Carlos Gurpegi “We All Have The Dream To See Athletic As Champions”
Just a few days ago Carlos Gurpegi celebrated the 18th anniversary of the day he made his first team debut with Athletic. Throughout his career he suffered two major knee injuries, three facial surgeries, and was forced to serve a two-year suspension but gave absolutely everything for the club. Gurpegi’s drive and tenacity were unrivaled and he remains the last captain to lift a trophy for Athletic.
“I ended up suffocating a bit from football,” Gurpegi admitted in an interview with Radio Marca Bilbao on Friday. “My career, on a psychological level, was not normal or habitual. There came a time when I had to quit and get some air.”
Immediately after retiring at the end of the 2016 season Gurpegi joined Ernesto Valverde’s coaching staff at Athletic. Since then the former captain has taken on roles as a club ambassador and youth coach. “After I stopped playing I spent a year with Ernesto in the coaching staff. I stopped for a bit and got my coaching license and now I have returned for specific training in Lezama.”
Looking back Gurpegi recognizes that his career was full of challenges. Although it took its toll, the 39-year-old is proud to have spent 15 seasons with his boyhood club without wearing another shirt.
“There are complicated moments that we all go through in life and I think we have to try to overcome them because life goes on. On a personal level I went through very difficult moments, but my goal was to play football and to do it at Athletic. I had nothing else in my mind. After the suspension I was able to keep playing, to have a long career, and I’m happy to have overcome obstacles and spent my entire career with Athletic.”
Like everyone else, Gurpegi and his family are quarantined at home as part of Spain’s measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic. “At the moment we are all well,” he answered when asked how he’s handling the situation. “Living through this pandemic has taught us a lot about what is really important.”
Football has come to a complete halt along with other sports and forms of entertainment. In the end, Gurpegi is hopeful that this unprecedented time in history will help everyone reflect on life and focus on the things that really matter.
“The world of football was skyrocketing towards astronomical economic figures and it was very difficult to put a stop to it. These days I have the feeling that footballers are not important people. We are seeing ever day who the essentials are, who are the ones giving their lives to save others. Hopefully this crisis will help us to value those people. It’s not about football or sports in general. They have an admiration that we don’t deserve. There are many more important and essential people.”
There’s no clear idea as to when football will return but the biggest question is when the Copa del Rey will be played. Athletic are set to meet rivals Real Sociedad at La Cartuja and Gurpegi expects it to be an unbelievable fixture.
“Everything went smoothly and now this break has come. Let’s see what happens because nobody is able to say when it will be played or the conditions. Everything indicated that it was going to be an incredible day with two teams who know each other and live from their academies. Right now we’re all just thinking about the day to day, but we all have the dream to see Athletic as champions.”
Aritz Aduriz is the next player in line for retirement with the striker having already announced that he will hang up his boots at the end of the season. Winning the Cup title would be the perfect end to a legendary career. “For Aduriz it would be an incredible way to end his career after some spectacular years of football. Hopefully we can all celebrate it.”
Gurpegi may have only won the Spanish Super Cup with Athletic during his career, but he’s full of optimism that the current team can secure the first Cup title since 1984. “Hopefully in a few months I’ll no longer be the last captain to lift a title,” he said. “I hope that in the coming months there will be another to replace me.”
Throughout history Athletic has been widely regarded as one of the most respected clubs in football and Gurpegi sees great things ahead. “Athletic is a model club in many aspects,” he explained. “Competing against great teams and being in the Cup final again is a good sign and good news. Athletic’s future is good, I have no doubt about it. I’m always optimistic and I think things are going well.”
The current situation has left football in a time of uncertainty. A return to normalcy seems far away but even in the midst of disaster Athletic continues to be a beacon of hope and joy in the community. Winning the Copa del Rey, whenever the final is eventually played, would be the biggest moment in the club’s modern history.