On the 23rd of May 1937, just a little less than a month after the bombing and destruction of Gernika by the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion, Raimundo Pérez Lezama and his younger brother Luis boarded the SS Habana, an old steamship tasked with transporting Basque refugee children, who became known as Los Niños de La Guerra (The Children of War), to the safety of British shores. Continue reading “Raimundo Lezama: Child of War”
The Theatre of Dreams rose in unison, applauding the victors with mutual appreciation and respect, despite a deep midst of unsettling disappointment and frustration. For a fan base that fiercely craves aggressive attacking football, there was a sense of great privilege at what they had just witnessed.
The masterful intensity of Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao had been somehow matched by the vociferous travelling support as the Basque side humbled Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, running amok on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford. Continue reading “The Brief and Intense Story of Bielsa in Bilbao”
During the press conference to announce his retirement, midfielder Xabi Prieto uttered the words that every football fan wants to hear from their club captain.
‘My dream wasn’t to be a footballer, but to be a La Real player.’
It was a simple yet eloquent turn of phrase that epitomised Xabi Prieto’s service and dedication to his club. Continue reading “Xabi Prieto: Kapitaina”
“Sarabia o yo” Javier Clemente, never one to mince words, said. The ultimatum, one of many such declarations, was given to his superiors in October 1985. It was a miscalculated bid to come out on top of the chaos that had arisen from his very public fall out with star player, Manuel Sarabia López. Continue reading “Javier Clemente and the Last of the Champions”
Communities across the Basque Country are united by a flag, a language and a way of life they have fought to retain.
This solidarity makes Basque football a complex beast. The rivalry between the two biggest clubs in the region, Athletic Club of Bilbao and Real Sociedad of San Sebastián, is particularly intricate. Meetings between Athletic and La Real are characterised by the passion and intensity of the most fiercely competitive derbies in the world, but without the same depths of animosity. Continue reading “When Alavés took on Europe – and nearly won”
The nickname ‘El Rey León’ was given to Athletic Club’s attacking-midfielder Julen Guerrero in part as a reference to his floppy, blonde locks, but mostly it’s a recognition of his loyalty to the club he loved and his prowess as a player. If you were to head into the city of Bilbao and ask anyone between the ages of twenty-five and forty who their favourite ever Athletic player is, the response would most likely be swift and unambiguous, Julen Guerrero. Continue reading “Julen Guerrero: The Lion King”
“You can take away the record, but not the pride.” Alberto Gorriz.
For thirty-eight years it stood, and for many of those years it stood alone. The last in a long line of records that had slowly but surely succumbed to the land’s powerhouse duo, Barcelona and Real Madrid. It also served as a reminder of a time when Spanish football wasn’t dominated by those two. A hark back to one those brief moments that seem to skip generations where a club or two break their confines, escape the middle-table status imposed upon them, roll up their sleeves and set their sights firmly on the chin of the big two, hoping that if they hit hard enough it might be able to force a wobble, or even a knockdown, even if it’s just momentary. For Real Sociedad, the first punch thrown came in 1979/80. It wasn’t a knockout blow, but it did enough damage to ensure that Basque football got its renaissance, and that La Real got their own passage in the annals of footballing history. This is the story of Alberto Ormaetxea and his unbeaten legends. Continue reading “Real Sociedad: Thirty-Eight Years Unbeaten”