Javier Clemente “Euskadi Would Be A Good Test For Spain At San Mamés”
It’s been nearly one year since the Basque Football Federation voted in favor of applying for international recognition with FIFA and UEFA. Since then, the EFF have taken massive strides such as playing a friendly outside the Basque Country and hiring Javier Clemente as manager. Euskadi are serious about becoming an official National Team but understand that it will be a process.
“As Euskal Selekzioa only plays a couple of games each year, or sometimes only one, I have little work and I get to see the Basque teams,” Clemente said in a recent interview. “We are looking to schedule a friendly but the opponent isn’t known yet because the dates are complicated and we want to face a good and important team which increases the difficult. It’s not easy but we have to try.”
It’s become very difficult to schedule games against top teams but Clemente would love to play England or Italy. At the same time, the former Athletic manager says that Spain should consider facing Euskadi ahead of EURO 2020 where La Roja will play at least two matches at San Mamés.
“I would like to play against England because we are very English here, or against France who are neighbors. I remember that England came to the tribute to Txetxu Rojo and played a game against Athletic. To me it’s the biggest and most important tribute in Athletic history. Since Spain is coming to play the European championships at San Mamés it would be a good test for them to play against us. It would also be a nice event.”
Clemente believes that it wouldn’t be difficult to schedule a friendly between the Basque and Spanish teams. Furthermore, he’s confident that it would be a good way to prepare the fans in Bilbao for Spain playing at San Mamés in the summer.
“Spain will be playing at San Mamés and they could play us during a time they have free during an international break. It would serve as a good test for them at San Mamés and for the Athletic fans to see the Spanish team before the European championship. It would be a nice idea and I would love to do it. It would be good for the Spanish team to come here before the tournament.”
While many in Bilbao have voiced their frustrations at the idea of Spain playing at San Mamés, Clemente sees no issue with it. In fact, he says that the fans should support Spain and take pride in the fact that San Mamés will be on display during EURO 2020.
“It’s important for Bilbao that the Spanish team feels protected at San Mamés because football isn’t political. The people of Bilbao must defend the team that will play at San Mamés. For me there is no controversy in Spain coming to play at San Mamés. It’s historically the one of the best stadiums in football and the number one stadium in Basque football. A World Cup has already been played here with France and England.”
In August it was announced that Euskadi would play a friendly against Argentina, but the game was quickly called off. Clemente explained that the information was somehow leaked to the public which allowed Argentina to back out of the agreement.
“The leak of the Argentina match, if it didn’t come from the Basque Federation, came from someone who was at the meeting. The Argentines broke the contract because there was a confidentiality clause. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes it happens that journalists know things that they shouldn’t and that creates problems. We were left without that good game.”
Calling up the best players for Euskadi has been a challenge as well. With the Basque Federation unable to pay players like other National Teams, many have turned down the offer and Clemente says he always respects the decisions.
“I have made many calls. I feel sorry but I understand at the same time that players are asked to take three days off of their vacations and here, unlike the Spanish team, there is no money to do so. I accept it. I don’t have to ask why a player doesn’t want to come. I always respect the player.”
In closing, Clemente praised the ongoing work of the Basque Federation while also acknowledging the long process it will take to become a recognized National Team. Regardless, Euskadi is filled with many top footballers and will continue to take steps forward.
“The Basque Federation works very well but elite football is very complicated. We don’t have money at the start. It’s not sponsored by anyone and the big teams charge a lot or don’t want to play an unofficial FIFA team. They are afraid of playing against us and possibly losing to a modest team. They know our potential very well.”
Euskadi are in the process of scheduling more friendlies but possible opponents are unknown at this time. With EURO 2020 being held during the summer it’s unlikely that any matches will be played at that time. However, there will be other international breaks in the months ahead that could allow Euskal Selekzioa to take the field.