Thursday was a sad day for everyone around Athletic Club. Gorka Iraizoz gave his farewell press conference with his teammates, coaches, and family all in attendance. From the very beginning the 36-year-old was very emotional and thankful to everyone in his life. When asked if he wants to play in the season finale on Sunday, he did what he has always done – he put the team first.
“It is a happy day, even though it is difficult. Thank you all for all of the support. This is a special moment and I don’t know where to start. I have a lot of feelings and a lot of people to thank. Every one of you here are in my heart. I’m lucky to have the privilege of loving each one of you, my friends and colleagues. This last week a lot of people came to me and thanked me and that is a beautiful thing. I have never asked for anything, it isn’t my decision. Sunday is not an homage to me, it is a match with a lot at stake. I am prepared to play like in all previous matches and I want to play, of course. This game is one thing and we can’t treat it like something else. The important thing is to win this and the next one and put the club where it deserves to be – in Europe. The team deserves that award for their hard work.”
Iraizoz, who spent 10 years as the Athletic keeper, says that the club is one big family that he is proud to be a part of. Athletic gave him values and friends that he will cherish for the rest of his life.
“I have always said that Athletic is a family, my family. I am proud to be a part of this family. They have given me those values that are important for my life, my home, and how to be. The club has given me something very special that my family will cherish for generations. As a child I never could have imagined I would be a part of something of this magnitude. I have been lucky to play finals, have disappointments, and win a title. I will enjoy telling my grandchildren one day of my time at Athletic. I have had difficult moments and there was always help at my side for people who love Athletic just as much as I do. I just had to look at my side to find a teammate, a coach, or a friend pushing me forward. That has been a gift. When times have been hard or difficult, Athletic always knows where to find strength.”
The keeper said that everyone will remember him in their own way because he went through a lot of different things at the club. In the end, he couldn’t ask for a better career than that one he has had enjoyed the last 10 years and he is proud to leave a piece of him behind at Athletic.
“Everyone will remember me in their own way. Some of them have known me at difficult time, others when I was more cheerful. I have achieved a lot and made a lot of error and every time there was a lesson to learn. The club has allowed me to an important player for ten seasons and I couldn’t ask for more. I feel happy to have left a little bit of myself behind in some corner of this special club. I am full of gratitude and pride. This is a logical transition. This is life and football is no different. Athletic has given me everything and I am very happy for my career. I am what I am thanks to Athletic.”
Iraizoz went on to mention that he learned a lot of lessons along the way, and some of them were difficult. When discussing the importance of his teammates, he got emotional once again. The Athletic legend also touched on the new generation of keepers, saying that Kepa Arrizabalaga and Alex Remiro are much better players than he was at that age.
“I lived through some difficult moments and had to learn from it and reinvent myself into what the team needed. I could never let the team down or disappoint those I love. It is very difficult to explain what I feel with my teammates. Since walking through that door on my first day every teammate and coach has left a part of themselves in me. I will miss everyone very much. They have been with me through everything and that is priceless. they have given me their respect and affection. When I was their age, I wasn’t half the goalkeeper that Kepa [Arrizabalaga] and Alex [Remiro] are right now. Iago [Herrerin], Kepa, and Alex all have very bright futures ahead of them and I am proud to have played and trained alongside them. Iago has already given me his love from afar and I appreciate that.
In closing, Iraizoz highlighted the affect that his three coaches had on him over the last decade. When he looks back, the time he broke his leg stands out as the worse moment of his career. But the way the club, fans, and teammates stood beside him will always be something that he will cherish. He does plan on continuing to play, but hasn’t made any concrete decisions to this point.
“I have had three coaches in Bilbao – Caparros, Bielsa, and Valverde. From all of them I have taken something positive. It has been a privilege to play under them and they all believed in me. Everyone has contributed something that makes me what I am today. Joaquin gave me the opportunity to fulfill the dream I had as a child. With Marcelo I learned something powerful which helped me reinvent myself and improve. With Ernesto…It has been very special because I have played under him two separate times and we have and won a final together. He has managed to control the animal I carry inside of me and he is very valuable. Looking back I would not change anything about my ten years here. I am never going to regret having come to Athletic. The worse moment was when I broke my leg and [crying] I feared I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Alvaro [Campa], Paco [Angulo], and Manolo were by my side and told me I was not going to hang up my gloves. Now I feel strong and enthusiastic about the next phase in my life. There is also a bit of fear. I plan on continuing to play, but I have not made any decisions yet. Thank you to Athletic. To the fans, my teammates, and my colleagues, I will always hold you in my heart. Aupa Athletic!”
Gorka Iraizoz truly had a historic career at Athletic. As he walks away he is the third most capped keeper in club history, having played in 392 matches. During that time he became a captain, won the Spanish Super Cup, and helped to usher in the next generation. Iraizoz was a fiery personality on the pitch, but a humble individual to everyone who met him. Though his career isn’t over yet, the 36-year-old is already and Athletic legend and will be remembered as one of the best to ever protect the goal at the San Mames.