Mar
15
2008
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Manel Vich – Barca’s voice

For 51 years, Manel Vich has been the voice of Barcelona as the announcer at the legendary Camp Nou stadium. The 69-year-old is a living encyclopedia of the Catalan club and Spanish and world football in general.

FM: Are you aware that after 51 years as the stadium announcer at Barcelona, you have become an institution at the club?
Manel Vich: What begun as a bit of fun has become a 51-year career. And I’m sTill here. I consider myself very fortunate as I don’t have any contractual arrangement with Barcelona. I’m just an ordinary season ticket holder and for someone in my position to be able to do what I do is a dream. My job is therefore not only a source of satisfaction but also a source of pride.

What is most remarkable is that you are unpaid and have never earned a penny from Barcelona. Has it never occurred to you that you should have received a fee?
Vich: I have never asked for anyt and I have never been ofaered anyt. but I have something that cam* bought, the great true friendsh have made over the years with presidents and directors. Things that are priceless.

Of all Barcelona’s stars of the past 50 years, who has impressed you the most?
Vich: With the exception of Pele and Di Stefano, T have announced the entrance of nit the best players in the world in a Barcelona shirt. Its very difficult to single out just one. although in my view Ladislao Kuhala was perhaps rhc greatest. Following his arrival, he was so successful that the club outgrew the old stadium at Les Corts and had to build a new one-the Camp Nou. There wasn’t enough space for all the fans. As a person he was ven charismatic, really magnificent. He gave everything. He couldn’t bear to see anyone from Hungary or any Eastern European country with problems. Sometimes he would even take off his coac and give it away.

And who would you put in second place in your list of Barcelona greats?
Vich: Ro n a 1 d i n h o. Another phenomenal player. He’s the second Kubala. When he signed, Barcelona were at a low ebb and he turned the club around, he allowed us to dream again and has given us three unforgettable seasons. He has been brilliant in even-way and is a wonderful person. He is straightforward, humble, good to his iriends and no prima donna.

How did you become Barcelona’s announcer at the Les Corts stadium in 1956, the year before the Camp Nou was inaugurated?
Vich: I uas a sports reporter on local radio and the head of personnel at Les Corts told me that he didn’t have any set person to read out the line-ups. One person did it one day and another the next. He said, ”If you want, you can start next Sunday.”
One Sunday became another and then the seasons also started to roll by. Presidents, directors, players all come and go, but I’m still here. I never imagined that I would be here for life. I have only missed three matches: two when I had an operation to remove a cancer in my kidney and the other when my daughter got married. My wife. Blanca, has never complained because she knows how passionate I am about it. She has had to sutler the annoyance of not being able to go to places because of football but she has put up with it very well and has always supported me.

In these 51 years, have you ever wished the ground would swallow you up because of a mistake you have made?
Vich: I remember that once we signed a Paraguayan player called Romerito. He was only at the club for two or three weeks and one Sunday after he had left. I included him in the line-up. I don’t know why his name came out of my mouth. The whole crowd started to laugh and I wanted 10 hide under the table.

After 51 years at Barcelona, your house must be like a club museum.
Vich: I have a lot of shirts, scarves and photos, but if I had imagined at the beginning that this would be a long-term job, I would have kept hold of everything; and would have a museum to rival the club’s official museum.

How long do you intend to continue as Barcelona’s announcer?
Vich: As long as God and the club allow me. I’m not going to leave voluntarily. The advantage I have is that I have no financial link to the club and no contract. If they tell me I’m finished, I’ll go back to my season ticket holder’s seat, which I have always paid fot religiously, even though I dont know where it is because I’ve never sat there.

How did you feel when Ronaldinho dedicated his goal against Real Betis to you last November?
Vich: I asked him on the day that Barcelona were playing Almeria if I could have his shirt after the match. He didn’t play well and was substituted and I thought that he would be in a bad mood and wouldn’t remember about my shirt because he must have been furious when he went back to the dressing room. Bui after the match, he sent me the shirt through a club employee. At the next match, against Betis, I thanked him for the shirt. I said that he was a man of his word and that he was going to score a goal in front of the north stand, where my gantry is, and that I would be watching from above. I only said it to give him some encouragement, without expecting anything in return. He chuckled and went off to the dressing room. But when he dedicated the goal to me, it was incredible. The next day he came round to my house and said he was really graceful and that what I had said had raised his spirits. He spent a couple of hours at my house with my whole family. He is unaffected, humane, polite, courteous and affectionate, the opposite of a prima donna. And we’ve been friends ever since.

Which player from an opposing team has been the most poorly received in the history of the Camp Nou?
Vich: The loudest whistling I’ve ever heard was lor former Barcelona player Luis Figo the first time he came back to the Camp Nou wearing a Real Madrid shirt. Half the continent must have heard it.