SAN MAMES BARRIA
The 1953-54 season was considered by the specialized press as the "The decline of the Gods". It was truly a time of transition, but soon figures as important as Arieta, Carmelo Uribe, Mauri, Maguregui...began to strengthen; names that assured the continuity of a champion team.
Once again the generational gap took place without any problems. Still present was the extraordinary game of the eleven comprised by Lezama, Celaya, Oceja, Nando, Bertol, Mieza, Garate, Iriondo, Venancio, Zarra, Panizo, Gainza... when another great team was created, the "Eleven Villagers", thanks to the wealth of the Biscayan cantera (youth teams); that of Carmelo, Orue, Canito, Garay, Mauri, Maguregui, Arteche, Marcaida, Arieta, Uribe and, again, the great Piru Gainza.
It is the team of Fernando Daucik; the one that won a League (1955-56) and two Copas (1955 and 1956), the one that officially debuted in European competition and disputed the electrifying match against Manchester United in the European Cup, and the one that won the 1958 Copa, without the Czech as coach, against the powerful European champion, Madrid, at the Bernabeu. All in all, a team that brought joy to the red-white fans in the 50s and who added to the sporting curriculum of the Club.
During the two decades to follow that is the sixties and seventies, one of the most unfairly treated stages in Athletic history took place. Yes it's true, that there were not so many triumphs as in the past (the 1969 and 1973 Copas were won and the 1969-70 League Cup and the 1966 and 1967 Copas were held up high), nevertheless, this was a period when a definite step to get behind the cantera (youth teams) was taken. The (1961) Youth team was officially created and Bilbao Athletic (1964) made their reappearance. The opening of the football academy in the installations of Santa Maria de Lezama (1970), allowed for the promotion of the youth teams" policy to be signed in gold letters. Here the future was planned starting from the lower-division teams, work which went unmentioned, not so eye-catching but equally important as the work done by the premier team, which would guarantee the sporting achievements that the premier team were to obtain in the future.
The good work being done with the lower division teams were soon to offer its rewards and thus, in addition to the triumphs harvested by the Youths (they won the Copa from 1962 to 1967), soon afterwards they would join the Athletic players, a player who stood out was Txetxu Rojo. Txetxu, after having played with the Youth team for 2 seasons became part of the he professional team in 1965/66 season and remained there until the 1981/82 season and is the second player who has played the most number of matches in Club history.
If Txetxu Rojo was considered to be a charismatic player, what can be said about another legendary Athletic figure: Jose Angel Iribar Kortajarena, 18 seasons (from 1962/63 to 1979/80), with a match record of 467 League titles, 93 Copas, and 55 European Competition titles. A top goalkeeper who continued in the footsteps of the great Athletic goalies (Ibarreche, Vidal, Blasco, Lezama, Carmelo), and who have made that position a special one for the fans.
With regards to San Mamés, during this period some important changes were made giving the stadium a similar appearance to the one it has today. The Southern Stand was built in 1957, the Northern in the 1961, lights were installed in 1964, and the Eastern Stand was inaugurated in 1972. If we include the changes made as a result of the 1982 World Cup the final result would be the current stadium.
Therefore, a crucial period in which the Club's structures were completely modernized, which allowed the club to compete on equal terms against the rest of the teams who counted on 'support" such as having two foreign players in their side following the 1972-73 season.
It was in the year 1973, when Athletic celebrated its diamond anniversary. 75 years of sporting unity at the service of Basque Football.