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Barça's first Dutchman

Kluivert, Koeman, the De Boer, Reiziger, Overmars, Zenden ... and especially the two Johan, Cruyff and Neeskens. There is everything in the list of Dutch players who have played for Barça. Forwards, defenders and even goalkeepers. Cillessen right now. And even more: Davids, Jordi Cruyff, Van Bronckhorst ... But there is an enigmatic name, a Dutchman who we could not say he signed for Barça, but he did play: Gert Bals. Who was Bals and when did he play for Barça? This is the story of Barça's first Dutchman, just before Cruyff.

Before Cruyff and Neeskens, goalkeeper Gert Bals played for Barça

Gerrit Bals was born in Utrecht on October 18, 1936 and was a first-class goalkeeper in his home country.

Gert Bals

From 1961 to 1965 he defended the goal of PSV Eindhoven and then, until 1970, that of Ajax Amsterdam, where he had Rinus Michels as coach and Johan Cruyff among his teammates. With Ajax he played in the final of the 1969 European Cup (which took Milan 4-1, at the Santiago Bernabeu and refereed by Ortiz de Mendíbil). It was the first warning of the great Ajax, then triple European champion (1971, 72 and 73). But that day was still not enough and the Italians, with Gianni Rivera in the picture, swept it. Finally, in 1970, Bals gave way to Heinz Stuy and went to Vitesse, where in 1973, at the age of 36, he folded.

And when did he play for Barça? This is the curious story ...

Summer of 1973. The Barça coach is already Michels and the signing of Cruyff is stopped. In fact, the Catalan and Dutch press say that everything has been broken for good, that there is nothing to do. On 1 August, the Barça first team went on tour in Europe and lost weight: goalkeeper Pere Valentí Mora, injured in a major party match in Calella. Sadurní remains the starter and the Barça Atlètic goalkeeper, the young Menorcan Joan Capó, 18, also travels for an emergency.

The team moves to Papendal and the first match of the tour is set for Saturday the 4th, against Fortuna Düsseldorf. But just the day before Sadurní falls ill and only Capó remains. Michels doesn't want to put so much pressure on the young man from Ciutadella and moves his threads. He remembers Bals and locates him. Bals, just retired, must still be in good shape, he thinks. Said and done. And in this way the veteran Bals was able to explain to his relatives that, one day, he was the titular goalkeeper of Barça.

Without Mora or Sadurní, Michels rescued him from retirement and he was at Barça for a day

The match was played on the field of Fortuna and what Bals may not have explained so enthusiastically is that they scored three goals. A tie at three was the result, with this starting lineup: Bals, De la Cruz, Gallego, Juan Carlos, Laredo, Costas, Carreño, Cos, Juanito, Pérez and Rexach. It's hard to believe that these names (partly because they lack important people like Cruyff and Sotil) would make a Fable League a few months later, still today the most resounding victory for Barça of all time.

Cruyff and Bals, when they played at Ajax

But back to Düsseldorf. Capó did not play and in fact never played an official match with Barça. He was, for many years, the owner of Sabadell and also played for Celta. Bals returned to his quiet retirement with a good anecdote in his pocket and Cruyff ... a week later he said: "Either sign for Barça or hang up your boots". Then yes, Ajax finally decided to negotiate seriously and the rest of the story is already well known enough.

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