Athletic Club remind Spain what winning a title should look like

It’s only natural that humans become less excited by something they are accustomed too, and the equal is true of the opposite. That much was proven by Athletic Club last week, as they celebrated their Copa del Rey triumph over Real Mallorca on the streets, in the water and in their droves.

The final preparations felt as if it were now or never. After 40 years of wait, six defeated finals, and around half of their fanbase having never known the sweet taste of a major trophy, Athletic fans stormed Seville. While Real Mallorca were well-represented, both in the city and in La Cartuja, the Basque fans brought a rumoured 100k fans to Andalusia, and it looked as if close to a third of them were in the stadium, even if their official allocation was only just over 20k.

With three Spanish sides looking to make it through to the semi-finals of the Champions League, similar scouring for tickets might not be so far off for the final. While Real Madrid have have been used to European success over the past decade, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have become very aware of their own mortality in the Champions League, and if either make the final (indeed both cannot), there could be a similar scramble for tickets and the accommodation in London.

Back in Bilbao, the Athletic Club fans streamed back up the country in a state of euphoria, in varying degrees of health. The streets of Bilbao were full, and filled again when the Athletic squad held an impromptu street party on the Tuesday night, midway between the game and ‘official’ celebration. Fans and players embraced as one, singing, celebrating and enjoying themselves together, with no security in sight, and no attempts from the fans to have their moment in the spotlight with a football star on social media. One supporter even told of walking home with Inaki Williams after, like any pair of strangers made friends on account of football.

On the Thursday, the ‘Gabarra‘, a famous barge from the time they last won the cup, was set into the water and the trophy winners sailed down the Nervion, to banks of noise either side. Then they boarded a bus too, with talk of a million people in the streets to greet them.

It’s difficult to imagine the same happening with any of the other trio of Spanish sides looking for triumph in a cup competition. Athletic Club’s firm commitment to preserving the parts of football their fanbase and community wants, seeks, and connects with was shown in the outstanding response from their fans. Everything with Athletic harks back to the past in some form or fashion, and it’s hard to imagine that the behemoths leading the way in Europe might not have looked on with envy at celebrations which matched such an historic achievement.

La Liga - Club News