Athletic Club is a football club from Bilbao in Biscay, Basque
club has played in the Primera División
of La Liga
since its start in 1928. They have won
on eight occasions. In the
historical classification of La Liga
Athletic Bilbao took 3rd place behind Real Madrid and Barcelona,
and along with both of them are the only clubs which have never
been relegated from La Liga. The club also has a women's team,
which has won 4 championships in the Spanish Superliga.
They are known as the Los Leones
(the lions) because their
stadium was built near a church called San Mamés
was an early Christian
thrown to the lions by the Romans
. The lions refused to eat Mames and he
was later made a saint
. The San Mames
Stadium is hence nicknamed "the football
The club is known for its cantera
bringing young Basque
the ranks, as well as recruiting top Basque players from other
clubs (like Joseba Etxeberria
). Athletic official
policy is signing professional players native to the greater Basque Country,
including Biscay, Guipúzcoa, Álava and Navarre (in Spain);
and Labourd, Soule and
Lower Navarre (in France).
Still, in recent times, this policy has been somewhat relaxed and
players with direct Basque ancestry or with no Basque ancestry but
formed in Basque clubs have played for the team. This has gained
Athletic both admirers and critics. The club has been praised for
promoting home grown players and club loyalty. On the other hand,
Athletic is one of only four professional clubs in Spain, with
which is not a sports corporation, so that ownership of the club
lies in its associates (socios).
Bilbao FC, Athletic Club and Team Bizkaia
was introduced to Bilbao by two
distinct groups of players, both with British connections;
British steel and shipyard workers and Basque students returning
from schools in Britain.
In the late 1800s Bilbao was a leading port at the heart of an
important industrial area with iron mines and shipyards nearby. It
was the driving force of the Spanish economy and as a result
attracted many migrant workers. Among them were miners from the north-east of
England, and shipyard workers from Sunderland, Southampton and Portsmouth.
The British workers brought with them (as
to so many other parts of the world) the game of football. In the
early 1890s these workers came together and formed Bilbao
sons of the Basque educated classes
had made the opposite journey and went to Britain to complete
their studies in civil engineering and commerce.
the United Kingdom these students developed an interest in football
and on their return to Bilbao they began to arrange games with
British workers. In 1898 students belonging to the Gymnasium
founded the Athletic Club
, using the English
spelling. In 1901 a meeting was held in the Cafe Garcia which
established more formal rules and regulations.
In 1902 the two Bilbao clubs formed a combined team, known as
, in the first Copa
. They returned with the trophy after defeating FC Barcelona
in the final. This would lead to
the eventual merger of the two clubs as Athletic Club de
in 1903. In the same year Basque students also formed
Athletic Club de Madrid
. This club later evolved into
. The club's
foundation date is a subject of debate among football historians.
The club itself declares 1898, but others claim 1901 is the true
founding year. There is also a strong case for 1903.
Equally debated, is the origin of the club colours. Although their
first colours were blue and white stripes, in 1910 they switched to
red and white stripes. There are three schools of thought about why
this occurred. The most common theory is that they were changed out
of deference to Sunderland
, cities where the
original British founders were from. 
. Another is that an Athletic member was sent
to Britain to buy a
batch of blue and white tops but could not find any and returned
with red and white tops instead.
Perhaps the most credible
theory, however, is that red and white striped tops were the
cheapest stripes to make because the same combination was used to
make bed mattresses. The left over cloth was easily converted into
football shirts. Although both Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid started out with blue
and white stripes, the discovery of a cheaper option probably
persuaded them to change. The Madrid club did it
first and they became known as Los Colchoneros - the
Before the switch from blue & white to
red & white, only one other team wore red & white, Sporting de Gijón
, since 1905.
Athletic were one of the last major clubs who did not have the logo
of an official sponsor emblazoned on their kit.In the UEFA cup and the Copa del Rey of
2004-2005, the shirt sported the word "Euskadi" in green in exchange for hundreds of thousands of
euros from the Basque Government
(red, white and green are the Basque
This policy was changed for the three seasons
starting from 2008, with Athletic playing with the logo of the
oil company on their
shirts in exchange for over 2 million euros.
Copa del Rey
The club featured prominently in early Copa
competitions. Following the inaugural win by Club
, the newly formed Athletic Bilbao won it again in
1903. In 1904 they were declared winners after their opponents,
Club Español de Madrid
failed to turn up. In 1907 they revived the name Club
after entering a combined team with Union
. After a brief lull they won the competition again in
1911 and then won it three times in a row between 1914 and 1916.
