Aitor Elizegi Discusses His Views On Lezama and The Importance Of Athletic Club’s Philosophy In Candidacy Interview
Aitor Elizegi is officially a candidate for the Athletic Club Presidency. After turning in more than the needed signatures on Friday his candidacy has been formalized and he will be presented by the club on Wednesday alongside opponent Alberto Uribe-Echevarría. With just a few weeks until voting takes place, on 27 December, the campaigning will now begin. Elizegi sat down for an interview with Ander Cotorro of Marca on Saturday to answer questions about his candidacy and had the following to say:
How have you lived these days of collecting signatures?
“It has been a wonderful experience, which is worth learning and I invite many Athletic Socios to live it. There is a precious part which is meeting a lot of Athletic Socios and just for what it has already been worth it. The technical part has room for improvement. It is a part of the electoral process that we could probably improve. I understand that the candidates have to be recognizes, but there are ways that we can make it more comfortable for the Socios. I hope that for the next elections it will be easier for the older and more agile for the younger.”
Have you had to think twice about avoiding saying things that you might regret in the future?
“I have been saying what I have always thought and what I have always written. I write for my health and everything I’ve discussed are things I’ve already written down, so I have already thought about them.”
Is joining the Uribe-Echevarría candidacy a real option for you?
“Right now I am only considering one option. If the partners allow us, there is only one who will win. The management team that we have formed is expressive and we have shared our project. My team have members who are much more qualified than me, brilliant in each one of their professions. I am just one part of the group. They have asked and need to express themselves and tell their project. It is our hope that the partners allow it. It’s a long-term project for some of them, a good project that I think can help change so many things that we can change. We have to get there first.”
After first decided not to step forward you later changed your mind. What led you to change your decision?
“I had evidence that at the beginning of 2018 there were 4 or 5 candidates with a desire, with a vision to step forward with a project. When autumn arrived, some candidates were in doubt. It was not easy to decide if it was time to open an electoral debate. we did not doubt ourselves, we doubted if it was important for the partners to take this step. We were very respectful of not trying to open an unnecessary debate at the wrong time. When we left, we realized what we had seen in the previous days. Nine out of ten Socios who came to us didn’t talk about sporting issue, but about everything else.”
Is your biggest concern the social aspect?
“It’s a point of emphasis. There is a literal phrase of the current President that says ‘Athletic goes in one direction and society in another’. It’s an object of reflection, but also that we can correct. There is only one future for Athletic which is going in the same directions as the society that appreciates it. Athletic has to be very close to what Basque society thinks and feels. I think that the distance is real and I don’t agree and keeping it like this.”
Transfer names always weigh a lot in the electoral process. Does Athletic need many new faces or is it enough to make small changes?
“This is a club that is based on values. The obligation of a club is to fulfill its sporting goals, if those goals have been set. Certain goals were given to Berizzo, Patxi Ferreira, Garitano and Amorrortu…they are goals that must be fulfilled. Our project isn’t different in that sense. Candidates can’t sign players because you can’t speak on behalf of the board until you are President. We should not and can not make a decision that alters the goals that have been set. In June, wishing the club and studying the decisions, a President or Board of Directors can try to improve, find solutions, and reinforce. A Board or a President can do that, but not a candidate.”
So I understand that you would like to get to 27 December without giving names to coach the first team?
“We already have the best ones. The first team is in very good hands and Lezama is in good hands. Many athletes think they are in good hands. It is a magnificent project for Athletic. Maybe it’s not just the project for this season, but for the 2019/2020 season as well. It is a scenario that we would all like to try to enjoy. We work with people from home and we have always tried to do that. Valverde, Ziganda, and now Garitano. It’s a very good bet. What if he stays for the next four seasons?”
What do you think of the current Lezama model and what changes do you think it needs?
“Being candidates we have dared, with all the respect in the world, to approach people who have Athletic in their heads and hearts. We want to know what they think of what is happening and are trying at all times to find out more. We would like to listen to the athletes and professionals who been involved in Lezama for the last five months. I am convinced that among them there are many that will also be the solution of the future project of Lezama. Right now it doesn’t seem like it’s necessary to talk about anything else than getting the 40 or 45 points necessary to end the season in the Primera. It is mandatory for the entire Athletic family to carry out the sporting project. In May comes internal reflection, work, study, and knowing from within what the current staff of Lezama needs. Ask, listen, and decide. The situation of the first team cannot be ignored and it worries us all. We are going to play football all together, earn 40 or more points, and from there seriously reflect on Lezama. I like what they have done. What if everyone ,together with the Socios, decided on a project for the next 8-12 years of Lezama. The solution is the same, we look at the Lezama project from the day to day of the professional teams. Maybe training doesn’t mean competition, maybe improving school doesn’t mean the children are facing high levels of stress. I am not an expert in sports training, but I do hear questions about he mechanics, about what is happening with the base of football in Bizkaia. In addition to being an opportunity for the basis of Basque football, I don’t want Lezama to be a problem. I would like it to be the solution for many Basque athletes.”
We have seen lately that it is easier to convince young players to leave Athletic. Is the club losing the feeling of belonging?
“There is a lot of Basque talent and not only in football. The talent isn’t going to stay with just any project and you have to convince everyone that it is worthwhile to spend their entire career in the Bay of Biscay. It’s not a sport problem, it’s a problem with our youth. There are players who continue to finish their career here. There were no doubts about Xabi Prieto and De Marcos’s probably starts and ends his career in his country, where he is happy and wants to finish his career at this club. It’s very nice because someone who is capable of playing anywhere in the world but decides to spend all of his career in a part of the planet where he feels surrounded by his own is special. I hope that the future of Athletic is a team without release clauses.”
You said that maybe the message of what Athletic is has been transmitted badly. Do you think that the most important thing is for it to be transmitted correctly?
“For Athletic Socios, part of our pride is telling our story. Where we are, we talk about our Athletic. It is very important that we continue doing it. We have to tell everyone that we are the best team in the world, the only ones that continued competing with our own. We are not more than anyone else, but are special. Who says that in the 21st century other clubs can’t be like Athletic.”
On one occasion you said that when making a dish the most important thing was the raw material. Does Athletic’s philosophy have the raw materials to remain intact or should it be adjusted over time?
“The Athletic of the future will continue playing with people from our home, with people trained in Euskal Herria. Now, what is a Basque for us? There are people who, in three years, can respect the idea of our country more than others who have been here for many years. It’s a passion to be at this club. It’s not a problem, passion and feeling are never a problem. I think they are one of the best ways to live. We like these rules that make it more beautiful, more passionate, and more legendary.”
The fans have been demanding changes in the Grada de Animación…
“It is everyone’s job. You have to cooperate so that the Grada de Animación becomes a special space. The space of young people, of new ideas and those who want to animate. Nobody forgets the tribute that we did for Iraola or the one we will make for Aduriz. But why can’t we pay tribute to our players every week?”
Do you think that a need to be heard has been created in the Socios?
“The need is mine. I need to listen to the 40,000 Socios to be able to speak. And I’m going to try, I’m going to try to listen to everyone to see if we can get it all together. I think it can be done, to know what they think, because I want to know if they think like us or differently. I would like to know that we can share our opinions and find a meeting point. Surely the answer is a magnificent and precious future.”