Antiguoko President Edorta Salegi Responds To Criticism Over Partnership With Athletic Club

Aitor Elizegi Antiguoko

Antiguoko are excited to partner with Athletic through 2030 (AC)

Yesterday’s announcement that Athletic and Antiguoko have signed a 10-year partnership agreement sparked outrage throughout Gipuzkoa. For years, every youth academy in Gipuzkoa has served as partners to Real Sociedad due in part to an ordinance from the local government which pays the clubs to do so.

As the premier youth academy in Gipuzkoa, Antiguoko’s decision to not renew their contract with Real Sociedad and instead partner with Athletic has angered fans and clubs from the area. Some have accused Antiguoko of “trading their values for money” in reaction to Athletic almost certainly paying a large sum for the partnership. However, there’s more to the story.

“Athletic has a philosophy of working with the academies in Bizkaia that is more similar to ours,” explained Antiguoko President Edorta Salegi during an interview with Noticias de Gipuzkoa. “This is a decision that wasn’t made overnight. It’s something that we have valued more in view of what we see here, in Gipuzkoa, and what we have valued in recent years.”

While the partnership will benefit Athletic greatly, the Bizkaia giants weren’t actually the ones to initiate negotiations. “We were the ones who called Athletic and they, who were looking for a club in Gipuzkoa, were interested,” revealed Salegi.

Salegi would go to share that Antiguoko aren’t pleased with the way youth football has been run in Gipuzkoa as of late. The local government’s control of regulations is unacceptable to the club.

“Antiguoko has been caring for grassroots football in Gipuzkoa for more than 35 years but we haven’t been comfortable with the grassroots football plan than governs Gipuzkoa. We don’t see why an 8-year-old can’t play football and, above all, why Real, a good club, supports it. Shouldn’t Real be defending football?”

Aitor Elizegi Antiguoko

“We were the ones who called Athletic.” (AC)

Ultimately, the governmental ordinance is one of the biggest reason’s for Antiguoko’s decision. With taxpayer money being given to youth academies to partner with Real Sociedad, Antiguoko wanted to make a change to have more freedom.

“The biggest issue was the subject of territorial law. It’s a law that was made between La Real and the Provincial Council, which defended that a boy from Añorga couldn’t come to Donosti to play or a kid from Ordizia to Beasain. This was a torpedo for our way of working.”

Essentially, the partnership will give Athletic the first pick of players coming through Antiguoko, but like every collaboration the players still have the final say. “We believe that sports conditions can improve for our club with this agreement,” concluded Salegi. “Even though we have signed this agreement with Athletic the players can go wherever they want. To Real, to Barcelona, to Athletic, wherever they want.”

For Antiguoko, partnering with Athletic was an important decision for the future of the club. “It was more about going with Athletic than anything else,” Salegi later told El Chiringuito. The criticism was expected, but Antiguoko are excited to spend the next decade working with Athletic Club.

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