The star of this team was Pichichi
, a prolific goalscorer who
scored the very first goal in the San Mamés stadium, on August 21,
1913 and a hat-trick in the 1915 final. Today the La Liga
top-scorer is declared the Pichichi
in his honour.
The First La Liga
Athletic were not the only Basque team represented in the 1920
squad. Other clubs such as Real
, Arenas Club de Getxo
and Real Sociedad
players. These four clubs were all founding members of La Liga
in 1928 and by 1930 they were joined by
. This meant that five of
the ten clubs in the Primera División
of Spain’s national
league were from the Basque Country
. The saying
Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación
translated as With home-grown teams and supporters, there is no
need for imports
made sense during these early days.
In 1921 a new coach, Fred Pentland
arrived from Racing Santander
1923 he led the club to victory in the Copa
. He revolutionised the way Athletic played, favouring
the short-passing game. In 1927 he left Athletic and coached
, Real Oviedo
. In 1929 he rejoined
Athletic and he subsequently led Athletic to La
/Copa del Rey
doubles in 1930
and 1931. The club won the Copa del Rey
four times in a row between 1930 and 1933 and they were also
runners-up in 1932 and 1933. In 1931
Athletic also defeated FC Barcelona
12-1, the latter’s worst ever defeat.
In 1941 the club changed its name to Atlético Bilbao
following a decree
issued by Franco
, banning the use of non-Spanish language names
and refuting the policy of only letting Basque-born players in the
team (see origins of the "grandparent rule"). The same year also
make his debut.
Over the next thirteen seasons he went on to score 294 goals in all
competitions for Atletico, plus another 20 for Spain
in as many games. His 38
goals in the 1950/51 season still stands as a record. Another great
player from this era was Panizo
. In the 1943 the club won
a La Liga
double and they subsequently retained the
Copa del Rey
in both 1944 and
During the early 1950s the club featured the legendary forward line
, Rafa Iriondo
and Agustín Gaínza
helped the club win another Copa del
in 1950. The arrival of coach Ferdinand Daučík
club's fortunes further. He led the team to another double in 1956
and to further Copa del
victories in 1955 and 1958. In 1956 the club
also made their debut in the European Cup
, eventually been
knocked out by Manchester
What helped the club succeed in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were the
strict limits imposed on foreign players. In most cases clubs could
only have three foreign players in its squad, meaning that at least
eight local players had to play in every game. While Real Madrid
circumnavigated these rules by playing dual citizens
such as Alfredo Di Stéfano
, José Santamaria
and Ladislao Kubala
, Athletic adhered strictly
to their cantera
policy, showing little or
no flexibility. The 1960s, however were dominated by Real Madrid
and Atlético Bilbao
only had a single Copa del Rey
Like international teams, the club has used the grandparent
, allowing the recruitment of some players of Basque
descent. This enabled Barcelona-born Armando Merodio
to play for the club.
However during 1960s other players
such as Jesus María Pereda
, and José Eulogio Gárate
overlooked. Although none of them were Basques by birth, all three
grew up in the Basque
and could be classified as naturalised Basques. Gárate
even had Basque parents.
On a positive note the 1960s saw the emergence of an Athletic
legend José Ángel
. The 1970s were not much better with only another single
Copa del Rey
win in 1973. In December
1975, before a game against Real
, Iribar and the Real captain Ignacio Kortabarria
, carried out the
, the Basque
flag and placed it
ceremonially on the centre-circle. This was the first public
display of the flag since the death of Franco
. In 1977 the club reached the
final, only losing on away goals
. By now the club had
reverted to using the name Athletic Bilbao
The Clemente Era
In 1981 the club appointed Javier
as manager. He soon set about putting together one of
the most successful Athletic Bilbao teams in the clubs history.
Young players from the cantera
, Miguel De Andres
, Ismael Urtubi
, Estanislao Argote
and Andoni Zubizarreta
. In his first season
in charge, Clemente led the team to 4th place in La Liga
. In 1983 the club won La
and in 1984 they won a La
/Copa del Rey
double. In 1985
and 1986 Athletic finished 3rd and 4th respectively. Clemente’s
Athletic acquired notoriety for its aggressive style of play,
personified by hard man Goikoetxea
. He favoured two
defensive midfielders playing in front of twin centre backs and a
sweeper and as a result critics regarded his teams as dour but
Athletic Bilbao has failed to win a major trophy since the success
of the Clemente era. A succession of coaches including José Ángel Iribar
, Howard Kendall
and Javier Irureta
even a returning Clemente failed to reproduce his success.
