Aitor Elizegi Views The New Copa Del Rey Format As “All Or Nothing”
Aitor Elizegi was honored by Sport magazine on Monday with the Sports Club Values Award at the second annual Sports Values Gala. The Athletic president accepted the recognition with thankfulness and also took the time to answer a few questions. With the Lions beginning their Copa del Rey campaign on Tuesday against Intercity, Elizegi admitted that the new format of the tournament makes each game more serious.
“I live this with the nerves that the Cup brings, with the nerves that it’s all or nothing, and with all the respect in the world for this format. We admire it because of the support it gives to lower level teams. All the Primera teams have to be careful because we know that, although the opponent is smaller, they have the hope of winning at home and in front of their fans.”
Elizegi took over as president nearly one year ago when Athletic were in the midst of a relegation battle. Things have significantly improved since then. “The balance is positive because 2019 has been a time of recovery for us and San Mamés, the Cathedral,” he said. “We have turned that space back into a fortress and we are very hard to beat there. It’s what we wanted, to be strong at home. We’re improving on the road.”
Speaking of San Mamés, the Cathedral will host a number of games during EURO 2020 with Bilbao acting as one of eleven host cities for the tournament. “San Mamés is a stadium that knows how to host great events,” Elizegi said with pride. “It already did so during the 1982 World Cup. Now it has the honor of hosting European Championship games. It’s one of the stadiums where great European football can be played.”
In closing, Elizegi was asked about his thoughts on VAR and was in full support of the controversial technology. “It will improve and will be a solution in the future. It already is in some cases. There is room to learn so it will work better. It’s a tool that all clubs and Spanish football should appreciate.” VAR has both helped and hurt Athletic this season and opinions are still mixed in regards to the usage of the system.
Athletic will kick off their Copa del Rey campaign against Intercity tonight at Estadio Martínez Valero in hopes of lifting the club’s 25th title when the tournament ends. The format change to just a single game instead of home and away legs makes this match, and others, an elimination situation and the Lions have every intention of securing a big win and advancement to the next round.