Nico Williams (R) with Iván Alejo (L) of Cádiz CF. EFE
A club on a roll
A Look at LaLiga

A club on a roll

The Lions of Bilbao haven't lost at home since the start of the season and are mauling the opposition

Friday, 23 February 2024, 16:56


The club motto of Athletic Club is "Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación" which should translate to "the killer of rival team aspirations."

The Lions of Bilbao are ending the hopes of Spanish clubs on a weekly basis. This week, it was Girona - the upstarts of La Liga; a few weeks ago, it was Barcelona's best chance of winning a trophy; next week, it could be Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey too.

This is a club on a roll; this is a club that is an example on how a modern sports organisation should be run.

The motto actually translates to "with home-grown talent and fans, there is no need for imports" which is bold and should be unrealistic in this day and age. I'm sure you know the rule which only allows players born in the Basque region to wear the famous red-and-white shirts.

It's a valiant tradition that doesn't lend itself to success but could be the X-factor to this season's accomplishments.

The fans are incredible at the San Mames which is known at the Cathedral of Spanish football. The stadium has been completely rebuilt but retains the fear factor of the Lion's Den (their nickname is the Lions). Only Atlético have more home points, and Athletic Club haven't lost at home since the opening night of the season.

The latest victims were upstarts Girona. The club that has led the championship for most of the season buckled in the atmosphere- they're not alone. With the league well out of their reach and Champions League success unlikely, Barcelona pinned their hopes on winning the Kings Cup. They left Bilbao mauled by the Lions.

I mention above that Atlético have the best home record in Spain. They hadn't lost at the Metropolitano in over a year until Athletic headed there for the first leg of the semi-final. Life will be tough when the men from the capital visit Bilbao next week for the second instalment. I'm loving the banners being prepared: "Welcome to your parents' home."

This refers to Atletico being the offspring of Athletic stretching back to Bilbao fans setting up the Madrid team a century ago.

Football has changed beyond recognition since, but the ethics of Athletic Club have remained the same. They can't scour the world to recruit players given the self-imposed restrictions, they develop local talent. Last summer, they made just one signing - bringing Iñigo Ruiz de Galaretta back to the region from Mallorca.

It's a team without stars apart from the Williams brothers. Iniaki and Nico's parents are from Liberia and Ghana, but nobody epitomises the heart and pride of playing for the city of their birth than the talented twosome.

It's a classic example of collective over individual and boy is it working. They've lost only one game from the last twenty-one in all matches. They're on the brink of their 40th cup final appearance and just two points behind 4th place which would guarantee them a Champions League place.

There can be no other club in the world than can feel so self-satisfied... and with good reason.

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