The Fernández Era
The most successful Athletic coach since Clemente has been Luis Fernández
, appointed in 1996. In
1998 he led the club to second in La Liga
and UEFA Champions
qualification. Fernandez benefited from the club
adopting a more flexible approach to the cantera
. Now anybody could play for Athletic, just
as long as they acquired their skills in the Basque Country
. Thus Patxi Ferreira
from Salamanca and Biurrun, a Brazilian-born player who immigrated to the region at a young
age, played for the club in the late 1980s.
Despite this new
approach, their definition of a Basque is still open to
interpretation, with both Roberto López Ufarte
being overlooked despite
having Basque parents.
signed Bixente Lizarazu, the first
to join the club, Ismael Urzaiz and
Athletic also began to recruit players from the
of other Basque
clubs, leading to
allegations of poaching. In 1995 Athletic signed Joseba Etxeberria
from regional rivals
, causing considerable
bad feeling between the two clubs. Although Lizarazu
left after one season, Urzaiz
, José Mari Garcia Lafuente and Etxeberria
, were prominent members of the
1997/98 squad along with Rafael
, Julen Guerrero
San Mamés Barria
The club has unveiled plans for a new stadium. From the 2014/2015
season, Athletic will play in the San Mamés Barria, a 53,000
capacity, UEFA 5-star stadium, built at a cost of 160 million
Athletic players celebrate a
In recent seasons Athletic Bilbao have languished in mid-table and
the club was embroiled in a relegation battle during the 2005-2006
and 2006-2007 seasons. In 2006 top-flight survival was ensured on
the 37th match day when Deportivo de la Coruña were beaten at
Riazor 2-1. Javier Clemente
his third spell as club coach in 2005, at a time when the club were
last in the table. He is widely acknowledged to have brought
defensive stability to the team, and so is also credited with
having saved the club from relegation, despite this he was not left
in charge for the 2006-2007 season. The 2006-2007 season has been
the worst in the club's history, top-flight survival was ensured on
the last match day when Levante were beaten at San Mamés 2-0. In
December 2008 Spanish media claimed that this match had been fixed
and that some of Levante UD
accepted a bribe from the Basque club. Despite the lack of on-field
success, a majority of the club's supporters think the club's
identity is more important than winning trophies. According to an
survey in the
1990s, 76% of Athletic fans would rather see the club relegated
than give up the cantera
policy. The most
successful Athletic team of recent times has been the women’s
football team who have won the Superliga Femenina
four times between
2003 and 2007.
Copa del Rey Finalists
In the La Liga 2008–09
season Athletic again achieved unspectacular results and finished
in mid-table, though they ensured safety from relegation earlier
than in the previous campaigns. In the Copa
del Rey 2008–09
however the team managed to pull through some
tough ties including local rivals Osasuna and the strong Sevilla
side to reach their first final in the competition in 24 years. The
final in Valencia against Barcelona was a great occasion for the
fans, and though they lost 4-1 the result was no disgrace, as the
expensively assembled Barcelona side of that season also proved
unbeatable in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. Athletic's
reward for their efforts was a place in the 'new' UEFA Europa
League for the following 2009-2010 campaign.
The numbers are established according to the official
website: www.athletic-club.net , www.lfp.es and www.uefa.com
Updated November 1, 2009
- The players with shirt number over 25 belong to the
farm club Bilbao Athletic with eligibility to appear in the first
These charts below depict the most used starters in the most used
start formation. The most recent starters/formations are listed
when total starts are equal between two players/formations.
In Spanish football, the Pichichi is the trophy awarded by
Spanish sports newspaper Marca to the top goalscorer for each
Ricardo Zamora Trophy
The Ricardo Zamora Trophy is a football (soccer) award,
established by Spanish newspaper MARCA in 1958. The award
goes to the goalkeeper who has the lowest "goals-to-games"
Most games played in La Liga
International players — Full list
Shirt sponsors and manufacturers
Copa del Rey
- * Winners (8): 1929-30, 1930-31, 1933-34,
1935-36, 1942-43, 1955-56, 1982-83, 1983-84.
- * Runners-up (7): 1931-32, 1932-33, 1940-41, 1946-47, 1951-52,
- * Winners (23 + 1 ): 1902, 1903, 1904, 1910,
1911, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1921, 1923, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1943,
1944, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1969, 1973, 1984.
- * Runners-up (12): 1905, 1906, 1913, 1920, 1942, 1949, 1953,
1966, 1967, 1977, 1985, 2009.
Copa Eva Duarte
- * Winners (1): 1984.
