Andoni Ayarza “Lezama Is The Essence Of Athletic And Also The Future”
Andoni Ayarza knows what it’s like to train at Lezama and reach the Athletic first team. He did so as a player and now his goal is to make the academy even stronger. A few years ago he partnered with Rafa Alkorta to begin planning for the next era of Lezama and now the two are serving together under new President Aitor Elizegi. The Technical Secretary is still analyzing what changes need to be made this summer and on Monday he joined Juanma Mallo of El Correo to discuss the focus and his role alongside Alkorta.
First, what will be your mission?
“Being very close to Rafa Alkorta, for issues related to the technical secretariat and for the organization of human resources at the sporting level. When we started this path we were always thinking about our project, not individual roles. I am a graduate in journalism, I love the projects of the social commission, and we will be totally involved from the sports area, but my passion is football. Since I left Athletic, I have dedicated myself to the monitoring and analysis of football and Athletic, both in the first team and in the lower categories. And when the time came, Rafa told me that he would like me to be by his side and I did not hesitate for a second.”
When did Alkorta propose that you work together?
“We have been sharing thoughts and ideas for many years about how we would like Lezama to work, how we would like Athletic to be, and things that can be improved. We spoke with each other and with experienced professionals in both Lezama and other schools. It was in the last two years that it began to take a more defined form, and in the last six or seven months we started moving away from other occupations. I decide to bet 100% on this project, although to be honest, I was not sure that there would be elections either. Without a doubt, regardless of who won, the possibility of being able to choose is a success. The elections showed that Socios are interested in the future of Lezama. We share that focus. Lezama is the essence of Athletic and also the future.”
And what can be done? There are teams that are far from first place, there is a lot more competition.
“Rafa and I know how Lezama worked in our day and we are aware that the current world is constantly changing and adapting. But there are things that can’t be lost. We have to give a lot of value to new technologies, to innovation, because there is a lot of knowledge that can come from there. You also have to give a lot of value to the roots. Feeling and competing, tradition and ambition, they must be perfectly compatible in our Athletic.”
Has ambition been lost?
“It’s not a question of losing it voluntarily, but the key is to generate the maximum level of competition. I, for example, cried the two times that I was at Athletic and I had to leave because behind me there were other, much brighter alternatives. In my case it was Rafa. That, although not for the footballer, was fantastic news for the club. It’s a good scenario when players who are at the ideal have to leave because competition is pushing them.”
Is there not enough competition?
“Maybe less, but we want Lezama to become the best football academy in Europe. That means that not only is it a source of sporting resources, but, once that priority is covered, it is also a source of economic resources. The club sold me twice, which means that there was a return for the investment in my training. The economic sustainability of our model also passes through there.”
You’ve spoken about competition and meeting needs. One of those needs is the substitute for Aduriz. Is that one of the things that most concerns you?
“Football isn’t mathematics. Many variables are involved in every footballer. Iñaki Sáez says ‘the football player isn’t made, but born and then formed’. That phrase has two keys – born, that is, detecting the talent, and formed, or managing the development of that talent. Scouting and training are two essential components. And by the way, Aduriz will surely continue to give us a lot of joy.”
Do you mean there needs to be more scouts and give them more resources?
“The first thing is to know exactly what there is in place. We must analyze, with the utmost respect, the tasks and professionals and from there make the appropriate decisions.”
You have already spoken with many people. How do they see Athletic?
“The last few years haven’t been easy. I personally suffered a lot during Kuko’s year. He was one of the greatest successes of the Urrutia era. His work with the academy was spectacular, including promotion to the Segunda. In the first team he didn’t find the deserved reward for the commitment and dedication that he gave, but he is young and future is always being written.”
You speak very well of Ziganda, is he an option?
“I’m not going to get into that. It’s what I feel about him.”
You have six months of hard work to collect and analyze the data and make decisions.
“We know the things that are most visible, but to make decisions we must have full knowledge, and we don’t have it all. We know youth football, but it’s another thing being on the inside. If there is something important at Lezama, it’s all the children and also the coaches. They make up the most important thing that a club like Athletic can have.”
Will there be someone who is the most responsible for Lezama?
“In the organization chart, Rafa is the head of the entire sports area. From there hangs all the other responsibilities. He talks about his experience, but his life as a footballer is the best experience that can be presented. He also has leadership, personality, character, but also a lot of empathy and sensitivity.”
During the campaign it was said that Lezama is in its best moment in history. Do you agree?
“The campaign is already over. Now everyone, as Uribe-Echevarría himself stated, is working for the good of Athletic. I insist that in Lezama there are excellent people who are sure to commit themselves fully in this new stage.”
There is talk of revolution.
“Nothing will be convulsive. It will be analyzed and the appropriate measures will be taken.”
Is it feasible for Bilbao Athletic to play in the Segunda?
“We are part of that Bilbao Athletic that played in the second division. You went directly from Juvenil to Bilbao Athletic, making it comparable with military service. It was a time of great demand, in which you learned a lot for the future. Being almost children, you really grew and matured. We know that it is very difficult to earn promotion. After going up, it is so complicated and even more difficult to stay there. Working to recover that missing link is a precious goal.”