Original article by Supporters’ Clubs World Confederation, here.
PB Washington DC: “Being a ‘culer’ is a universal sentiment”
The American supporters’ club collaborates on an ongoing basis with DC Scores, a local charity organisation for children at risk of social exclusion
Located in the heart of the capital, the Penya Barcelonista de Washington DC has brought together around 200 supporters since January 2011. The supporters’ club was the brainchild of Raimon Puigjaner, a staunch ‘culer’ from Catalonia who was living and working in Washington and assiduously frequented one of the city’s most popular sports bars. There he met a dozen-odd people who, together, created a business card with a shared e-mail address. Whenever they saw someone wearing a Barça shirt or talking about the Club, they approached them and handed them their card. Over time, and with a great deal of hard work, they set up a website and numerous social media profiles in efforts to reach more people, while they completed all the steps necessary to become an official supporters’ club.
In summer 2011, the first team played a friendly against Manchester United in Washington DC. “It was a big honour for us to organise a meeting at our headquarters, which was attended by 160 supporters”, explains Mark Roth, president of the ‘penya’. The guest of honour was Sandro Rossell, then president of FC Barcelona, who welcomed the supporters’ club into the movement.
“Being so far from Barcelona makes it difficult to get involved in the day-to-day Barça activities, such as matches or charity events. Despite this, we are extremely grateful when the team visits the United States during the preseason, as this gives supporters’ club members who are unable to travel to Camp Nou the chance to experience Barça first-hand”, remarks Sara Adkins-Blanch, vice-president of the supporters’ club, who goes on to add that, “being a ‘culer’ is a universal sentiment that all supporters’ club members share, both near and far”. A prime example is the club’s presence at all Pan-American Penyes meetings.
Involvement with DC Scores
The aim of the supporters’ club is to maintain a network for Barça fans in Washington, making sure they can watch all the matches, promoting social responsibility and supporting local charity projects. As a result, since its creation, it has maintained an ongoing collaboration with DC Scores, an organisation that helps children at risk of social exclusion through an after-school activities programme. It builds a sense of community through sport and learning, with initiatives such as football teams, poetry workshops and community service activities.
The tie between the two institutions was formalised by Aaron Plantenberg, a former supporters’ club member and volunteer. Each year, the PB Washington DC donates $1,000 and contributes in the form of sports equipment and volunteer work at charity events such as the Fall Frenzy and Spring Jamboree tournaments, in which the ‘penya’ organises a penalty competition. Mark Roth, club president and avid photographer, also takes photographs of the events, which he sometimes sells to raise funds for charitable purposes.
On the other hand, according to Anthony Francavilla, chief development officer of DC Scores, “for years, volunteers had a lot of difficulties getting the kids to play goalie. But ever since 2012, when the supporters’ club donated a goalkeeper kit for each team, the players love standing in goal and are extremely proud of their distinctive kits”.
Sport as a charitable tool
In efforts to keep members actively involved, the supporters’ club organises a number of social events throughout the year, as well as an annual winter party in which they raffle away a selection of Barça merchandise. “Although most purchase it in the Barça store at Camp Nou when we go to the stadium, the most popular gift is definitely the ‘caganers’ of the players”, explains the vice-president. Whenever the opportunity arises, they travel to Barcelona to visit the museum or cheer on the team from the stands. A dozen club members actually attended last December’s match against Real Madrid.
This season, the supporters’ club is poised to celebrate its tenth anniversary, and some of its plans for the future include the creation of a youth-league football team, sending a few DC Scores participants to the Barça Academy Summer Camp in Washington and raising funds to improve the situation of children with cancer.