Six Athletic Club Masterpieces

Six Athletic Club Masterpieces

Some of Bilbao’s most important museums display iconic Athletic strips as the Club launches new range of historic jerseys

As part of the 125th anniversary celebrations, Athletic Club has launched a collection consisting of six historic shirts linked to different golden eras from the Club’s past, six strips that would not be out of place in an art museum. But do you know the difference between an artwork and a masterpiece? We explain below.

Lehena (first), the first jersey with Athletic Club's crest, the blue and white of 1902; Zurigorria (red and white), the first time Athletic pulled on the red and white stripes; Txapelduna (champion), a top representing the Club’s trophy cabinet; Europa, in honour of the 1977 UEFA final; Atezaina (goalkeeper), the classic goalkeeper jersey worn by the legendary Jose Angel Iribar; and Manchester, dedicated to the thousands of voices that sang our anthem at Old Trafford in 2012.

All of them were unveiled on Saturday morning in Bilbao, next to some of the most important museums in the city: the Guggenheim, the Fine Arts Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Basque Museum and the AC Museum. Ibaigane, Athletic Club's official headquarters, completes a map of select locations which, throughout Saturday, will showcase these six Athletic Club masterpieces for anyone wishing to see them in person. 

Without the co-operation of the Bilbao City Council and the museums, this launch would not have been possible. It is an initiative which befitting the 125 years of history of a unique club and of a city that proudly wears the colours of its team. The public can join in the fun by sharing their photos with the jerseys on social media via the hashtag #ArteAthletic125. 

Lehena, the Basque Museum (Plaza Unamuno)

The first Athletic Club shirt bearing the crest was blue and white and dates back to 1902. The jersey, which was based on that of Blackburn Rovers, pays homage to Club's origins and maintains the original half-blue, half-white design. It will go on display next to the Basque Museoa, located in Plaza Unamuno, in the heart of the Old Town. The museum's collection, containing ethnographic, pottery, ironworks and other historical exhibits, is of tremendous value to the heritage of our land.

Zurigorria, the AC Museum (San Mamés concourse)

This replica of Athletic Club's first red and white shirt had go with the AC Museum, its rightful place is to go on display in front of San Mamés. Everything about the jersey - the long sleeves, the old badge and the vintage laces - harks back to a glorious era for the Club, to Belauste and Pichichi, to the first Copas and the 18 Regional Championships. 

Txapelduna, the Maritime Museum (The Carola Crane)

There was no doubt about where this shirt's display should be placed. It's at the Maritime Museum, next to the legendary Gabarra. However, due to Athletic's impressive honours list (eight Leagues, 24 Copas and three Spanish Super Cups), choosing the design of this strip was extremely difficult. There were so many legendary sides to choose from, such as the team which won four Leagues and four Copas before the Spanish Civil War or the side coached by Javier Clemente, winner of two LaLiga titles and a Copa in the early 80s. After many headaches, the round neck shirt worn by the team which won the 1973 Copa was chosen. Not only because it was worn by Clemente himself, but also because it was Athletic Club's 75th anniversary jersey.

Europa, the Guggenheim Museum (next to the footbridge)

The location for the Europa shirt - red and white with a collar - was also a no-brainer. It made sense for it to be placed by the most international of Bilbao's museums, the Guggenheim. A masterpiece reminiscent of the one worn by Txetxu Rojo in the 1977 UEFA Cup final, and very similar to the one worn by captain Dani Ruiz Bazan in the 1984 Copa final. 

Atezaina, Ibaigane Palace (in the courtyard)

The iconic black goalkeeper shirt is deeply linked to Jose Angel Iribar, El Txopo. Iribar chose the colour as an homage to Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin, also known as the Black Spider. When Iribar visited Yashin's grave in 2012, he declared that he was doing so on behalf of all goalkeepers. The Atezaina (goalkeeper) shirt oozes elegance and history, just like the Ibaigane palace where it is displayed.

Manchester, the Fine Arts Museum (main entrance)

Manchester has a special significance for the Athleticzale family. It makes us think of that iconic European Cup clash at a snowy San Mamés, where Los Leones beat the Busby Babes 5-3. And it reminds us of the deafening noise thousands of Athletic fans made at Old Trafford, while eleven warriors dressed in the colours of the Ikurriña went toe-to-toe with Sir Alex Ferguson's all-powerful Manchester United side.