Imagine winning like this | Soccer | Sports

Imagine that you are a fan of an old football club. So old, so old that it lives brimming with history, with immense names from the past, with legendary forwards recited by heart by your grandparents and your parents, with giant goalkeepers that your elders still equate to the size of Lev Yashin, the mythical black spider. . Imagine that this club is built around an idea or, if you prefer, a non-negotiable philosophy. All the players who are part of it, in all categories, have a common element, something to do with each of them, a significant emotional bond that unites them and defines them; They all belong to the same territory and the same cultural space. They have either been born or have been formed within your own physical territory.

Imagine now that in that old club of which you are a fan, the emotional transfer link between generations is not renewed by the position achieved in the table in a specific season. Nor by one title or another conquered. Much less, because of the names written in neon of star signings from distant places. No, in that club the emotional transfers from parents to children, from grandparents to grandchildren, remain intact through that proximity factor that acts as an intangible and mysterious reflection of what we originally were. Children who played ball with other children who looked a lot like us, who sat next to us in class or who lived in our same neighborhood. Children who played on our same street or in our school yard with children just like us.

There is a club like that. It is called Athletic Club and it was founded between a gym and a café in Bilbao in 1898. More than 120 years later, children who look alike continue to play there. That is where this old club places its most important trophy, in demonstrating how possible a constant approach throughout such changing historical contexts, such different times and such disparate eras. Especially in the latter, where the globalization of football is already complete and the signs of its profound commercialization are increasingly evident. However, there continues to be a place where there is an idea that is not for sale; All the players who play on that team were born or trained there.

Now, imagine achieving glory from that non-negotiable idea and in this context of current football. Win again from the self-limitation of playing only with players born in Euskadi and Navarra or trained in lower categories in that territorial area.

When the new codes of this sport seemed to make something like this impossible for this football rarity that is Athletic, it reached the sky of one of the great titles forty years after the last time it achieved it.

We will see again the Bilbao estuary crossed by trawlers and tugboats, pleasure boats and zodiacs escorting an old blue barge. They will do it to once again mark the childhood of the new generations of girls and boys in Bilbao who will never forget what they are going to experience. In many of our cases, the grandparents who took us by the hand on that unforgettable day in 1984 are no longer there. They will occupy our memory the moment we take our children by the hand in the direction of the Nervión estuary to see, again, that old barge with players on board who were not there then either because they were not yet born. A squad that, in its own right, is already one of the best in the club’s history. The best starting goalkeeper and surely the best substitute goalkeeper in Spain. A defense with Vivian, Yeray and Paredes, accompanied by full-backs of the caliber of Yuri Berchiche and legends like Oscar de Marcos. A midfield like no other in Bilbao, with Beñat Prados and Ruiz de Galarreta, accompanied by Mikel Vesga, Dani García or Ander Herrera. And a lead for future history books, with Guruzeta, Oihan Sancet and Nico Williams – what an outrageous match he left in the La Cartuja stadium – along with his brother Iñaki and the replacements of Berenguer, Villalibre, Unai Gómez, Iker Muniain and Raul Garcia. Together, and under the orders of the person most responsible for all this, a teacher named Ernesto Valverde, they have written a glorious new page in the centuries-old history of a unique club.

They have done so after a perfect journey throughout the entire competition, with memorable matches against fearsome rivals such as FC Barcelona in the quarterfinals or the semi-final against Atlético de Madrid. They have done it in a Seville flooded with Athletic fans, thousands and thousands who painted it red and white and who filled three quarters of the La Cartuja stadium in an impressive atmosphere, of overflowing emotions and goosebumps.

Athletic came out strong from the beginning, despite some signs of nervousness in the first half and Mallorca’s goal. With the break, everything changed. The game once again began to show signs of the level reached throughout the competition. And Sancet’s goal arrived. And with it, the tie. And with the tie, extra time. And then, the penalties. With an entire stadium holding its breath. One ball, another, another… It doesn’t matter what they were like. You cannot describe the indescribable.

And Athletic took the title in a penalty shootout that will remain, for many years, in everyone’s memory. You cannot forget the unforgettable.

Thus a new page is written in the history of this champion team. It all started at the end of the 19th century. A ball jumps from a ship of British sailors in the English countryside, on the grounds now occupied by a famous museum in Bilbao. And from there, step by step, year by year, to the Cartuja stadium in Seville and an unforgettable night in April 2024. And above all, the most important trophy, that of a singular and extraordinary story, unique in the world.

Imagine feeling that that story, the one your grandfather told you one day when you were a child, remains intact more than 120 years later. And it is exactly the same thing that you will now tell your son: Once upon a time there was a city in the north where there was an old soccer club where all the children who played looked alike…

Imagine winning like this.

Eduardo Madina He is a strategy partner at the Harmon consulting firm and former socialist deputy for Bizkaia in the Congress of Deputies.

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