Tribute to Lezama | Athletic Club
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Tribute to Lezama

Today marks 50 years since the opening of Lezama. We celebrate alongside Iribar, Urkiaga, Guerrero, Alkorta, Muniain and Erika Vazquez

Tribute to Lezama
Tribute to Lezama
27 de ene. de 2021

Athletic Club is celebrating the most important of birthdays today. Fifty years ago today, in 1971, the very first training session took place at the Lezama training complex.

If San Mamés is the heart of our Club, it would be more than fair to argue that Lezama is its brain.

The name comes from the town of Lezama, which is about eight miles away from Bilbao, where the facilities are based.

The training centre has evolved massively over the past fifty years, but it started off with just three pitches.

Athletic had several motives for constructing the complex: the need to protect San Mamés’ turf -where the first team used to train-, escaping the pollution of Bilbao to find a healthier environment and, of course, having a proper home for the youth teams.

Félix Oraa was the president who green-lighted the project, working alongside director, Jose Ignacio Zarza and, on the sporting side, legendary ex-player and top scout, Piru Gainza.

Since then some magnificent coaches have spent time at Lezama and close to 200 players formed at the complex have gone on to play for the first team.

Santiago Urkiaga was the first footballer to make the journey all the way from the U-13s (at that time the youngest age group) to the first team, but others such as Agirreoa, Bengoetxea, Vidal, Otaolea, Oñaederra, Iñaki Garay, and later, Goikoetxea and Sarabia had already started with the U-15s before making first-team debuts.

The most recent footballers to make their debut as Lions after passing through Lezama are Jon Morcillo, Oier Zarraga and Iñigo Vicente.

The list of talented footballers who have come up through Athletic’s academy is long. Alexanko, Argote, De Andrés, Urrutia, Alkorta, Ander Garitano, Larrazabal, Julen Guerrero, Yeste, Del Horno, Llorente (the only world champion formed at Lezama), Susaeta, Iraola, Gurpegui, Aduriz, Muniain, Laporte and Williams have all come through the academy… it’s impossible to mention everyone.

With the pandemic in mind, Athletic Club has organised a simple event to celebrate Lezama’s great work. It’s the first event of its kind to take place in the training centre’s brand-new first-team building.

Four male international footballers (Iribar, Urkiaga, Guerrero and Alkorta) and one women’s international player (Erika Vazquez) will talk about their experiences growing up in what has become their second home. Erika is the club’s top female goalscorer, with 261 goals over 16 seasons. In addition, club captain Iker Muniain, who arrived at Lezama as a 12-year-old, will also speak about his time there.

The arrival of Athletic Club Women in 2002 was another great step forward for the Club and Lezama. More than fifty footballers have come up through Lezama, most of whom started of with the reserves before making it to the first team, including current captain Garazi Murua. She is joined by Irune Murua, Arrate Orueta (sixth and seventh in the appearance-makers rankings), Damaris Egurrola, Oihane Hernandez, Sierra, Valdezate, Oguiza and many others.

A small group from the Board of Directors, headey by club president, Aitor Elizegi, will be present at the event, as will the first-team head-coaches Marcelino García Toral and Iraia Iturregi. Furthermore, club legends, Andoni Goikoetxea and Manolo Delgado will be attendance, along with Feliz Oraa’s son who will be present in honour of his father, the great inspiration behind Lezama.

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