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Athletic de Bilbao: Blackburn Rovers' heritage


Siriwan

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Maybe you already know that, but there is an interesting story concerning the birth, history and (secondary) colours of one of the most successful clubs in Spain: Athletic de Bilbao. And it's quite interesting as it shows links with Blackburn of which any Rovers supporter can be proud of.

Football came to Bilbao at the end of the XIX Century, brought by British sailors and workers. Bilbao was a very important steel manufacturer at the time, and has had a big British influence from centuries in the past (a commuter ferry links Bilbao with Plymouth), so the British sailors who disembarked at the city spent their time playing a relatively new (at least to the eyes of the locals) sport they called football. So Bilbao's youngsters took interest in the game and, with British assistance and that of Bilbao natives who went to study to the British Islands, a new club was formed in 1898: Athletic Club de Bilbao. For the locals, it was shortened simply as Athletic. It had British players in its first lineups, although in time started to field just Basque players, growing in its academy.

The first kit was white, or white shirt and black shorts, because it was accesible to everyone. But when they wondered what colours should they wear from then on, they looked at their mentors, the British. And the club that was playing the best style then was no other that Blackburn Rovers. So from 1902 they wore blue and white halved shirts.

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This team was the first winner of the Spanish championship, in 1902.

From 1902 to 1910, regularly one member of Athletic's staff went to Blackburn to buy new kits for Bilbao's team. And with those colours they won two more championships, in 1903 and 1904.

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Today's replica of that shirt

In 1910, the representative that went to England couldn't reach Blackburn for inknown reasons. So being in Southampton he assumed the people in Bilbao wouldn't mind him buying the local club's kits instead. So from then on, Athletic de Bilbao fields red and white striped shirts and black shorts. But they didn't forget their origin, so as away kit they use to wear the Blackburn's colours. That's still true nowadays:

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There is still another link in Athletic de Bilbao's most successful coach: Fred Pentland.

Pentland played for Blackburn Rovers from 1903 to 1906, scoring 9 goals in 51 appearances with the club. His seven goals at the end of the first season helped considerably to avoid relegation.

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Pentland playing for the Rovers

After his retirement he became a coach and in 1922 joined Athletic de Bilbao. He started a revolution, changing the training methods, standarizing the procedures and making them professional. He coached the club in two stints, 1922-1925 and 1929-1933. Under his guidance Athletic won two La Liga championships (including an undefeated championship in 1929-30) and 5 Cups. He was the epythome of the British gentleman, with his umbrella, coat, cigar and bowler hat. His players in Bilbao had the habit of grabbing his hat after every championship won and shredding it. He surely had to buy a lot of hats. And under his guidance the club inflicted the most humiliating defeat to FC Barcelona: 12-1.

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Pentland (first on the right) with the team after winning his last title, the 1933 Cup.

In 1959, three years before his death, Fred Pentland came back to Bilbao, for a hommage game between Athletic and Chelsea. It would have been great if the opposing team was Blackburn Rovers.

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The legendary coach at that game

Last year the coach received another hommage before a game against his favourite rival, FC Barcelona. A statue was unveiled and Pentland's daughter, Angela Hilton, attended the game.

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Pentland's statue

It is said that Athletic de Bilbao is the most "British" of the Liga's clubs, and I agree. It is so because of its traditional gamestyle, atmosphere, its heritage and also because of its stadium, San Mamés, nicknamed "The Cathedral", which is very similar to English stadiums, where the attendance is really close to the pitch, unlike most of Spain's stadiums.

Afici%C3%B3n_de_San_Mam%C3%A9s.png

For all of these I'm very proud of being both an Athletic de Bilbao and Blackburn Rovers supporter, and I appreciate the links between the two of them. And I'm sorry if I made mistakes with my English, is very far from being perfect!

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I've heard this story quite a few times, especially as I am from Southampton too.

Just out of interest, are Blackburn Rovers well known in Spain or is it mainly the bigger Premier League clubs that people know about?

Over here the majority of fans will have heard of most Spanish teams but probably couldn't name a player from, let's say, Malaga or Almeria. Is that the same over in Spain regarding Blackburn or do people actually know some of our players?

