How Athletic turned red and white | Athletic Club
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How Athletic turned red and white

111 years ago Juan Elorduy made history when he returned to Bilbao with the wrong kit

How Athletic turned red and white
How Athletic turned red and white
Jan 9, 2021

January 9, 1910 was the day Athletic Club became Los Rojiblancos and Zurrigorriak (the Red and Whites).

Athletic wore their red-and-white striped home jerseys for the very first time on this day 111 years ago in a fixture against Basque rivals Sporting de Irun.

The friendly match, which the home side won 2-0, was organised to celebrate the opening of Irun’s new ground, Amute.

From that moment on Athletic never looked back, donning a red-and-white striped shirt at every home game since.

In fact, the combination of red and white is such a massive part of Athletic’s fabric of being that it’s difficult to associate the Club with any other colours.

The city of Bilbao, for instance, whose flag is white with a red square in the top-left corner, is draped in these colours.

Red-and-white Athletic flags hang from balconies, children often wear the home jersey to school and it’s common to see a pair of red-and-white striped slippers when visiting an Athletic fan’s home.

Even the first words to the Lions’ pre-match anthem are “Athletic gorri ta zuria”,  which is Basque for “Athletic, red and white”.

But before January 9, 1910, red was nowhere to be seen at Athletic Club. And the legend of how it was adopted is a story every Athletic supporter knows.

In the holiday period of 1909, Juan Elorduy, Athletic Club player and board member, travelled to London, England.

Looking to take advantage of Elorduy’s journey, the board tasked him with purchasing a set of blue-and-white shirts in the style of Blackburn Rovers.

Up until that point, Athletic had played in blue and white since 1902, after Juan Moser, an Irish descendant living in Bilbao, gifted the kits to the Lions before they left for their victorious Copa de la Coronación (precursor to the Copa del Rey) campaign.

Elorduy left his mission until the last day and was unable to find the jerseys he had been sent for.

The following day, he looked around Southampton whilst waiting to catch the ferry back to Bilbao.

He failed to find any Blackburn Rovers-style tops in the south-coast city, but there were plenty of Southampton ones.

Luckily for Juan, the colours of The Saints’ jerseys matched those of the official flag of Bilbao.

Preferring not to go home empty-handed, Elorduy bought 50 shirts. The board accepted the new look and, apart from the occasional narrowing or widening of the stripes as well as other minor alterations, the style has not really changed over the last 111 years.

In fact, the current home kit, designed by New Balance, and inspired by Athletic’s history in its own way, bears many similarities to the one worn in Irun all those years ago. After all… “Athletic gorri ta zurria”, Athletic is red and white.

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