The love of a new sport
Football emerges in Biscay in the late 19th century as Bilbao and its surrounding areas experience a period of rapid industrial development. The sport was initially brought to Bilbao by British migrant workers and young Basques who had studied in Britain. The enthusiasm for this new sport inspires the birth of Athletic Club in 1898.
The Sunderland Daily Echo reports on a match played in Bilbao between English sailors.
Creation of the Zamacois Gymnastic Society (Bilbao), the seed of Athletic Club.
Athletic Club is founded.
Debut with a victory
Athletic Club play their games in Lamiako (Leioa). In 1902, Athletic wear their famous blue-and-white strip for the first time, make a foreign debut and win the first ever Alfonso XIII Coronation Cup. The Club inscribes its Statutes, integrates Bilbao FC and creates the Athletic Club Branch in Madrid.
First Statutes of Athletic Club. There are 33 founding members.
Athletic Club gets its first club crest and a new blue-and-white strip.
Athletic’s first trophy: The Alfonso XIII Coronation Cup (Madrid).
No foreigners in the line-up
Athletic Club players turn out in red and white for the first time and the Club decides to compete without foreigners. The team leaves Lamiako and after a brief hiatus in Jolaseta (Getxo) they settle permanently in Bilbao in 1913. Their new home is San Mamés, which fans affectionately nickname ‘The Cathedral’. The Royal Spanish Football Federation is also officially founded in 1913.
The red-and-white shirt first appears during Irun Sporting Club vs Athletic Club.
Athletic Club drops foreign players and takes a chance on competing with Basque footballers only.
San Mamés Stadium opens its doors. The first fixture is Athletic Club v Real Racing Club de Irun.
Goodbye to amateur football
Professionalism gradually seeps into the Athletic Club squad and we say goodbye to the last generation of amateur footballers such as Carmelo Goyenechea. Athletic are now part of a new 10-team domestic league competition called ‘La Liga’. The Club expands its sporting sections and in 1923 celebrates its Silver Anniversary.
Membership cards are created for Athletic Club fans.
Manuel Vidal and Manuel López (Travieso), Athletic Club’s first professional footballers.
La Liga kicks off
Years of titles and years of difficulties
This is the most successful period in Athletic Club’s history. There are numerous titles, international players and goal-scoring records which still stand to this day. But due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, all competitions are suspended between 1936-1939. The Club is hindered and the team disintegrates. These are years of strife and exile.
With Mister Pentland as coach, Athletic Club win their first league title and a first double.
Athletic achieve their biggest league win, a 12-1 victory over FC Barcelona (7 goals by Bata). And a second double: League and Cup champions.
The team is restructured. Bilbao Athletic are re-established.
Athletic Club to keep the League trophy
The effects of the Civil War weaken Athletic socially, economically and on the pitch. The club rebuilds and places its trust in youth. Led by a historic frontline, the youngsters form the base of the first side to be permanently awarded the League trophy and they also win a third Copa del Rey. The Club celebrates its first 50-year anniversary.
Athletic Club is forced to change its official name to Atlético de Bilbao.
Athletic Club’s third double. The first team to take the League trophy home forever.
Athletic Club record their biggest win in the Copa: Athletic Club 12-1 RC Celta de Vigo (Eight goals by Gainza).
The Arch of San Mamés
This is the time of the eleven villagers, symbols of Athletic and its youth academy. New titles see the Club’s popularity grow, there’s a first European Cup appearance and the first Fan Clubs are formed. San Mamés changes its look: the new Main Stand and the Arch -an icon of industrial Bilbao- are built.
Athletic’s first Fan Club: Peña Gainza de Minglanilla (Cuenca).
Athletic Club’s fourth double and the team’s debut in the European Cup.
Cup victory: The 11 Villagers defeat Alfredo Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The new generation of Lions
Before Spanish football incorporates foreign players, the Club reinforces its commitment to youth. Athletic Under-18s (1960) and Bilbao Athletic (1964) are created. In addition, Lezama, the first purpose-built football academy in the country, is designed (1969). This new generation of Lions, with José Ángel Iribar as goalkeeper, end the decade with another Copa title.