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Sadly I think the same applies here: most people can't even name a Rovers player, just Salgado. But many people remember Alan Shearer playing for Rovers.

When I say I'm a Rovers supporter, most people shows surprise: people over here support ManU or Liverpool, mainly.

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Thank you, I didn't know it has been discussed before!

Many thanks for the post. It is very interesting. Thanks for taking the trouble

"And I'm sorry if I made mistakes with my English, is very far from being perfect!"

Sirwan my friend, your English is better than many in England.

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Although I've been a Rovers supporter for almost 20 years now, I've never had the chance to attend a game. I had always hoped that Blackburn would face a Spanish team at least once in the international scene, but as far as I know that hasn't happened yet (Athletic de Bilbao is really close to qualify to play the Europa League next season, but...). It would be great if both clubs settle for a friendly in preseason, considering their curious past. But Athletic uses to go to the Netherlands and Rovers to Germany!

Anyway, I know one day I'll attend a game live at Ewood Park, it's just a matter of time and opportunity.

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Fascinating; something I'd not realised before. I seem to remember that, once Uncle Jack began splashing his cash, that comparisons were drawn with Deportivo la Coruña, who had an "Uncle Jack"-type figure behind them.

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Fascinating; something I'd not realised before. I seem to remember that, once Uncle Jack began splashing his cash, that comparisons were drawn with Deportivo la Coruña, who had an "Uncle Jack"-type figure behind them.

Augusto César Lendoiro. He was the man behind that really entertaining team dubbed "Superdepor" signing players like Bebeto and Mauro Silva. But rumours say the money came from drug trafficking (Galicia, the region in North-Western Spain, is the main entrance port for cocaine and the like in Spain) and with improved surveillance there by the authorities, the money stopped flowing. I don't like them particularly. And AFAIK there are no ties between them and Rovers besides having a wealthy benefactor.

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Thank you all guys. I thought few people would find that interesting, as it's not directly Rovers-related. I see I was wrong.

Sure it is. It shows the influence Rovers had. We could do with another post about Dinamo Moscow, who to this day still wear the same colours, anybody know their Russian stuff?

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Great post buddy. Was aware we had strong historical links with Grasshoppers as I believe a couple of Rovers fans set them up but didn't know about this link Bilbao. Makes ya proud to see these good teams in Europe sporting the famous blue and white halves.

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I'm a proud owner of this shirt (sorry I couldn't find a bigger picture). It has about 8 years but I think it's way more beautiful than the current one:

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And this is the one they wore during the 1998 season, in which the club celebrated its 100th birthday (and they ended the season being runners-up and qualifying for the Champions League, so it was like a lucky charm. The coach became a legend in Bilbao, Luis Fernández):

Bibao-97-Away_1.jpg

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Brilliant Siriwan, I am sure Rovers supporters on this messageboard would welcome you to Ewood Park if you can ever attend a game here and treat you to a traditional 'Pie and Pint'

I will now, out of Interest, look for Bilbao results each week!

Are there still only Basque players playing for Bilbao?

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thanks, siriwan. keep spreading the word of the rovers. :rover:

are you alone in supporting rovers.. or have your friends followed us too.

also are there any athletic players that could do a good job for rovers ?

One of my best friends also supports Rovers, although to a somewhat lesser degree. He started watching games when I told him of the great team Jack Walker had assembled.

And about Athletic players, there is quality there, specially in the persons of striker Fernando Llorente and all-around midfielder Javi Martínez, both World Champs last Summer. But quality Athletic players use to stay in the club for various reasons. The first is that most of them come through the club's academy and sense the strong link between them and the club. And the fact that they have only Basque players limit the possibilities of signing replacements, so the club is less happy to let them go than in other clubs.

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Brilliant Siriwan, I am sure Rovers supporters on this messageboard would welcome you to Ewood Park if you can ever attend a game here and treat you to a traditional 'Pie and Pint'

I will now, out of Interest, look for Bilbao results each week!

Are there still only Basque players playing for Bilbao?

The rules are that two kinds of players can be fielded by Athletic:

1.- Players born in the Basque region (including Navarre and the Basque region under French rule).

