Aitor Elizegi Answers Questions About His Candidacy For Athletic Club President
Aitor Elizegi dreams of being Athletic Club President. He’s been working on a project for years now and is finally running a campaign in hopes of winning control of Ibaigane. He’s spoken at length about his concerns for the club and the desire for Socios to have more of a voice in every aspect of Athletic. On Tuesday he sat down for an interview with Alfonso Herrán of AS to answer questions about his project and had the following things to say:
Let’s start with the most recent events…the dramatic situation and dismissal of Berizzo?
“The first feeling we have after the game is that there are few solutions. I lay empty because we have been working since six in the morning and it was a very complicated defeat. In the morning you reinvigorate yourself for an electoral process. Today we will have talked with 200 Socios and everyone is worried, but they think it’s worth it. It scares me from a distance. The numbers are hard but people trust in the San Mamés, in the Grade de Animación which is probably in favor of the project, and the squad.”
Can’t an electoral process hurt the team even more?
“The electoral process shouldn’t hurt the team even more. The candidates are exemplary. We are working apart from the team and there are two programs that are worth listening to and that will enrich us.”
You could become the President of an Athletic in the Segunda. Are you not afraid?
“I would be afraid of an empty Athletic, without Socios, without the San Mamés or Ibaigane or Lezama, outside of Bizkaia and Euskado. This is a project for the 21st century, for a life, not a few months. I am not afraid of Athletic getting better or worse, but rather that one day I won’t want to continue living Athletic. I have dedicated all my leisure and my affection to this project. Where the club is now isn’t my problem, it’s my club. We all feel that respect towards the club and we enjoy being Socios.”
You have been collecting signatures. How is that going?
“I think we’re going to be candidates, we’re working piece by piece. We have almost 40 people helping us, all friends from home. It has already been worth it seeing almost 50 people working for me. I hope to live up to the people I love so much. I can’t fail them. Socios will have until Friday to sign at Txocook and other venues.”
From where are you getting the financial support?
“There is an entrepreneurship meeting that we do every year at the University of Deusto where entrepreneurs come to study my case. Three million invested and over 50 people are contributing. When I believe in something I must first convince myself, then professionals and people with the capacity to invest. I never approach an investor that isn’t my friend.”
Some elections are decided by names. What about yours?
“We went back to the starting point: more than 200 Socios and everyone questioned me about the social aspects. Nobody asked me about the Sporting Director. Many think that the current coach, Garitano, and the assist, Ferreira, are a very good idea. Berizzo tried to do everything possible to take the project forward. He worked with honesty and effort. Many people think that Garitano is a very good option for the future, he was bork kilometers away from Lezama. Ferreira is a gentleman in the locker room and from Lezama. We are in good hands.”
Would you like to have Rafa Alkorta on your team?
“I have been with Alkorta for 20 years and I talk with him every three months. I have talked to him about the candidacy. Rafa is my friend and I talk to him about football and Athletic, just like Juan Carlos Ercoreca and Itziar Villamandos. Rafa is always willing to help.”
First you said you were excited, and then you withdrew, and finally you stepped forward. What happened?
“We all wanted the same thing: Aldazabal, Corres, I think Alberto [Uribe-Echevarría] and myself. Nobody doubted that it was necessary to take the step forward, but the question was if it was the right moment. Many who considered this at the beginning of the year faced this process. I said that I wouldn’t run then after talking about this eight years, almost eleven, all over the world people began to say to me ‘This is what you’ve always dreamed of, why did you turn away?'”
So you decided to go ahead?
“My people know me. Socios have been working for a long time dreaming of the best possible program, the project that connects back to the Bizkaian society of the team. They deserve respect because there are 44,000 Socios listening to two magnificent projects elaborated with love.”
Your opponent’s stage is overwhelming with former Presidents and politicians…
“I spoke about this project with Txetxu Lertxundi three years ago, but I don’t remember the date. I have the utmost respect for him and his decision. I have spoken with five former Presidents. We are talking about football, about Athletic. Politics are not football. It has to be dedicated to what the fans think and here that is the case.”
What would you do with Amorrotu?
“José Mari is Athletic 100% and we respect his work. I have known him for 30 years, what am I supposed to say? Josu has dared to speak on behalf of José Mari, saying that he is leaving because they have spoken. I will never fail to respect a person who surely is valid for the future of Athletic. Like many who have been at Athletic, I want to know what Noriega, Luis Fernández, Larrazabal, Dani, the best Captain I know, and others have to think. We will not hide from information that helps a management team, such as Txetxu Rojo.”
What do you think of the diaspora? How can you adjust the philosophy?
“I have been to Boise on the two expeditions with the Basque government, in 2010 and 2015, and spent the whole week cooking. We know something of what it feels like in the Basque diaspora. The questioned was answered by a Socio, an aite. ‘My grandson was born in Minnesota and is named Aitor Bereziartue Urkijo. Does anything think he can’t play for Athletic? Does anyone think I am more Basque than this child? The Basques are both from the heart. I do not need to give you permission, your family gives it to you. It isn’t that difficult to know who our people are.”
Is the squad economically overvalued?
“I’m here because there are five companies run by trusted people. Every year you have to review the productivity, the relationships, and the objectives to see if they are being met. We do it at all companies. We are in the hands of coaches for the next three years and what we believe is that a problem can be a solution. Garitano and Ferreira can be the future.”
How do you keep from losing players?
“You have to be inside the club and look at things with your own eyes. I invest in Bizkaia and Euskadi because they are my comfort zone, where my clients are loyal. I want to finish my professional career here. The Bizkaians and Basques thank you for your effort and the same is true for athletes. There are players who finish their career here like Xabi Prieto. I would like to retire like Etxe [Joseba Etxeberria] being here for my whole life.”
Is the solution to remove the release clauses? Would you bring back Llorente?
“It would be necessary to be inside to see if removing clauses is a something for the rest of the players. Llorente? I will listen to the Socios and will not do anything that they do not want. I won’t do anything that the fans aren’t prepared for or pleased with. Communication will be the strongest part of our commission.”