Category: Basque soccer (page 1 of 2)

A unique case in the world of football: Athletic Bilbao women’s team attracts record stadium attendance

On Wednesday, the quarterfinals of the Spanish Cup between Athletic Club and Atlético de Madrid made sport history for record attendance in Bilbao`s San Mamés stadium. 48,121 fans attended the game, and Athletic Club`s women`s team broke its own record of sixteen years ago, when 35,000 spectators showed up to cheer their team to its first Super League title against Híspalis. Bilbao`s women’s  soccer attracts by far the greatest number of fans in Spain, and probably in Europe, as this new record shows. By comparison, the Spanish national team game against the United States attracted 9,182 fans in Alicante only a few days before.

Record attendance of 48,000 in San Mamés stadium

There is much to celebrate about Bilbao`s penchant for women`s soccer in a country where men dominate the game.

“Twenty-first century Spain. You are born a woman, and you can become whatever you want: you can be a hunter pilot, a marine captain, a minister – but can you become a soccer player?” Cuestión de Pelotas, 2010

The question of a 2010 documentary on women’s soccer was rhetorical. That year, the film argues, women were still not granted professional status by the Spanish Football Federation. They were unable to make a living even if their clubs were willing to pay them, which lead to semi-legal minimum wage-like benefits for female athletes. “In Spain, things happened,” coach Vicente del Bosque said after the men’s national team won the 2010 World Cup. “We have become a modern country, and that is also reflected by our sport.” By men’s sport, that is. Women’s sports in Spain are still thwarted by institutional inequalities, social disinterest and almost no media visibility.

The 2003 game in Bilbao was a milestone for women’s soccer. It turned women’s play into a sport of mass spectatorship, and conquered fans. The prospect that women’s soccer can attract such attendance sent new energies through the frustrated ranks of this sport. Athletic Bilbao coach Iñigo Juaristi said that the turnout in Bilbao “should be a wake-up call for the Spanish Football Federation to take women’s soccer seriously.” La Puebla coach Isidro Galiot said that Bilbao “set the standards very high,” and contributed to the overall development of women’s soccer in Spain. Híspalis coach Sebastián Borras hoped that this was just the beginning of a new epoch in women’s sport: “I would like everyone in Europe to see what Athletic has achieved. I would like this not to stop here.” Fermín Palomar, then responsible for Athletic Club women’s soccer, spent that month responding to a flood of congratulatory phone calls and messages. “They want to know how we managed to attract 35 000 spectators for women’s soccer. I myself had to breathe deep not to break out in tears.” On Wednesday, Atlético de Madrid coach José Luis Sánchez Vera and his players left the field happy with their 0-2 victory, but even more perplexed by the crowd in the stadium. “This is a memory for all my life. It is something unforgettable to beat Athletic with 50,000 spectators on the stands.”

“It should be a medium-term plan that we play in San Mamés regularly,” Athletic Club player Garazi Murua said after the game.

There is perhaps one last thing for Athletic Club to kick off a new era in women`s soccer: play all women`s games in San Mamés. It`s hard to overestimate the legitimizing effect of place.

“How do you remember your great jump into the town square?” first ever female bertsolari champion Maialen Lujanbio was asked in an interview in 2009. “I started to be known by everyone,” she answered. “Because they put us… where we didn`t belong.”

Will San Mamés become the town square where female players belong for regular league games too? The magic of the Cathedral is such that it would turn women`s play into a serious adventure for those who still dismiss it as “anti-aesthetic,” or ni fútbol, ni femenino.  In May 2003, when Athletic femenino debuted by winning their first Superliga title, coach Iñigo Juaristi was thrown in the jacuzzi. Eskerrik asko he said at the press conference, dripping with water. “This can only happen in Bilbao.” When Bilbaínos first turned up by the tens of thousands to cheer their women players in San Mamés, arguments that women’s soccer can’t mobilize masses no longer counted. Bilbaínos had always thrived on challenges, and now they sent a powerful message. They were ready for their greatest bilbainada yet: turning women’s soccer into a mass spectator sport in a country where men monopolize it. If anywhere in Spain or indeed in Europe, it could happen in Bilbao. And there would be yet another reason to call Athletic un caso único en el fútbol mundial.  

