SUNDAY, 26 MAY 2013
The inauguration of San Mamés was the prelude of a series of accomplishments which lead Athletic to be considered the best team in the State. They not only had an enviable squad, their nickname the "lions" came from this era, but also had the best coaches imported directly from England.
Mr. Barnes who was merited with encouraging team work, improving player performance, obtaining a more polished technique and, most importantly, instilling discipline among the players. With these bases, a luxurious and formal team, it was not strange that sporting achievements soon became a reality. The achievement of the original trophies of the Regional Championship and Copa after the successive victories in 1914, 1915 and 1916, was the reflection of a job well done. That was the team immortalized by Jose Arrue: Ibarreche between the posts, Solaun and Hurtado forming an iron-clad defence, the tenacity of Eguía, the colossus Belauste who imposed his presence in the midfield as did his brother Ramon, or the unsettling forward line made up by Iceta, German, Apón, Zuazo and Rafael Moreno, "Pichichi".
Spectators followed the matches with a sense of expectancy, but most especially the championship games between Basque teams, primarily, Arenas de Getxo, Racing and Sporting de Irún and Real Sociedad de San Sebastián, and those organized at Christmastime against foreign teams, which gave the opportunity to study other "football schools".
The rojiblanco fans were easily accustomed to victory and the latter en masse greetings. Few could imagine in mid 1910 that difficult times were imminent for the Bilbao team, by having to face teams that had, covertly, professionals among their ranks.
Athletic took five years to win another title. In the 1919-20 season, the Regional Championship was once again conquered, and with a renewed team, the Copa championships of 1921 and 1923 were achieved.
The 1920s also earned Athletic's players international recognition. The occasion was at the famous Antwerp Olympic Games, where the Spanish national team won the Silver Medal with a significant rojiblanco representation, made up by Jose Mari Belausteguigoitia, Sabino Bilbao, and Rafael Moreno "Pichichi", Txomin Acedo and Sesumaga.
Athletic had its head office in "La Alcazaba" and a social structure of over 2,000 members. These were times of change. Professionalism was an indisputable fact, football was starting to be considered the reigning sport for spectators, and the Liga (League) was on the verge of being born.