Unai Nuñez “If The Philosophy Changes It Won’t Be Athletic”
Unai Nuñez may currently be on international duty with Spain’s U21 team, but his biggest love is Athletic. The defender grew up in Protugalete dreaming of playing at San Mamés one day and has realized that dream in an amazing way. Earlier this week Nuñez spoke with Pablo Egea of Marca and shared what the moment was like when he found out he was going to Lezama.
“They called my home and my father, who is a football madman, answered. We got the call and they told my father that next year his son was going to Athletic. I was very young and didn’t have a settled life. My father was thrilled. I saw him crying and thought a family member had died, but he told me that they were taking me at Athletic. I had always thought about it, but one day later in the summer it became real. All my friends dreamed of going to Athletic.”
Before joining Lezama, Nuñez attended Danok Bat where he played with kids much older than he was at the time. Moving to Athletic was very exciting and having his brother in Bilbao made it easier to adjust.
“I was lucky that all my friends played in the town or at school, but my brother played in the lower levels in Bilbao and He helped me plug in. I did tests with players two years older than me and the coach saw that I had the ability to play with those who were older. I spent two years at Danok Bat and then went to Athletic.”
It became very normal for Nuñez to be promoted every season, but things got much more serious when he joined CD Basconia. The defenders admitted that he could finally see the possibility of one day reaching the first team.
“Every year I went to Lezama and went up a level. It was normal to continue playing with teammates who were friends, but then I went to the Tercera and you realize that things are becoming more serious. I had to give my best to be able to fight for my dream which was to play for Athletic. I’ve been lucky enough to fulfill that dream.”
Making it to the first team was a dream come true. Nuñez explained that playing at San Mamés is amazing and that his debut season was special. The 22-year-old didn’t have nearly as much playing time in his second year, but knows that he has to continue working hard to succeed at the club he loves.
“When I got to the first team I was lucky to play everything at the beginning. This year I haven’t and there are times when you aren’t happy about it, but you can think that way. You have to continue. Many would pay to be in my situation, but a player wants to play and wants it even more when you know you have the quality. The first day I stepped onto the field at San Mamés I was melting inside. I’m not being flippant, it’s because what we have here is different. You see fans who come to San Mamés have hope and they live football there. It’s different playing at San Mamés. It’s incredible.”
When asked about Athletic’s unique philosophy, Nuñez was quick to defend what he views as the club’s identity. According to the defender, if the philosophy were ever changed it wouldn’t be Athletic Club anymore.
“If, one day, the philosophy changes it won’t be Athletic. Athletic is that philosophy and even if we go down to the Segunda, I hope that never happens, we have to continue with it. In the end, we are all kids from the town and the surrounding area and we aren’t like other clubs who can sign the best of Germany or England or elsewhere. We fight with what we have and it’s good. Those of us who are here are going to give much more for the club than if there are players from outside who don’t feel it that much. We are different and I consider it a family. We are very comfortable and that’s why people don’t want to leave.”
Unai Nuñez dreamed of playing for the first team. Now that he’s done it, he wants to win a title. “My father has always told me that when the League and Cup were won, the streets were full of people in red and white”, he said. “I dream about that and I’ve seen the photos. I would like to be on the barge celebrating the title with the fans and lifting the cup.”