Gorka Iraizoz Offers Encouragement To Unai Simón And Iago Herrerín
For Athletic, winning Wednesday’s match is of utmost importance. The Lions are eager to put an end to their five game winless streak and will have the chance to do so against struggling Espanyol at San Mamés. It could very well be one of the most pivotal games of the season, but will also carry a special significance for one former player.
Gorka Iraizoz played for Espanyol from 2005-2007 before signing with Athletic where he spent the next decade before leaving in 2017. The goalkeeping legend knows better than most what it’s like to represent both clubs and shared his thoughts on the two sides in a special interview with Athletic TV on Tuesday.
“There are many similarities between Athletic and Espanyol as clubs”, Iraizoz began. “I would use two words to define the clubs. One is the feeling and the other is the familiarity that makes you belong to them. Athletic shows it every day and every moment and for me Espanyol was a discovery in this regard because it was something I didn’t expect.”
Although his time at Espanyol didn’t last long, Iraizoz felt quite at home. “Because of my way of living and understanding football, I immediately connected with the club. I had the luck and joy of playing in two Europa League finals, one with each of these two teams, and the disappointment and sadness of losing both.”
The connection doesn’t stop there. Not many realize that Iraizoz once played alongside current Athletic manager Gaizka Garitano while he was on loan with Eibar in the 2004/2005 season. I remember Gaizka as a teammate at Eibar, as a friend, and that’s how I see him today”, he said with a smile. “He’s the Athletic coach and I’m very happy for him because I love Gaizka so much.”
Garitano means the world to Eibar after leading the team to the Primera and Iraizoz will never forget how much of an impact he made on his own career while at Ipurua. “He was my captain at Eibar”, Iraizoz said. “He helped me a lot just like he helped all the young players. As a captain he was always willing to help. We lived a beautiful stage at Eibar and I remember it with great appreciation. Last year I saw him when I was with Girona. You are always happy when you see your friend. He was very happy for the opportunity he has here at Athletic.”
As a former Athletic goalkeeper, Iraizoz understands the pressure facing both Iago Herrerín and Unai Simón. “I’ve been in Iago’s position, Unai’s as well, and now they are there and others will come”, he explained. “There have always been great goalkeepers at Athletic. They work hard and well at this position at Lezama and Athletic. The goalkeeper role is very important we all know that, those of us who have been there and those who are there now.”
Iraizoz offered encouragement and advice to the pair, reminding them that they are in a very special situation by playing for Athletic. They should enjoy their football at San Mamés and embrace what it means to defend the goal for the Zurigorri.
“Now they have the opportunity to live this experience. I love both of them and have told them the same thing, that they have to enjoy the opportunity they have. They have an important job and later they will feel very proud of the work they’ve done. I am sure that everything will be alright. We can be very calm, but we know what the world of an Athletic goalkeeper is like. In that position you have to be calm and I send all my strength to them on the field doing what they have to do.”
Gorka Iraizoz will always be a reference for other Athletic players, especially younger goalkeepers. In his decade at San Mamés, Iraizoz gave everything for the club and showed what it means to prioritize the team above all else. Wednesday’s match will be a special game for the 38-year-old who carries both clubs very deeply in his heart.