Xabi Etxeita “Playing For Athletic Should Be The Biggest Aspiration For Everyone At Lezama”
Monday’s match between Athletic Club and Huesca will be a very special event for Xabi Etxeita. The defender grew up at Lezama and has spent seven total seasons with Athletic before being sent to Huesca on loan earlier this summer. Now he will face the club he loves at the San Mamés and told Jorge Puyuelo of AS that it will be a weird feeling, but that he is very excited.
“For me it is going to be a very special game. Playing against the team of my life and the club where I have been in recent years will be very exciting. I am facing it with a lot of hope and desire. Surely it will be weird. To enter the San Mamés and go into the visitor’s locker room and face my former teammates will be very different and a weird sensation. We will see how it feels in the moment but I have peace of mind.”
When asked about the decision to leave Athletic Etxeita admitted that he was not going to be able to play regular minutes and wanted to find playing time elsewhere. He is very happy with how manager Eduardo Berizzo treated the whole situation and is thankful for the opportunity to play with Huesca this year.
“I left Athletic because despite being at home and being in the team where you want to be, that competitiveness was missing. I needed to go out and look for more minutes somewhere else. I can’t say anything bad about Berizzo, quite the opposite. I have to thank him for his behavior with me. We talked and he explained the situation. I thank him because I am very happy with the way he treated me.”
Some have suggested that renewing Etxeita’s contract last year was premature because he could have been able to leave for free this summer. However, the 30-year-old said that the extension was a mutual decision and that things changed afterwards which is just part of the game of football.
“My renewal wasn’t rushed because it was everyone’s decision. We all believed that I could fit into the plans for this season and then things changed and I wouldn’t be able to play. These things happen in football. Huesca convinced me with their insistence. They were aggressive in convincing me to come here. The coach, the staff, and the sports management made me feel that I would be an important player and that was key. I’m happy for the confidence that the coach has given me and to be a starer in the first game.”
Etxeita wants his Huesca teammates to enjoy the experience of playing at the San Mamés, but he also wants them to prepare for the game like any other. They know that taking points off of Athletic at home will be extremely difficult and the defender admitted that he will not celebrate if he happens to score a goal against his boyhood club.
“For this game I would tell my teammates to first enjoy it to the fullest, because not every day you get to play in San Mamés. They must also face the game just like the one at Ipurua. We are going with the hope of winning. It will be difficult to get points at the San Mamés, but our intention is to make things hard for our opponents. Will I celebrate if I score a goal? Everyone has asked me that. I will be happy if I score, but I will not celebrate out of respect.”
In closing, Etxeita was asked about Kepa Arrizabalaga’s decision to leave Athletic and the ongoing contract issues with Alex Remiro. He says that he doesn’t know if these instances will lead to more complications and believes that playing for Athletic should be the biggest aspirations of every player coming through Lezama.
“I don’t know if this will lead to more complications with renewing players. What you have to remember is that Athletic is a unique club and that the players want to play for Athletic. Since you are a child you feel the club in a different way and I think that every player in the academy wants to spend their entire career there. Playing for Athletic should be the biggest aspiration for everyone at Lezama.”
Monday’s match will be extremely difficult for Athletic. This may be Huesca’s debut season in the Primera but they are coming off of their first La Liga win and will be looking to build on that momentum. Still, Eduardo Berizzo’s side are expected to be the stronger team and will need to be at their best to take all three points. It will be homecoming for Xabi Etxeita, but the Lions only have one goal in mind.