Creation of Athletic Under-18s
Goalkeeper José Ángel ‘El Chopo’ Iribar makes his debut.
Bilbao Athletic becomes the main reserve side.
First UEFA final
Athletic Club opens Lezama Academy, celebrates its 75th anniversary with another Copa title and holds the first Fan Clubs Congress (Bailén, Jaén). The team, strengthened by several signings, reaches a European final for the first time. After the political regime change, the Club asserts its democratic principles by stating, “one member, one vote”.
Lezama Academy (Biscay) opens its doors. It’s the first academy of its kind in Spanish football.
The Club recovers its original name: Athletic Club.
Athletic Club play Juventus FC in the final of the UEFA Cup.
The official anthem
After a long wait, the Lions win two La Liga titles and one Copa del Rey. Vast crowds line the riverbanks as Athletic’s players take to the River Nervión in La Gabarra (a small barge) to celebrate their victories; a true highlight in the history of Athletic Club and Biscay. San Mamés hosts the World Cup. The Club brings out an anthem and opens its headquarters: the Palace of Ibaigane.
All Athletic Club members go to the ballot box for the first time (universal suffrage).
Official Club Anthem and the Gabarra hits the waves after Athletic Club win La Liga.
Athletic Club win a fifth double: Liga and Copa Champions.
The first 100 years
This is the first decade without a title in Athletic’s history. After the Bosman ruling, the club must rise to the challenge in order to keep competing. Despite everything, the red-and-white team continues to play in Europe, finishes second in the league and qualifies for the Champions League. The Club celebrates its first Centenary.
Creation of Public Limited Sports Companies (SAD), but Athletic retains its status as a non-commercial club.
Athletic Club celebrates its 100th birthday by making its UEFA Champions League debut.
Approval of Athletic Club’s current statutes.
The Lionesses in the elite, the Lions in trouble
In the context of globalised football, the Lions are less competitive. Some seasons they only just manage to avoid relegation from La Liga, but in others they play in Europe and they reach the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 24 years. The Club founds Athletic Club Women and the Lionesses win four league titles.
Athletic Club Women’s first match: Athletic Club – AD Torrejón (Lezama).
Athletic Club record their biggest win in European competition: Standard de Liège 1-7 Athletic Club.
Athletic Club Women win three league titles in a row, becoming the first team to be permanently gifted the trophy.
The reward after a long wait
After a century playing in the same ground, Athletic opens its new stadium in 2013: San Mamés, the new Cathedral. In this decade, Athletic Club are runners-up eight times. The Lions reach the Europa League final and the Copa del Rey final twice. The Lionesses are four-times runners-up in the League and twice in the Copa. The compensation comes in 2015-16 when the men’s team win the Spanish Super Cup -our first trophy in 30 years- and the women’s team take home the league title.
Second European final (UEFA Europa League): Club Atlético de Madrid 3 – 0 Athletic Club.
Goodbye to the old San Mamés with a special testimonial: Athletic Club v Biscay Select XI and hello to the new San Mamés: Athletic Club v Celta Vigo.
Spanish Super Cup champions after defeating FC Barcelona (4-0 at San Mamés / 1-1 at Camp Nou)
Three finals in the same season
For Athletic, the outbreak of the pandemic at the beginning of 2020 had a decisive impact on the start of a promising decade. The football world in general suffered as a result of COVID-19, which left the stadiums without their essence: fans. In the midst of this uncertain panorama, 2021 began in style, the Lions beat Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on the way to Supercopa glory. What’s more, Athletic played two Copa del Rey finals in the space of two weeks (the postponed 2020 final against Real and the 2021 edition, against Barça).
The Lions win the 2021 Supercopa by defeating Real Madrid (2-1) in the semi-finals and FC Barcelona in a final to remember (3-2).
The historic feat of playing two Copa finals in the same year, in April 2021, against Real Sociedad and FC Barcelona, could not be capped off with the coveted trophy.
Club members gradually returned to La Catedral at the start of the 2021-22 season, with an emotional ceremonial kick-off in the first match back as a tribute to the fans.