Endika Guarrotxena “I Think Gaizka And Patxi Are Suitable Coaches To Lead This Team”
Athletic’s last Copa del Rey title came all the way back in 1984 when the Basques defeated Barcelona 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Striker Endika Guarrotxena scored the winning goal for the Lions and would continue to wear the Zurigorri shirt before leaving the club in 1987. Today Guarrotxena serves as the assistant coach at Cultural de Durango in Bizkaia and is still a huge Athletic supporter.
Having also coached Getxo, Guarrotxena has learned much about the other side of professional football. Seeing the current state of Athletic the former striker believes that Gaizka Garitano and Patxi Ferreira deserve more praise for what they have accomplished with the team over the past year and a half.
“I think that people have to place great value on Gaizka and Patxi,” he told Telebilbao. “They took over the team in a very difficult situation which we can’t even imagine. Many doubted if they could continue in the Primera. They took the team forward and without making any signings, with the same team, they are having a decent season. I think they should be encouraged.”
As a graduated of Lezama, Guarrotxena is proud of Athletic’s unique identity. “I never tire of saying that we are a cantera team,” he pointed out. “I think Athletic have a great team but we have to be patient. We have the best that we can have at all times and with that we have to push forward. We have to encourage them because there is no other. I think Gaizka and Patxi are suitable coaches to lead this team.”
Although Athletic’s season has been a rollercoaster so far, Garitano has managed to lead the team to the Copa del Rey final where the Lions will meet rivals Real Sociedad. The two sides have never faced off in the Cup final and Guarrotxena is excited for what it will mean for Basque football.
“It’s a very nice ending. When people outside the Basque Country see that the fans are all mixed together, some wearing one shirt and others with other, they are going to see something special. In our Derbies we are different. We’re going to demonstrate to the world that you can play a football match with tension and passion but also with respect and a good atmosphere.”
Separating the two teams is a challenge. La Real play a more attacking style of football while Athletic have built their success on organized defending. The former Lions says either could win the final.
“If we base it on the table it’s clear that La Real are currently better than Athletic. They have a great team, a very clear way of playing, and are having a very good season. We have a lot of physicality and also very good players. Athletic’s discipline and pressing make any team uncomfortable. We saw it against Barcelona. It will also be difficult for La Real to play their way. Anything can happen in a match. I think it’s 50-50 for either to win.”
Looking back, Guarrotxena says he never would have believed that Athletic would go 36 years without winning the Cup. This will be the team’s fifth final since the 1984 victory and it’s time to bring the trophy back to Bilbao.
“I could have never imagined that when we won the title Athletic would go this long without another one. Athletic have had opportunities to win the Cup, but it happened that we had to face one of the best Barcelona sides of all time and that is what prevented us from winning another tournament. I think it will come.”
The Cup final was originally scheduled for 18 April but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. At this point it’s unclear as to when it will be held, but both clubs and the Spanish Football Federation are determined to wait as long as possible in hopes of being able to play the match with fans in attendance.