Xabi Etxeita “Playing For Athletic Carries More Weight Than Anywhere Else”
Xabi Etxeita has played in 140 matches for Athletic Club, but is currently on loan with Huesca. The 31-year-old recently spoke with Onda Vasca about the fact that both teams are currently battling relegation, but says that playing for Athletic comes with pressure that isn’t experienced anywhere else. It’s hard not to take things personal in Bilbao, but with time you learn how to handle the demand.
“If I am sincere, yes, you carry more weight playing for Athletic and at the San Mamés than anywhere else. It has nothing to do with other clubs, but is because of the the situation at Athletic. When you lose it isn’t just about the 90 minutes on the field. You shower, go home, and try to forget. For those of us who have worn that shirt it’s easy to take it to the next match. It can affect you on a personal level. With time you handle it better, but it weights a lot when you are defeated and the day to day can be quite complicated.”
With Athletic’s season not going according to plan so far, Etxeita says that it’s natural for fans to start to question wages and other details. However, he also believes that everyone in the team is dedicated to the club and that should be celebrated more so than seeing players doubted.
“It’s somewhat normal to talk about the millions that players make when things aren’t going well. With marketing and television all of these things are out there. When you aren’t winning it is one of the aspects or excuses that you see. That shouldn’t be the focus with players who are at Athletic because most of them have always wanted to play there and that should be celebrated. Athletic needs to get a win and use that confidence to build a streak and get the fans excited, which is important.”
In his short time with Huesca, Etxeita has already been asked a lot about Athletic. The Lions are one of the examples that Huesca want to model their club after. Despite the struggles this season the defender believes that Athletic have the quality to turn things around and thinks that once the Zurigorri win again they will begin to quickly climb the La Liga table.
“Athletic is an example for Huesca and I’ve been asked a lot about the club since I came here. I am convinced that Athletic has one of the best first teams. They have great players who can be higher up the table. The team played a great match at the Wanda Metropolitano and are going to have a hard two weeks training during the international break. I only had a couple of weeks at Lezama with Berizzo, but from the first moment he made his idea clear. He’s finding it hard to for the players to have success with the football he wants to play. The squad is capable. They need a win and once that happens they will start moving up.”
Regardless of what happens, Etxeita would like to see Ander Iturraspe get more playing time. He was full of praise for his former teammate and believes that he could do well in Eduardo Berizzo’s system if given more of an opportunity.
“I don’t know what to say. Iturraspe is a player with a lot of quality and can contribute a lot to the team. Maybe in his few opportunities things have not gone well, but he has a lot of talent. He’s shown it and I don’t have to say it. It’s a pity to see the situation that he’s in. He can also be important in the system that Berizzo wants. It’s a shame to not see him on the field.”
Athletic recently drew Huesca in the Copa del Rey and Etxeita is excited to face his beloved club once again while on loan. In the meantime he is enjoying life at Huesca and says that he made the right decision to accept their offer over the summer.
“I’m excited to face them again in the Copa del Rey. It will be special to play at the San Mamés. The cup is not as important here as it is at Athletic, but we will try to fight. I’m happy that I made the decision to come to Huesca. There are new experiences and I feel important because the club values me. I am enjoying minutes, although we are not achieving the goal of staying in the Primera. It has been difficult to win games. Huesca is perhaps in a similar situation to that of Athletic. The club is showing patience because it is a prize to be in the first division.”
Xabi Etxeita’s time at Athletic may not be at an end just yet. The club still has an option to extend his contract one more year after the current season ends and only time will tell whether or not they choose to do so. For now the 31-year-old has been able to enjoy regular playing time and will meet Athletic for the second time this season on 28 November at the San Mamés in the first leg of their Copa del Rey draw.