Athletic’s Presidential Election Has Become A Battle Over The Club’s Philosophy
The Athletic Club Presidential elections have been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. After seeing several potential candidates withdraw their names it all came down to two very different opponents. Alberto Uribe-Echevarría stepped forward as the continuist candidate from Josu Urrutia’s Board of Directors and has been the focal point of continued stability. Meanwhile Aitor Elizegi has become the face of change and promoter of the Grada de Animación.
As weeks passed both candidates shared the visions for the club and have recently began presenting their projects for the future. Neither platform was surprising. Uribe-Echevarría plans to build on the club’s financial strength and continue improving Lezama, while Elizegi has put together a major plan for the Grada de Animación, expressed his displeasure with the club’s economic situation, and claims that he believes Lezama has been failing over the last few years.
The economic debate has since shifted to an even more serious topic with both candidates speaking extensively about their thoughts on Athletic’s unique philosophy over the past 72 hours. For Uribe-Echevarría the idea is simple. “We must have unequivocal commitment to the philosophy”, he said in a recent interview. The former accountant believes that the club’s philosophy should not be touched under any circumstance, but Elizegi disagrees.
Athletic’s player policy is clear. Only players born or formed (trained at a youth academy) in the Basque Country are eligible to play for Athletic. For decades the idea of Basques of the diaspora has been brought up and Elizegi has stated on several occasions that he wants to alter the philosophy so that those of Basque decent, no matter where they are born or formed, will be allowed to play for the club. “Who am I to say that they are not Basque?”, he regularly asks when discussing the topic.
During one interview Elizegi was asked if he would allow Marco Asensio to play for Athletic. Asensio’s father is Basque, but the Real Madrid forward was never born or formed in the Basque Country which means that he did not qualify to play for Athletic. Elizegi’s answer was straight forward. “If he feels Athletic, yes.” His response has been met with serious anger and confusion from fans who are now questioning why Elizegi wants to change the philosophy and just how far he is willing to go. Some have even started arguing that Elizegi doesn’t have a specific criteria for what would qualify a player to represent Athletic.
Many fans have even gone as far to say that it is difficult to value Elizegi’s wonderful proposal for the Grada de Animación when he has talked so openly about changing the philosophy. Taking things even further, Elizegi said in an interview late Thursday evening that under his Presidency “The San Mamés will always be open to the Spain National Team”, which was also met with anger from fans.
With the election just one week away the campaigns have turned from discussions about specific topics to an overall focus on Athletic’s philosophy. Will Aitor Elizegi’s open views about altering the philosophy be seen with enough acceptance for him to win the Presidency or will Socios choose to support Uribe-Echevarría who will remain fully committed to the status quo? Regardless of which candidate becomes the next President, this election will be decided by their views on Athletic Club’s philosophy.