Aitor Elizegi “I Would Say Relations With Osasuna Are More Than Normalized”
Athletic’s relationship with other clubs in the Basque Country has changed a lot throughout history. At times there has been wonderful harmony while other periods have been full of strife. Two years ago, after the Lions signed starlet Jesús Areso from Tajonar, Osasuna broke off all relations with Athletic but things appear to have been repaired under new President Aitor Elizegi.
“Relations are relatively normal,” said Osasuna President Luis Sabalza in a recent interview. With Athletic set to travel to El Sadar on Sunday the leadership from both clubs have had the opportunity to address the state of relations “I would say they are more than normalized,” Elizegi stated during an interview with Bilbosport.
While both Presidents agree that relations have improved, Elizegi still admitted that he doesn’t comprehend why some clubs get so angry when Athletic signs their players. “Athletic believes in Euskal Herria football,” he continued. “We invite others to share our way of doing things. I still don’t understand why it continues to bother others that we offer players from Navarra, Alava, Gipuzkoa, and of course Bizkaia, the opportunity to play for Athletic.”
Elizegi has always been open about the fact that he supports every Basque club. While Athletic is the club he loves, he still hopes that the others are successful and that those clubs feel the same way in return.
“After their own clubs, everyone should support Athletic because of our way of understanding Basque football. I always say that, after Athletic, my teams are the other Basque clubs. I hope that they, after supporting their own teams, will defend this way of doing football with players from home. It’s how things should be done, defending the rights of a club that believes in youth development and formation.”
The President also took the opportunity to address the recent strike among female players in Spain over the minimum salary limit. Ainhoa (Tirapu) and Erika (Vazquez) have declared that they feel proud of the treatment that Athletic gives them,” he began. “It’s important that our players can tell the rest of the players in the league that things are different at Athletic.”
Athletic’s unique player policy applies to every level of the club, including the women’s teams. “We still don’t see women’s football the same,” Elizegi said in regards to the philosophy. “We understand that not all of the teams comply with the quotas for local players, which means there’s a larger window for foreigns. There’s still a lot of work to do but we are optimistic for the future.”
Above all else, Elizegi shared that he believes hard work is the key to success at every level. “You can’t play in the first division, neither the men nor the women, if you don’t dedicate yourself 100% to this sport,” he said firmly. Athletic have been one of the pioneers for women’s football in Spain and will continue supporting growth in many ways.
In closing, the President was asked about the recent injury to Iker Muniain who will be sidelined until January. “When you have probably just played the best 90 minutes of the season, muscles can betray you in high performance sports,” he answered disappointedly. “It should be a small injury and he is expected to be back to 100% to start the new year with the rest of his teammates.” Being without the captain on Sunday will make the match even more challenging, but Athletic hope to return from El Sadar with all three points.