Andoni Goikoetxea “Returning To Athletic Brings Me Pride And Satisfaction”
Andoni Goikoetxea has returned to Athletic nearly 30 years after retiring from football. Viewed by many as one of the greatest defenders to ever wear the Zurigorri shirt, the legend will now act as a representative of the club and ambassador for the Foundation. Goikoetxea recently sat down for an interview with Arkaitz Aramendia of DEIA and explained just how excited he is to come back home.
“Returning brings me pride and satisfaction, as one would say. I’ve been in many places since I went to the Spanish team with Javier Clemente, until my last experience as the coach of Equatorial Guinea for year years. I always said that my dream was to work for Athletic, regardless of the role. The opportunity has now come and I’m tremendously happy. Of course, I would have liked to return to the club much earlier. You wouldn’t believe me if I said so, but the opportunity hasn’t come until now and I haven’t felt any anxiety over it either. I think I’ve done my job well, with more or less fortune, wherever I have been.”
Goikoetxea explained that he shared his desire to work for the club soon after Aitor Elizegi won the presidential election in December. The Board has worked to find a role for the former defender who is more than willing to represent the club in any way possible.
“I spoke with Aitor Elizegi shortly after the presidential election and told him in the middle of a very short conversation that I would like to work for Athletic. He stayed in touch with me and time has passed since then, but in meetings they’ve thought about seeing where I could fit in. The last talks I had about it were with Juan Carlos Ercoreca, the president of the Foundation. In the end, everything has come to fruition and it’s a position in which I think I can perfectly represent the club wherever I’m needed. For the moment, I have all the confidence in the world and the maximum respect for all the decisions that have been made by the current Board.”
When Athletic approached Goikoetxea about the position he didn’t even have to think about his answer. The 63-year-old knew that he wanted to return home and is proud to be able to work with the association of former players.
“I didn’t think twice about accepting Ercoreca’s proposal. I have a very special feeling for Athletic and a lot of love because this club has given me everything and has been everything for me. I’m from here. This is my home and when the opportunity came I said yes instantly. My role will be to serve the club and be present at all times when they believe it’s necessary. I will also coordinate with the Association of former Athletic players. It’s a very important association because Athletic is not only the present. There are more than one hundred years of history behind the club. There are many who have played for the club, many who will in the future, and all of these are Athletic. You have to see what needs they may have. ”
While his new role is very specific, Goikoetxea is willing to do whatever is asked of him. He won’t be involved with the sporting aspect of the club but believes it’s for the best at this point.
“I will do everything that Juan Carlos Ercoreca believes is needed for the Foundation. What I will be doing has nothing to do with the sporting section and I’m very happy with the position. In fact, I wouldn’t change this position to be the coach of the first team. Football has always been my life, although I couldn’t be the coach at Athletic. I don’t miss anything at this point, but I am very grateful to the club because I couldn’t say no to an opportunity like this.”
As someone who featured in nearly 300 matches for Athletic, Goikoetxea knows the club as well as anyone. Looking back on his career, winning titles stands out the most but he also won’t ever forget the support of the fans.
“I know what Athletic means, its history and its present, as well as the people that make up the club and the players. Out of everything I lived with Athletic, I remember the titles mainly, because it’s not easy to achieve what we achieved. It wasn’t easy to win titles nor is it now in Spanish football, which is one of the best leagues in the world. I also remember the fans and how they lifted us at San Mamés during the bad times.”
It’s been over 30 years since Athletic last won a league title or Copa del Rey, but Goikoetxea certainly doesn’t think it’s impossible. He would love to see the team take out the barge again and for fans to celebrate a title victory.
“It would be wonderful for the club to enjoy the barge again because many fans haven’t experienced it. Taking the barge out would be an epic moment. It’s very difficult, but you have to be positive and think that everything is possible. Athletic has good players and they have to keep showing it. At some point they will catch a good wave and give us enormous satisfaction.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Goikoetxea is excited about the quality of the team and believes that the Lions can do something special. The opening round of games won’t be easy, but it’s very important to start the year strong.
“There is a good team in place. I’m looking at the new season with enthusiasm. It’s important to start the league well to build confidence and self-esteem, although the first game is against Barcelona. Then you have to visit Getafe and in the third match Real come to San Mamés. Last year didn’t go as planned. At first there was insecurity with Eduardo Berizzo and then Gaizka hit the right key to make it a great season.”
When asked about the fact that Jokin Ezkieta was the only signing over the summer, Goikoetxea was quick to point out that there aren’t many options on the market. Above all else, Lezama must continue to be the main source of player additions.
“And who do you sign? It’s very difficult with Athletic’s policy, which is our main joy. Lezama has always supplied the club. Without it the club would be in a different situation and we must have the utmost respect for those who are in charge of the sporting area because there are many who spend hours searching for the best players.”
Another legend will be leaving Athletic soon. Aritz Aduriz has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season and Goikoetxea made it clear that the fans should take this time to thank and celebrate the striker for an amazing career.
“Surely Garitano will use him this season and he will be effective. As long as he doesn’t have injuries he will continue to score goals. He has been the most important player in the team in recent years, but age is age and we all have to thank him for everything he’s given.”
In closing, Goikoetxea was asked about the recent signing of Bibiane Schulze-Solano. Her mother is Basque, but Solano was born and raised in Germany and only spent a few months training with a Basque youth academy when she was younger. Many fans don’t think that she meets the club’s player policy but Goikoetxea believes her situation is very clear and defended the signing.
“The girl is of Basque blood. My father told me when I was a child that the greatness of Athletic is that the players are from here, but time passes and those from here go to work elsewhere and have children in other places. These children may be in other places and at other teams, but they are from here and can play for Athletic. What I don’t understand is that there are some who say that a boy or girl who has Basque parents can’t play for Athletic. For me, all this is basic, common sense, but there is freedom of expression and everyone can give their opinions. I don’t know who started the commotion, but that’s my opinion on the matter.”
Andoni Goikoetxea is an example to every young player of what it means to work hard and give everything for the club. As one of the greatest legends in Athletic history, having Goikoetxea back in Bilbao is massive and he’s looking forward to doing whatever he can to help the club after nearly three decades away.