The 2003 champion team

 

 

Mariann Vaczi presents at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association

CBS professor Mariann Vaczi presented her current research at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The title of her presentation was “Catalonia`s Human Towers: Nationalism, Associational Culture, and the Politics of Performance” focusing on the political deployment of physical culture in the current Catalan sovereignty process. Vaczi`s current research project is based on 1,5 years of fieldwork as a human tower performer in Barcelona, and draws parallels between alternative routes to nationalist mobilization through sport in the Basque and Catalan contexts. The panel, titled “Commemorating and coming to terms with the past” was chaired by James Deutsch from the Smithsonian Institution, which hosted both Basque and Catalan cultural projects at their summer festivals.

Dr. Vaczi`s anthropological work focuses on the interfaces of sport, politics, culture and society in the Basque and Catalan contexts. Her main work Soccer, culture and society in Spain: An ethnography of Basque fandom (Routledge 2015) gained positive critical acclaim internationally, and is now being translated into Spanish.

 

   

“Spanish soccer is on top of the world, at international and club level, with the best teams and a seemingly endless supply of exciting and stylish players. While the Spanish economy struggles, its soccer flourishes, deeply embedded throughout Spanish social and cultural life. But the relationship between soccer, culture and national identity in Spain is complex. This fascinating, in-depth study shines new light on Spanish soccer by examining the role this sport plays in Basque identity, consolidated in Athletic Club of Bilbao, the century-old soccer club located in the birthplace of Basque nationalism.

Athletic Bilbao has a unique player recruitment policy, allowing only Basque-born players or those developed at the youth academies of Basque clubs to play for the team, a policy that rejects the internationalism of contemporary globalised soccer. Despite this, the club has never been relegated from the top division of Spanish football. A particularly tight bond exists between fans, their club and the players, with Athletic representing a beacon of Basque national identity. This book is an ethnography of a soccer culture where origins, nationalism, gender relations, power and passion, lifecycle events and death rituals gain new meanings as they become, below and beyond the playing field, a matter of creative contention and communal affirmation.

Based on unique, in-depth ethnographic research, this book investigates how a soccer club and soccer fandom affect the life of a community, interweaving empirical research material with key contemporary themes in the social sciences, and placing the study in the wider context of Spanish political and sporting cultures. Filling a key gap in the literature on contemporary Spain, and on wider soccer cultures, this book is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in sport, anthropology, sociology, political science, or cultural and gender studies.” Routledge, 2015

 

 

CBS professor Mariann Vaczi interviewed by New York Times for report about upcoming King`s Cup final, and its whistling controversies

‘Why does the Spanish national anthem have no lyrics?’ a joke went before the 2015 Spanish King`s Cup final between Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona. ‘Because it’s whistled!’ Jeering the Spanish royal family and the national anthem at soccer games catalyses spectacular debates over sovereignty, state–region relations, and the freedom of expression.

CBS professor Mariann Vaczi, who has published about sport and nationalisms in Spain, was interviewed by the New York Times for a report about the upcoming King`s Cup (Copa del Rey) final between Sevilla and FC Barcelona, and the championship`s whistling controversies in a tense political climate of Catalan secessionism. See the report here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/sports/barcelona-copa-del-rey-final.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fsports&action=click&contentCollection=sports&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=4&pgtype=sectionfront

The report also drew from Vaczi`s research article titled “Football, the Beast and the Sovereign,” from which the following are excerpts:

Tension was palpable as we were roaming the streets of Madrid in May 2012 before the Spanish King’s Cup final between the Basque Athletic Bilbao and the Catalan FC Barcelona. This championship always represented Spain’s centralist powers, and now it would be played between two teams from regions of marked Republican and secessionist aspirations. King Juan Carlos himself was not going to show up for the final that bore his name, as he was resting off the hip injury he had procured at a safari in Botswana. Instead, his son Prince Felipe represented the royal family. Fifty-five thousand Basque and Catalan football fans packed into Madrid’s Calderón stadium. The Spanish national anthem was reduced to a mere 27 seconds to mitigate the embarrassment of its furious whistling, but that was not the only highlight of the anti-monarchy protest. Basque and Catalan fans were jumping and waiving pro-independence flags, savoring the moment as they sang together the well-known children’s song to mock the king’s wild game hunt:

“An elephant was balancing

On a spider’s web

And as he saw he didn’t fall

He called another elephant.

