FC Barcelona’s first friendly match of the pre-season is against Olot (Wednesday 7:00 p.m. CEST, live worldwide on Barça TV+). Here’s the lowdown on the lower league club which celebrates its centenary this year.
Where do they come from?
Olot is a town of about 35,000 inhabitants located about 50 km from Girona, in the foothills of the Catalan Pyrenees. It is particularly known for its stunning natural environment, including four volcanoes.
The city’s first football matches were played in 1902, organized by Joaquim Peris de Vargas, who was president of FC Barcelona from 1915 to 15). A soldier who spent his summers in Olot, he was a close friend of Joan Gamper, and in 1912 he invited the founder of Barça to join him on vacation in Olot. They spent the time building a solid squad, ready for their very first match in September of the same year against none other than FC Barcelona, including a very young Paulino Alcantarathe team’s first real superstar.
This club only lasted three years. Although modern times Unió Esportiva Olot grew out of these developments, it was not officially founded until 1921, and Wednesday’s game is among its 100e birthday parties.
Curiously, the club originally wore a Blaugrana strip modeled after Barca’s, but under Franco’s dictatorship they were forced to switch to white. They now wear red shirts with blue shorts.
The club’s original crest also had a very similar design to Barca’s, but that too had to be changed under the Fascist regime, and the current design is very different.
UE Olot has spent its entire history in the lower leagues, playing most seasons in the former Third Division (fourth tier), but often dropping much lower. The past decade has seen them climb to their highest level ever, the third tier 2B division, but following the pyramid restructuring they have started 2021/22 in the fifth tier Tercera División RFEF, two tiers below. Barca B.
Manresa topped the division, but Olot successfully negotiated the playoffs to earn a head-to-head with Tenerife B for a place in this season’s Segunda División RFEF. They won 1-0 after extra time.
The club has developed a policy of only fielding players brought up in youth systems from Catalan-speaking areas.
Current under coach Manix Mandiolathe team is entirely amateur but includes some players with previous experience as professionals, including the defender Alan Baro (Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners in Australia), midfielders Eloi Amagat (Girona and New City in MLS) and Hector Simon (Espanyol), and striker Jordi Xumetra (Elche, Levante and Zaragoza).
The Municipal Stadium holds 4,000 spectators and is expected to sell out for this game. It has a natural grass pitch which, according to an unverified legend, was made to be exactly the same size as Barca’s pitch at the time. Les Corts. The very first match on the ground after it opened in 1955 was played between the youth teams of Olot and Barça.
The Olot training ground, royalverdis famous for the quality of its turf, which has been used in stadiums such as San Mames (athletic club), RCDE Stadium (Espanyol) and the Wanda Metropolitano (Atletico Madrid).
Olot have been regular opponents of Barca B over the years, but although there have been ten friendlies for FC Barcelona senior team in the past, this will be the first since a 3-1 win for Barca in 1980, when Helenio Herrera was in charge and liked to schedule midweek friendlies against the local opposition for his players.
The Olot ground was also recently visited by Barca Players Group veterans (see photo above).