- * Runners-up (2): 1985, 2009.
- * Winners (1): 1950.
- * Runners-up (1): 1945.
Copa del Mundo de Clubes
- *Runners-up (1): 1977.
- *Winners (1): 1967
Trofeo Ramón de
- * Winners (1): 2008.
- * Winners (1): 1972.
Trofeo Costa del
- * Winners (3): 1981, 1990, 1999.
- * Winners (2): 1961, 1978
Trofeo Villa de
- * Winners (2): 1947, 1983.
- * Winners (1): 2005
- * Winners (1): 1977.
Trofeo Ciudad de
- * Winners (1): 2007.
- * Winners (1): 1979.
- * Runners-up (1): 1956.
Northern Championship / Biscay
- * Winners (1): 1935.
- * Winners (17): 1914, 1915, 1916, 1920, 1921,
1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1939,
- * Winners (4): 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05,
Last updated: 19 November
Pos. = Position; Pl. = Match
played; W = Win; D = Draw;
L = Lost; GS = Goal Scored;
GA = Goal Against; Pts =
Colors: Gold = winner; Silver =
runner-up; Cyan = ongoing
Records and Statistics
San Mamés Stadium from outside
- Associates: 35.321
- Budget: €58.693.000 (2009-10)
- Seasons in La Liga: 78
- Most goals scored in one match home: Athletic
12 - FC Barcelona 1 (1930-31).
- Most goals scored in one match away: Osasuna 1 - Athletic 8 (1958-59).
- Most goals scored in one match in Copa del Rey: Athletic 12 - Celta de Vigo 1 (1946-47)
- Most goals scored in one match in European
Liège 1 - Athletic 7 (2004-05).
- Best position in La
Liga: 1st (8 times)
- Worst position in La
Liga: 17th (06-07).
- Historical position in the ranking of La Liga: 3rd
- Participations in UEFA
Europa League: 17
- Best position in UEFA Europa League:
- Participations in UEFA
Champions League: 4
- Best position in UEFA Champions League:
- It is with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona the only team to have contested
all editions of La Liga, without having ever fallen category.
- In the 1929-30 season, finished the league unbeaten.
- Has the record for the biggest win in La
Liga (12-1 to FC Barcelona, in
- Has the record for the biggest win in Copa del Rey (12-1 to Celta de Vigo, in 1947).
- Has the highest win record at Real Madrid as a visitor
(0-6 in Santiago
- Zarra is the only player in the history of
La Liga which was 6 times top scorer of this tournament.
- Zarra holds the record for goals in the history of La Liga
- Zarra holds the record for goals in a single season (38
goals, in 30 matches).
- Zarra is the top scorer in the history of Copa del Rey
- Gainza has the
record of highest scorer in a single match of La Liga (8
- Zarra holds the record for goals in a Copa del Rey final
- Bata is the player with the best average
scorer in La Liga (0,92 goals per match
- Name - San Mamés
- City - Bilbao
- Capacity - 39,750
- Inauguration - 1913
- Pitch size - 103 x 68 m
- Sports Facilities: Lezama
Model of the New San Mamés
- Name - New San Mamés Stadium
- Approximate capacity - 53.000
- Beginning construction - 2009 / 2010
- End construction (forecast) - 2014
The Lezama facility is the complex where all of the categories of
Athletic train. Opened in the 1971-72 season. At present,
facilities include, inter alia, five natural grass fields, a
gymnasium, a pediment, a medical center and a residence for young
- La estrenan mañana, Deia daily, 30 November 2004.
- El Athletic firma con Petronor un acuerdo para
lucir publicidad en su camiseta por 2 millones de euros,
29 July 2008.
Mames Barria - Official Site
- Athletic Club trainers
- Agreement between Umbro and Athletic
- Note:The number of Copa wins Athletic Club have
been credited with is disputed. The 1902 competition was won
by Bizcaya, a team made up of players from Athletic
Club and Bilbao FC. In 1903 these two clubs merged
as Athletic Club. The 1902 cup is on display in the
Athletic museum  and the club includes it in its own honours
list.. However LFP and RFEF official statistics do
not include this as an Athletic win.
- Note:"Eva Duarte Cup" competition was the predecessor of the
current "Spanish Supercup", because they face the league champion
against the champion of the "Copa del Rey".
- Spanish Cup Winners
- All goals scored in La
- Número de socios
- Asamblea Extraordinaria da vía libre para la
gestión de 53,1 m €
Ranking of La Liga
- UEFA.com Final 1976/77
- UEFA.com Cuarter final 1956/57
- Athletic Club Records