Two elephants were balancing

On a spider’s web

And as they saw they didn’t fall

They called another elephant

Three elephants…”

It went on and on, insistently, all the way to 15 elephants. With the seventh, I almost pitied the future king Felipe, who endured the insult with unimpassioned face. With the 10th, the elephants turned into a haunting specter:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quf8AjhX0gs#action=share

The first notable football game whistling goes back to 1925 to the regime of Primo de Rivera, who had just overthrown the constitutional government in 1923 with a military coup d’état. The military dictatorship suspended the 1876 constitution, dissolved the Spanish Parliament, and banned political parties and regional governments. The friendly match between FC Barcelona and C.E. Júpiter took place in June 1925 in Catalonia. At half time, when the Royal Marines played the Spanish Marcha Real, fans whistled the anthem so furiously that the Marines, confused as to why the ‘Spaniards’ whistled ‘their own anthem’, switched to their God Save the Queen. To their further bafflement, the British anthem met with enthusiastic applause. The event had major political repercussions. The stadium was shut down for three months, and the president of FC Barcelona was exiled from Spain. According to anecdote, the Les Corts stadium would be re-opened only after 12 religious practitioners blessed it in order to exorcise the ‘malevolent separatist spirits’ that had contaminated it

The post-dictatorship tradition of king jeering started in 2009, when Athletic Club and FC Barcelona qualified for the King’s Cup final. As King Juan Carlos emerged in the VIP booth of Valencia’s Mestalla stadium, the Spanish national anthem would be played, but it was not heard: 55,000 Basques and Catalans were standing, holding innumerable Basque and Catalan national flags high, whistling the anthem and the royal family. The state-owned Radio Televisión Española reduced the sound of the whistling and amplified the anthem to audible levels, which stirred a political controversy over censoring an act of free expression.

 

In spite of the National Court decision that declared that whistling fell within the category of free expression, pro-monarchy voices continued to call for the criminalization of whistling each time the Basque and Catalan teams qualified for the Cup Final. ‘Eighty-seven years later’, an article went before the 2012 King’s Cup final, ‘[Madrid province president] Esperanza Aguirre evokes the ghost of the dictator Primo de Rivera, who shut down Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium’, as Aguirre called for the cancellation of the final if fans whistled.

 

‘Where shall we put these 70,000 pigs, because pigs they are, these Basque and Catalan football fans who attend the King’s Cup final to insult and profane the symbols of Spain?’ a TV show host of La Ratonera declared in March 2015. ‘I would not even call them Basques and Catalans’, a caller added in a tone symptomatic of the tensions the game generated. ‘They are separatists, separratas “separatist rats”, there is no other way to call them’.

By 2015, whistling the national anthem was anticipated as the great subversive moment of the year. Ninety-five thousand Basques and Catalans packed in Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium and produced a decibel that the press called ‘monumental’, ‘stratospheric’, and ‘thunderous’. Spain’s ruling conservative People’s Party qualified the incident as ‘horror’ that ‘offends us’, declared that the whistling demonstrated ‘the disease part of the society suffers’ and reiterated the proposition that insulting Spain’s symbols should be punishable. The State’s Anti-Violence Commission issued a fine of 123,000 Euros for the clubs, and the General Attorney launched an investigation about whether the whistling constituted punishable offense to the monarch, and insult to national symbols.

For more, check out the essay here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00141844.2017.1321564

 

Flashback Friday: December 5, 1976: Basque flag displayed before historic match between rival Basque soccer teams

Sunday, December 5, 1976, remains a momentous date in contemporary Basque history on account of the remarkable events that took place in Atotxa Stadium, Donostia-San Sebastián: a key crossroads moment of social, political, and sporting history.

That day, the local soccer team in Donostia, Real Sociedad, took on its main rival, Athletic Bilbao in the classic Basque derby game. However, the moment that really defined the match took place before a ball was even kicked. As the two teams took to the field, the respective captains—Inaxio Kortabarria of Erreala and Jose Angel Iribar of Athletic—led their players into the contest while jointly carrying an ikurriña, the Basque flag, which was at the time an illegal act in Spain.

The flag was sown by the sister of one of the Erreala players, José Antonio de la Hoz Uranga, who himself smuggled it into the stadium that day, even managing to hide the banned symbol from a police check on the way to the game. Having done so, Kortabarria went over to the Athletic locker room and suggested the idea of jointly taking the field by holding the flag, in an act aimed at calling for its legalization over a year after the death of Spanish dictator General Franco. In the end, both captains agreed that all the players competing had to agree with the idea—something, all of them local, agreed to without reservation. In the historic photo that marks that occasion, it is de la Hoz Uranga (who did not play that day) who appears covered by the flag walking between the two captains.

