Despite all the ways modern football is making fans fall in love with the game quickly – from VAR to ESL-mad Diehards around the world – one particular club in Bilbao holds the soul of the game on Live by doing things differently from the rest.
Athletic Club are that team. As football becomes increasingly globalized and marketed, the Basque ballers have refused to bow to the pressures of time and are unique in their care for tradition.
More recently, the Athletic Club broke convention by becoming the first club to play two finals of the same tournament in two weeks. But despite the results that don’t find their way in the Copa Del Rey, the Athletic Club will never lose its commitment to being unconventionally conventional.
While elite clubs across Europe change structure, management and staff from season to season, The Cantera is the Athletic Club’s unbreakable link to the Basque community. The Cantera policy is an obligation to ensure that every single first-team player is brought up in a Basque manner. Every athletic baller is Basque in one way or another. The players are either born in the region or come through the famous “Lezama” academy of Athletic or the youth system of another club in the seven historical provinces of “Euskal Herria”.
Athletes even have an age-old proverb to consolidate their stance: “Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación”, which translates as: “With local talent and fans, there is no need for imports”. The Athletic Club is not just about an empty platitude or a tricky club motto, but about community.
The Athletic Bilbao fan base also has another model of success. Instead of prioritizing results or cutlery, success is seen through the acceptance of peaks and valleys. For the believers of Bilbao, Athletic’s support goes deeper than the results. Before COVID, the San Mames Stadium was regularly filled with 55,000 enthusiastic fans. Footballers around the world long for a matchday return, but no more than in Bilbao. Rightly known as La Catedral, the matchday stadium is truly biblical – and whether Athletic wins or loses, you know the storefront will be deeply spiritual.
By fighting the system and representing more than one soccer team, Los Leones has become one of the most popular soccer clubs of modern times. After doing things on its own terms since 1898 – good times and bad – the Athletic Club has created something unique, magical and belonging. In the age of mercenary shooters, petrodollars, and sportswearmen, the unbreakable authenticity and identity of the Athletic Club has brought them closer to their community than any other club in Europe.
With the new home jersey from Athletic Club and New Balance for the 2021/22 season, the club wears this incomparable authenticity on its sleeves, with a modern interpretation of the legendary red and white vertical stripes of racing, which pay tribute to the eternal local influence of the club. The intersection of the famous stripes reflects the diagonal line of the iconic Athletic Club crest and reflects what the identity of the Athletic Club feels like across the Basque Country.
Club captain Iker Muniain said: “This year’s jersey means a lot to the team. It is a reminder of the special connection we have with the Basque people. Whenever we wear the colors of the Athletic Club, we know the fans are with us. ”
At a time when greed has left its ugly head in the game, Athletic Club are living proof that clubs can still be something more than just a commodity – but a community.
The Athletic Club 21/22 home shirt is now available at newbalance.com/football.