THURSDAY, 20 JUNE 2013
After the diamond anniversary and after having won their twenty-third Copa title, many people had already perceived that the path Athletic were taking would become more and more difficult in light of the course this sport of the masses was taking. If in the past one could count on one hand the number of foreign players in Spanish football -the well-known controversy of native players over nationalized ones-, well after the 1972/73 season, each team had the possibility of having two foreigners in its ranks, a fact which meant a substantial change to Hispanic football, however, today this number may seem ridiculous.
It started with the signing on of these two foreign players and then went on to the free signing on of European Community players in accordance with the Bosman Law, as well as the inclusion of four Non-European Community players in the starting eleven line up in the 1996-97 season, only 24 years have gone by since then. An incredible step forward, let's not forget, for a sporting competition. Step by step things got more complicated in order to maintain the red-white philosophy, and although the debate regarding the maintenance of this philosophy was talked about in the streets in the mid-90's, the supporters, in general, reacted by sustaining this policy of support to the youth teams.
A time of major transformation when football became a source of daily news, the permanent centre of attention for the fans and the general public and was considered "public property". Change is the word that best defines the last decade of XX century: Champions league, a world-wide league is spoken about, biennial World Football Championships... The clubs of yesteryear are now companies, the budgets through the roof, the out of the ordinary benefits becoming increasingly more important and necessary... It's safe to say that there has never been so many organizational innovations made in football history, not even in the 20's when a choice had to be made between professionalism and amateurism.
With reference to the sport only, the League was becoming more and more competitive increasing the number of matches bit by bit, with eighteen teams in the 1972-73 season, twenty in the 1989-90 season, and twenty-two in the 1995-96 season, a far cry from the ten founding teams of the 1928-29 championship. More and better players are demanded by the big teams, which implied the signing on of new players... and changing with the times without altering the essence of the club.
In spite of the difficulties, Athletic achieved some amazing feats, like being runners-up in the Copa and the UEFA in 1977, and, especially, the titles in 1980's, the prodigious years of the Clemente era, with victories against some of the best players in the world (Maradona, Schuster, Hugo Sanchez, Stilike...), which allowed an entire generation, to sing the Alirón song for the first time. Years of Leagues and Copa triumphs, of barges... from joy and overflowing euphoria which seemed endless.
On the other hand, after so much success and Clemente's departure, the 1985-86 season took a dangerous turn dividing the masses because of the signing on of players, the new generation switch which was much more difficult than expected, and the unusual coming and going of Club coaches (ten all in all from the 1985-86 season to the 1995-96 season). The positive aspects of the "post-Clemnete" period was the sensation that Kendall caused in Bilbao, the game deployed by Heynckes, that magical night against Newcastle, the debut of players like Alkorta, Urrutia, and, especially, Julen Guerrero, who was the captain during this decade.
With greater stability, Luis Fernandez then took charge, revolutionary for the team and the fans, in 1998 Athletic had the honour of being the first club in first division to celebrate its 100th anniversary, which was topped off with the club being the League runners-up of that season.
Concerning the institution the club's new song (1983), the receptions on the barge, the inauguration of new Club Headquarters at Ibaigane in 1988, and, mainly, the celebration of the Club's Centenary should be highlighted.