Earlier this week Athletic Club revealed their new kits for the 2017-2018 season, which also began a six-year partnership with New Balance. The American-based kit provider has been outspoken about wanting to become a member of the family to their clubs and get involved in the communities. When revealing the new shirts, the New Balance ambassador said that the company sent designers all throughout the streets of Bilbao and the Basque Country to get inspiration, but clearly their biggest desire was to pay homage to historic eras of Athletic Club de Bilbao.
Athletic’s home shirt is the traditional red and white stripes, but there is a minor detail that is quite different from other seasons. On the back of the shirt is a background of white where black names and numbers will be displayed. Over the past few decades the Lions have had solid red as their backs or at least continued stripes from the front of the shirt. In fact, they haven’t had a white background since the 1980s which just so happens to be a very special time in Athletic history.
In 1982-1983 Athletic won the La Liga title for the first time in nearly 30 years. They had last lifted the trophy in 1956 so it had been a long wait. The historic team of 1983 was led by legendary manager Javier Clemente and made up of players who would go on to become heroes in the annals of Athletic Club. Andoni Zubizarreta, Andoni Goikoetxea, Dani, Julio Salinas, and others played a major role in a season that will never be forgotten in the city of Bilbao.
With the new title brought fresh hope and expectation. Fans now knew what their team was capable of and wanted even more. That is exactly what they would get the following year when Athletic won the double, repeating as La Liga champions and also lifting the Copa del Rey title. The team was largely made up of the same players with Clemente still leading the charge. Some claim that this is still one of the best Athletic teams to ever grace the Primera and they had three trophies in two years to show for it.
While winning these three titles the Athletic players also wore shirts with a white background and black letters. This would eventually change to what they have been for the last few decades. Younger fans seemed a bit confused when the white backs were revealed earlier this week, but many seasoned Athleticzales gazed with a face of admiration and fond memory of a beautiful time gone by. For the first time in over 20 years, the Lions of the San Mames will once again have a white background and perhaps it will give them good luck.
The home shirt isn’t the only one with a nod to a special time in history. The third kit, which features a solid blue shirt with a white stripe down he center, pays homage to Athletic’s humble beginnings. When they were first founded, Athletic wore white kits but eventually switched in 1901 to a shirt that was blue on one side and white on the other with the sleeves also interchanged, similar to the Blackburn Rovers of English football. During this time, the Basque club won four Spanish league titles. This year’s third kit pays tribute the club’s first colors and trophies from over a century ago.
Of course, those colors eventually changed when Juan Elorduy visited London in 1909 and was supposed to bring back 25 new shirts for the team, but wasn’t able to find the full amount. Just when it seemed that he would come home without the shirts, Elorduy noticed that Southampton’s colors were the same as the City of Bilbao and bought 50 of their shirts. Athletic immediately made the decision to switch the club’s colors to red and white which has stood since 1910.
New Balance is making great strides in their first season as Athletic Club’s kit partner and provider. From acknowledging Basque as the first language of the region to adding a bit of nostalgia to their first kits, the American-based company has already won over many of the Athletic fans across the world. The upcoming season promises to be an entertaining one and the Lions are already hard at work in preparation for their first match on 27 July. Athletic Club football has nearly returned and the San Mames can’t wait to roar again.