Athletic - The European campaign and a Basque special

Sat, Feb 6, 2010

The last time I wrote about Athletic, they were relinquishing at the bottom of the La Liga table, their record as one among the only three clubs in La Liga to have never got relegated in threat.

More than a year later, things are really looking up at The Catedral. They managed to finish at seventh in the La Liga last season, qualifying for the Europa Liga. They are flying in Europa Liga this season, they are almost on the verge of breaking into the European qualifying positions again, they have one of La Liga’s most promising youngsters in Iker Muniain, and in typical Basque tradition, they are going to play in the knockout matches in Europe with ‘Euskadi’ proudly written in front of their shirts.

The European campaign so far:

Athletic had a bad start to their European campaign, losing 0-1 to the cutely named BSC Young Boys of Switzerland at the San Mames, in the qualifying round. But they bounced back to beat the Swiss 2-1 at the Stade de Suisse in Bern. Fernando Llorente and the youngster Iker Muniain scored for Athletic.

They were pitted against the Norwegian side Tromso in the playoffs. Athletic beat the Norwegians 3-2 at home and the match in northern Norway ended in a 1-1 draw.

In the subsequent group phase, Athletic was put in a group that had Austria Wien, Werder Bremen, and the Protuguese side Nacional. It was a roller coaster ride which saw Athletic beat Wien 3-0 at the San Mames, with a brace from Llorrente and another from Muniain, then they lost 3-1 away to Bremen in north-west Germany; followed by a 2-1 victory against Nacional at home, a 1-1 draw against the same opposition in Madeira, and 3-0 victory over Wien at Vienna. This was followed by a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Werder at home. In the end the 10 points they earned were enough to send them to the knockout round behind Werder, who managed to pickup 16 points out of a possible 18. In the knockout round of 32, Athletic will face Anderlecht of Belgium.

The Euskadi sponsorship deal:

The Basque Country government wanted Athletic to play in the knockout rounds of their European campaigns with Euskadi displayed on their shirts. But EUFA regulations restrict a team shirt from displaying more than one main sponsor’s name. So what would the Basque Country and Athletic do? In true Basque fashion, the club’s main sponsors Petronor - the Basque petroleum company agreed to willingly forgo the space they ‘own’ in the front side of the Athletic shirt, to display Euskadi instead, for nothing in return. Athletic has already notified UEFA about the sponsorship change, and they have already unveiled the new kit.