Athletic is something else, there is no doubt. His philosophy, his way of being in football, makes him look at him with special respect. Until the separatist pulls of the Transition, with its hateful accompaniment of ETA crimes, every Spanish fan was the Athletic supporter in the first or second instance. Second, if there was an important team in your town; First of all, if there wasn’t one, cases, for example, from the southern plateau, the north of Andalusia, Extremadura… All Basques, all from the quarry, numerous contributions to the national team, brave and noble style. It passed but there is still an ember. The tribute to Iribar for his 80 years has shown it.
It’s been more than 40 years since they separated, so Athletic’s request that all the goalkeepers wear black was addressed to boys who had not been born when they separated, in many cases their parents would not even be known, but the response was colossal . Even the referees turned a blind eye, because they tend to prevent the two goalkeepers from dressing the same in case one goes to the opposite area to finish off a corner. Excessive caution, perhaps, but I’ve ever seen a goalkeeper change at the order of a fastidious referee.
Iribar deserved it, of course. Those of us who saw him play can attest to this, because apart from his excellence for the game, which was born from a privileged physique and was prolonged by his wise knowledge of the position, his serious character and his deep sense of sportsmanship and camaraderie were added.
I have among my memories as a teenage fan a 0-0 at the Bernabéu with Madrid ye-yé in full bombarding Iribar from above and below without success. I had resisted accepting him out of loyalty to Carmelo, the great one who preceded him and who had to leave to complete his career at Espanyol, but that day I gave myself up.
And I lived my first long conversation with him as a privilege, at a luncheon for the presentation of a book by Guerrero for the PRISA publishing house. I had done the occasional hasty interview with him on previous occasions, one of those in which journalist and player played a ritual role, but this time I had the privilege of having a prolonged chat with him that dazzled me due to the wise simplicity of his reasoning. I started by risking the idea that for goalkeepers after his time the job could be easier, since they could watch videos and learn lessons. He told me that he wasn’t sure. That he, with a friend who was more daring because he wouldn’t have been able to, would sneak into the Zarautz hairdresser’s to leaf through the magazines that were on the table in search of photos of the doormen then in vogue: Ramallets, Alonso, Carmelo, Pazos, Bust, Eizaguirre…
He kept the pictures in his brain and then, on the beach, he calculated all the intermediate movements that determined the perfect final technical gesture, just as it was captured in the magazine. He was sure that this, practiced over and over again, had helped him. And also a system that he developed to have love for the ball. He imagined him as a naughty child near a well. “You always have to be attentive to a child, and the same is true of the ball, you have to be attentive to it because a single moment of forgetfulness can be fatal. And when he made a difficult save, when he had saved a clear goal risk, he would hold him in my hands with love and relief, thinking that he had saved him.”
He was long and flexible as a reed, had a physique I would almost say designed especially by nature for that position, but also a perfectly organized head. Time has passed without wreaking havoc on him, he maintains the stamp and has received a full and deserved tribute. The best possible: the recognition of subsequent generations to his great and exemplary trajectory. Contrary to what is said, football does have a memory. That is why the devotion to Iribar and to the old and beloved Athletic Club, “a unique case in world football”, as he wrote, is still so present. L’Equipe. That is why he had such a response, even outside of Spain, that call to recover the black color that defined his career, in turn an expression of the respect he felt for Yashin, the Black Spider.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
read without limits