The Athletic Club of San Sebastian
The Athletic Club, commonly known as Athletic Bilbao to the football fans around the world is a professional soccer club located in the autonomous Basque county of Spain. Founded 120 years ago, they play in the La Liga, the highest football league in Spain. Along with Barcelona and Real Madrid they are one of the three founding members of the Primera Division in Spain who have never been relegated.
The club has rich history too, having won the league title 8 times, which is the fourth most by any club and the Copa Del Rey an impressive 24 times. The club’s ground, San Mames, has a capacity of 53,289 and is an all seater stadium. This stadium was opened in 2013 to replace the old Saint Mames stadium which was built in 1913. The club is nicknamed Los Leones (the lions) and the Rojiblancos (the red and whites). Athletic club also has a female football team and it is considered to be the most successful female team in Spanish division, having won the league five times. The club’s main rivals are Real Sociedad and Real Madrid. The rivalry with Sociedad is local as they are located in the Basque region and the one with Real Madrid is based more on political and footballing reasons.
Athletic Club stands out as one of the most unique clubs in footballing history because of its peculiar transfer policy and social commitments to the people. At a time when clubs are shelving out huge funds in order to sign the best players and talented youth available, this Basque club has a self-imposed restriction which only allows them to sign players solely from the Basque region. While other clubs burn holes in their pockets, Athletic Club stays loyal to its tradition. The history of the club feels even richer considering this fact. For a club that faces geographical restrictions outside the pitch and an area which is not very densely populated, it boasts of having one of the best average attendance in the league. This goes a long way in showing the special connection that the fans have to the club. The club is a staunch believer in returning to the people what they gave to them. With a view to doing the same, it founded the Athletic Club Foundation in 2002 to fulfill its social and cultural responsibilities to the people and the community.
Since its inception it has carried out various activities in partnership and collaborations with other organizations and NGO's. They have built hospitals for sick children, encouraged people to participate in their sporting events so that no one feels left out in the society. They have attractive scholarship programs for the talented students in their academy, and another scholarship (Lezama) for ones discarded from the academy or team. The Basque club which is proud of its roots, also organizes cultural events in order to promote their culture and football together. These events promote the Basque culture and the language with poetry, songs and some football themed plays and movies. The club also strives to provide good jobs for the youth, while also battling racism, sexual abuse and other social evils by promoting football in a positive light along with teamwork and the spirit of sportsmanship. The people cheer on for their club as they take on the field every time, as they know the club is theirs in every sense, inside and outside the stadium. The finances too have been strong and debts are less, resulting in an even positive atmosphere not just at the club but for people too.