Koldo Aguirre Bidaurrazaga, one of the great myths of Athletic Club’s history, died today in Bilbao at the age of 80. Sondika’s genius was everything in the entity: a magnificent football player (two times Cup champion), a coach who reached the glory with the Club in the 1976-77 campaign with the UEFA (against Juventus) and Copa del Rey (Real Betis) runners-up and, when required, he knew how to become a great institutional ambassador, travelling with his inseparable Jose Mari Argoitia through to all the peninsula’s peñas. Making Athletic here and there. Unforgettable. He leaves a tremendous legacy. The funeral for Koldo Aguirre will be tomorrow, Friday July 5, at 6pm in San Pedro church in Deusto.
We are talking about one of the most talented midfielders who has dressed the red-and-white shirt. His personality allowed him to play as a veteran with 18 years the most echoed match in the history of Athletic Club, the 1958 Final Cup against Di Stefano’s Real Madrid. The 2-0 defeat of the ‘Once Aldeanos’, in whose line-up Aguirre slipped with 18 years and eight matches as a lion, was in fact his great baptism as a footballer. Recently, on 2 May, he collected in Ibaigane, drawing strength from weakness and in a wheelchair, a bracelet as a tribute to the survivors of that feat. Only Etura, Mauri, Uribe and Carmelo are still present. The last one to whom he scored no less than four goals in the second 45 minutes of an away match against Espanyol in which Athletic lost 3-0. Andoni Cedrún did not want to kiss his uncle Koldo for what he had done to his father.
He took part in an unforgettable scene when Athletic visited Anfield in the 1966-67 UEFA Cup, in which, as captain of the lions, they passed the round thanks to the draw made for the tiebreaker. Koldo Aguirre, between subtracting merits and the classy sarcasm that accompanied him in life, assured that he did not get to choose heads or tails. Shrugging his shoulders and with hardly a hullabaloo, his teammates barely knew immediately if they had won.
After 296 games and 64 goals, he went to hang up his boots at Sabadell, where he played just three fixtures. He did so more than anything to avoid the family suffering from the leukaemia of his younger brother, Iñaki, who had been captured by Real Madrid. “I was tired of lying to my mother, I was the only one who knew,” he confessed over time. Thus, he put an end to a career that began as a child in Sondika and continued in the youth Getxo.
He had such a vision of football that he noticed he could succeed on the bench. He passed through Erandio, Villosa and Alavés before moving to Lezama. He made Bilbao Athletic fourth in the 1975-76 season and with Jose Antonio Eguidazu, president at that time, promoted the first team. It was the height of the so-called Operation Return, with players who were key in that campaign such as Churruca, Irureta and Lasa, who came from Sporting, Atlético and Granada.
That Athletic played football smoothly and was loaded thanks to his exhibitions in San Mamés to Ujpest Dozsa (5-0), Basel (3-1), AC Milan de Rivera (4-1), FC Barcelona de Cruyff (2-1 and 2-2 at the Camp Nou) and Racing White Molenbeek, which in the semifinals made him sweat to defend a goalless draw that made Belgium’s 1-1 good.
The final against Juventus was played in two matches, with the second leg in San Mamés. After losing 1-0 in Turin with a Tardelli goal with the shoulder, Bettega overtook the Italians (7′) in La Catedral. The comeback seemed impossible, but goals from Irureta (12′) and Carlos (78′) arrived, and another by Linemayer was nullified. Zoff had never been so caged. The value of the goal in opposite field and an irascible arbitration left without a deserved European title to that Athletic captained by Iribar in which Rojo I, Churruca and Irureta swelled to play.
Worse sensation left in the body the Cup final lost against Betis of his friend and former coach Rafa Iriondo, after loosing by penalties. Athletic had finished third in League. It could be the best campaign since its creation to have achieved those two titles. Of course, few are remembered like that. He did another two years on the bench, with a third place and a ninth. He passed through Hercules and Valencia, where a victory against Real Madrid with a goal by Tendillo gave the first league title to Javier Clemente’s Athletic. Mallorca, Logroñés and Lleida were his destinies before returning to Lezama. He did trained the junior team and then return to Bilbao Athletic 18 years later. Barakaldo’s was his last bench before returning as an unforgettable ambassador.
“We’ll go on forever like this, we’re different and that’s why I’m very satisfied to have participated in so many things within this Club”, he argued three years ago in an interview that we reproduced on video. A genius right up to the grave. Goian bego Koldo!
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Selected the stadium -Martínez Valero de Elche-, live television coverage by DAZN platform, on Tuesday 17 December, 9pm
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