Erreala beat Athletic 5-0 that day, but more importantly, the act of carrying out the ikurriña did much to accelerate the legalization of the Basque flag by the Spanish authorities. Ultimately, its public display was finally legalized on January 17, 1977.

Sport in general, including a special focus on Basque sports, is addressed in the CBS publication Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco’s Athletic Club Bilbao Peña

About a month ago, 15 members of the Athletic Club Peña in San Francisco visited the San Mames to watch the leones against Barça. Part of the trip was in honor of their one year anniversary as a peña, or fan association. They spent a few more days in Bizkaia, even eating at the Baserri Maitea in Forua, managed by the former goalie, Zaldua.

The Peña has 87 members, 75 of which are American and the rest from the Basque Country. The Club invited the group to San Mames, watching from the VIP box, where they were treated “like family” by Urrutia. Even though the team lost, these loyal fans will always support the team.

To read more visit (in Spanish): http://www.mundodeportivo.com/futbol/athletic-bilbao/20171030/432475124529/athletic-pena-california-ryan-makinana-san-francisco.html

Faculty News: Mariann Vaczi speaks at NASSS and Central Catholic

November is conference month, and Mariann gave two talks about her past and current ethnographic research interest in the anthropology and sociology of sport. First, she attended the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Windsor (Ontario), where she presented her research project in a panel called   “Strengths Matter: Framing Sport within a Strengths and Hope Perspective.” Mariann`s talk addressed the greatest challenge in the post-Franco era to Spain’s constitutional unity: the Catalonian independence movement, and its use of culture for nation building. The independence movement helped build support by using a 200-year-old folkloric sport, the building of human towers (castells). Mariann spent nearly two years in Catalonia between 2014-2016, joined one of the many local human tower teams, and helped build hundreds of towers. She found that the Catalan secessionist movement drew from the human towers’ performative iconicity, associational culture, and affective dimensions to rally disparate social groups behind independence. The operative values of human tower building (força, equilibri, valor i seny, “strength, balance, courage and common sense”), tower building metaphors like fer pinya “make a foundation,” and the sports ethos of collaboration for a common objective feature heavily at political events in the hope of building a new political community. Human towers visualize the strength of diverse individuals working towards a common objective. This talk reflected part of Mariann`s current research towards a comparative approach of Basque, Catalan and Scottish secessionism through sport and physical culture.

 

       

Next, Mariann gave a talk at the prestigious seminar series of the Scholar`s Program of Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her talk was titled “Anthropology of Sport: Themes and Perspectives,” and addressed her findings on Basque soccer and Catalan traditional sports. The seminar touched upon themes like ethnicity, identity, gender, politics, capitalism and globalization through the lenses of sport. The purpose of the presentation was to popularize anthropology as a discipline among these bright future scholars, and to emphasize its potential for researching modern western societies.

      

An Interview with our new CBS Professor, Mariann Vaczi

It is my great pleasure to introduce our new faculty member, Dr. Mariann Vaczi. As a graduate of the CBS, she already knows her way around and has brought great energy to the department.

 

Tell me a bit about yourself.

  • My academic specialization includes cultural anthropology, sociology, sport, physical culture, and cultural performance genres. My geographical focus includes the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Spain. I was born and raised in Hungary in a very sporty family, and I played basketball in the first division of that country. When I was twenty, I was given the opportunity to play and coach in Germany, where the American players of the club told me, why don`t you apply for an athletic scholarship in the USA? That is how I ended up in a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, where I became acquainted with anthropology, which later became my main field.
  • It was also there that I won a scholarship to study abroad in the Basque Country, which was my first encounter with this culture. I did my MA at Central European University, in Budapest, already working on topics related to Basque culture. At UNR and the Center for Basque Studies, I decided to specialize on the anthropology of sport, and more particularly on the Athletic Club and the social, cultural and political dimensions of its soccer madness. I published this book with Routledge in 2015, and I am now arranging for its translation and publication in Spanish.

What have you been up to since you finished your Ph.D. ?

  • I was based in Catalonia for almost two years. After my book was published on Basque soccer, I wanted to diversify and research Catalonian soccer from a comparative perspective, especially in light of the current sovereignty process. In the meantime, I got acquainted with an old traditional sport called human towers, and I did fieldwork on this practice for the book project I am working on now. I was a human tower performer for two seasons in Catalonia. Besides this fieldwork project, I also taught classes at the University of Dunaujvaros, Hungary.

