The 77th European semi-final | Athletic Club
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The 77th European semi-final

43rd anniversary of the play-off against Racing White that led Athletic Club to live its first UEFA final

The 77th European semi-final
The 77th European semi-final
Apr 6, 2020

On Wednesday, in 1977, April 6, just 43 years ago, it was in front of nearly 10,000 red-and- white supporters that Athletic Club played the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Racing White Daring (RWD) from Molenbeek (Brussels). A 1-1 draw after the 0-0 draw in the second leg at San Mames and thanks to the value of the two goals, would be enough to reach the final against Juventus.

The lions, led at that time by Koldo Aguirre, had previously dropped out the Hungarian oldest club, Ujpest Dozsa (1885), the Swiss club Basel FC, a team from Milan with some players that were Golden Ball winnerssuch as Gianni Rivera and Fabio Capello, and a FC Barcelona with Cruyff and Neeskens in the quarter-finals. The Belgians of Racing White, a less prestigious team than any of their previous rivals, dropped out the always-powerful Dutch Feyenoord, the European and UEFA champions, in the quarterfinals in the early 1970s. So, although Athletic went to the clash as the favourite, an evenly matched tie was in prospect.

The chronicles of the time highlight the large number of red-and-white supporters, some 5,000 departed from the Basque Country and many living in Belgium, attended the 31,000-seater Edmon Machtens Stadium, which hosted a crowd of around 25,000. Athletic, with the leaves of some key players, Irureta, Villar and Alexanco, decided to line up Iribar, Lasa, Gisasola, Goikoetxea, Escalza, Garay, Oñaederra, Rojo II, Churruca (Dani, 83′), Amorrortu (Carlos, 78′) and Rojo I. From the opening whistle, the red-and-white imposed a quality-play against a strong Belgian team, and the quick moves of the attacking trio formed by Txetxu Rojo, Amorrortu and Churruca managed to get Athletic in front in the minute 25 thanks to a header from the latter that was well received by Lasa. Athletic was then able to take a bigger lead thanks to their dominance in the first half, but the Belgians pressed after the break. Iribar saved a penalty in the minute 52, and with two minutes remaining, a mistake by the defender led to a draw, leaving the tie at the expense of what happened at San Mames two weeks later.

A team with history

Despite being forgotten now, the Racing White Club was the result of several mergers dating back to 1895. A team quite popular in the 1970s, particularly after winning the Belgian League title in 1974-75. The European semi-final against Athletic was their greatest international achievement, and from then on, it began a steady decline that ended up with their termination in 2002.

However, thanks to its popularity in Molenbeek, the multicultural district of Brussels – which has 95,000 inhabitants, including over 30 %t foreigners – led to its revival in 2015 as Racing White Daring (RWD) Molenbeek, and started to play again at the First Amateur Division, although it could not approach its glorious past.

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