Barça and Joventut de Badalona face off this Sunday in a Catalan duel (6.30pm, #Vamos) that recalls those of bygone eras, when the two teams competed for the top positions in the standings. The fans have in their imagination a handful of players who helped make this type of match great. The Catalans are proud of Nacho Solozábal, Epi and Audie Norris, while the Badalones proudly remember Rafa Jofresa, Josep Maria Margall and Corny Thompson. There are players, such as the current Nico Laprovittola, Pau Ribas and Ante Tomic, who have defended the shirts of both teams. This is the case, for example, of José Antonio Montero, Andrés Jiménez and Ricky Rubio.
What few fans know is that some icons of the past were about to change sides. Journalist Santi Escribano uses the book Stories of Joventut (Ediciones JC) to bring to light two rather unknown stories. The first has to do with Jordi Villacampa, who was on the verge of signing for Barça on two occasions. “Is Villacampa the most important name in the history of the Peña? There are opinions for all tastes, but what is undeniable is that it is, yes or no, a name that when you hear it you think of the Youth of Badalona. But the story could have been different, at least twice, “says the Madrid journalist. The first was when he was still a marrec, a player in the children’s category, and one day he went to do a test with Epi, Solozábal and Sibilio. His performance convinced the Catalan leaders, but his father did not see it clearly. That’s when the Youth found out and signed him.
The second chance came in 1994, when Villacampa had just won the Euroleague with the Youth. The winger went to see Hristo Stoichkov, with whom he had a friendly relationship, and the meeting ended with a hint from Joan Gaspart and a formal offer from Josep Lluís Núñez. The problem is that the Barça club only offered one-season contracts to players over the age of 30 and Villacampa asked for a three-season contract.
The second story has to do with Pau Gasol, who trained with the Joventut de Badalona for two months. Enrique Campos, then director of the Penya Basketball School, discovered the young man at an event organized by Nike at the trade show. The pivot, who at that time played for Cornellà, a team linked to Barça, worked under the orders of Miquel Nolis, but at that time no one knew how to intuit the great potential that this thin and soft boy was hiding.