, many Barcelona players picked up rifles to fight for freedom in Spain’s bloody Civil War.

• In 1986, Barcelona drew more than 120,000 fans to a European Cup match against the Italian club Juventus.

• Barcelona’s youth academy trains hundreds of players each year. It was started by Johann Cruyff. Its “graduates” include Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi Hernandez.

• In 2009, Barcelona became the first club to win a “sextuple” (six titles in the same season): La Liga championship, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, Champions League, and Club World Cup.

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