2.- Players born in any other place that have grown up (in a football sense, playing in the academy) in a Basque club.

In fact most of Athletic's players came trough the Academy.

By the way, Athletic's players are nicknamed in the Spanish league as "The Lions". And our traditional playing style is that of strenght and courage rather than technical finesse.

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One of my best friends also supports Rovers, although to a somewhat lesser degree. He started watching games when I told him of the great team Jack Walker had assembled.

And about Athletic players, there is quality there, specially in the persons of striker Fernando Llorente and all-around midfielder Javi Martínez, both World Champs last Summer. But quality Athletic players use to stay in the club for various reasons. The first is that most of them come through the club's academy and sense the strong link between them and the club. And the fact that they have only Basque players limit the possibilities of signing replacements, so the club is less happy to let them go than in other clubs.

good info.. thanks :tu: and well done on convincing your friend! :lol:

munian still plays for you doesnt he.. ? id have him at rovers. llorente would be a top target man in the premier league.

i will follow athletic more interest.. though they are hardly ever on our satelite channels, unless the play madrid or barca.

that might change with the new tv deal in spain though.. how are things going with those talks.

do barca and real still get 130m euros each every season for their tv rights ?

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good info.. thanks :tu: and well done on convincing your friend! :lol:

munian still plays for you doesnt he.. ? id have him at rovers. llorente would be a top target man in the premier league.

i will follow athletic more interest.. though they are hardly ever on our satelite channels, unless the play madrid or barca.

that might change with the new tv deal in spain though.. how are things going with those talks.

do barca and real still get 130m euros each every season for their tv rights ?

Muniain is a real talent, yes. He's still 18 but he's pure class, and at least by now he's happy at Athletic. But Llorente has never hidden his admiration for the Premiership, and I think it's a kind of football that suits him well.

AFAIK the negotiations concerning the new TV deal are still blocked. The majority of clubs are not happy with Barça and R. Madrid earning the lion's share of the TV money. And that way the only thing the league is achieving is copying the Scottish model. It won't benefit the championship in the long term.

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  • 5 months later...

I was just watching Mastermind and some bloke was on there answering questions related to Russia a hundred years or so ago. One of the questions was about the Charnock Brothers, the two Blackburn lads who introduced football to Russia and formed its oldest team, Dynamo Moscow. It reminded me of this thread.

Dynamo have worn blue and white through the years, but only sporadically have they been halved shirts.

By the way, it's not been mentioned but Atletico Madrid also used to wear blue and white halves when they were formed. They were formed by some Basque students and copied Atletico. From Wikipedia -

They began playing in blue and white, similarly to Athletic Bilbao, but by 1911, Athletic were playing in their current colours of red and white stripes. Many believe the change was influenced because red and white striped tops were the cheapest stripes to make, because the same combination was used to make bed mattresses, and the unused cloth was easily converted into football shirts. This discovery of a cheaper option probably persuaded them to change and influenced the Madrid club being come to known as Los Colchoneros nickname. Other more plausible account of the reason to change colours is that both Athletic Bilbao and Athletic Madrid used to buy Blackburn Rovers blue and white kits in England.[10] Once in 1911, Juanito Elorduy, former player and member of the board of Athletic Madrid, went to England to buy kits for both teams. He did not find Blackburn Rovers kits and bought Southampton red and white ones instead.[10] Athletic Bilbao adopted the full Southampton kit with the red and white striped shirt and black shorts [this is incorrect, Southampton played in blue shorts until 1950.[11]]. Whereas, Athletic Madrid adopted the red and white shirt but kept Blackburn Rovers blue shorts, leading to them also being known as Los Rojiblancos.

Grasshoppers of Zurich STILL wear blue and white halves which is, of course, also down to Blackburn Rovers.

Grasshopper was founded on 1 September 1886 by Tom E. Griffith, an English student. With a 20 Swiss franc donation, the club was able to import an English football shirt with blue and white colours (worn by Blackburn Rovers). Its first match came in October that year against ETH and ended in a goalless draw. In 1893, Grasshopper became the first Swiss team to play in Germany, defeating RC Strasbourg 1–0.

Blackburn Rovers...inspiring the world for three different centuries!!!

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