What have you done since you got to the CBS this summer?

  • I have edited a special issue for the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies with the title “Sport, Identity, and Nationalism in the Hispanic World.” Besides writing my own chapter and the Introduction, I convoked, coordinated and edited the work of twelve sport sociologists, anthropologists, and historians. I am pleased to have got some of the finest experts in the field on board, and I look forward to the release of the special issue in December 2017. I have also revised and/or published two research articles on Basque and Catalonian sport and community formation in Anthropological Quarterly and Ethnos, which are top journals in the field of anthropology. Very importantly, I have started to prepare the publication of my work on Basque soccer in Spanish in both article and book form, and I can`t wait for the Basque fan community to be able to read it.

What are you teaching this semester?

  • I am teaching Basque Transnationalism in the United States. It is a class that revolves around culture, identity, ethnicity and politics in the changing landscapes of the home and host countries of Basque migration. My experience with American students is very positive: they know little about Basques in the USA, but they are very engaged and responsive.

What are your current research interests?

  • Currently, I am working towards the publication of my book on Basque and Catalonian sport and physical culture in the current phase of Catalonian nationalism and sovereignty process. After this project, I`d like to work on a book about Basque sport and physical culture, including traditional sports.

How are they different or similar to your previous research?

  • This work will draw upon much of my previous work on Basque soccer, but it will be complemented by Catalonian perspectives, and it will go beyond soccer and modern sports in order to focus on traditional sports as well.

What makes it unique?

  • This will be the first work to have discussed the political dimensions of sports for the current Catalonian sovereignty process, and the first book in English to engage with the traditional sport of human towers.

Have you attended any conferences or published anything recently?

  • In the last year, I have published a research article on Catalonia`s human towers in American Ethnologist, and a chapter on Basque and Catalan soccer in Spain in the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics. In the past couple of years, I gave invited talks at great European universities in Cambridge, Loughborough, Southampton, Toulouse, Bilbao, and Valencia. I am now preparing to give a talk at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in November 2017.

Are you happy to be back in the States?

  • Very much! I have lived in this country ten years, on and off, and it`s like coming home.

What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

  • I miss the great city of Budapest, and of course my family.

 

We are so happy to have you around, and can’t wait to read your forthcoming work. Ongi etorri, Mariann!

 

Basque Country women’s soccer team loses to Ireland

602px-elixabete_sarasola_6088517987_cropped

Elixabete Sarasola Nieto, from Donostia, who plays for AFC Ajax and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque Country women’s soccer team narrowly lost 2-1 against the Republic of Ireland, ranked 30th in the world, on Saturday, November 26. The Irish team went ahead in the first half with a spectacular free-kick by Stephanie Roche, but the Basque Country equalized with an equally great strike by Athletic Bilbao striker Yulema Corres. Ireland scored the winning goal in the second half, in which it clearly dominated the Basque Country, courtesy of Leanne Kiernan. Ireland thus got revenge for its 2-0 defeat by the Basque Country in a corresponding game in Azpeitia, Guipuzkoa, in 2014.

marta_unzue_cropped

Marta Unzué Urdániz, from Berriozar (Navarre), a defender who plays for Barcelona and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Like their male counterparts the Basque Country women’s soccer team does not have an official status and can only play friendly matches. The game, held at Tallaght Stadium in South Dublin, was the eighth time that the Basque national team has turned out, and its second game against Ireland, having also played against Argentina (twice), Chile, Catalonia (twice), and Estonia. with a record of 3 wins, 2 ties, and 3 losses.

Teams

Republic of Ireland WNT: Byrne (McQuillan 85), Berrill (McCarthy 46), Caldwell, Quinn, Fahey, Duggan (Murray 71), O’Gorman (Kavanagh 85), Kiernan (Prior 79), O’Sullivan, Russell (De Burca 79), Roche (McLaughlin 46).

Basque Country: Ainhoa (Eli Sarasola 46), Iraia, Garazi Murua (Esti Aizpurua 60), Joana Arranz (Baños 67), Ramajo, Unzué, Erika, Moraza (María Díaz 46), Beristain (Anne Mugarza 77), Manu Lareo (Ibarrola 74), Yulema Corres.

Check out a report on the game here: https://www.fai.ie/ireland/match/55501/2016/999943238?tab=report

For general information on the Basque Country women’s soccer team: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Country_women%27s_national_football_team

See also a complete record of all the Basque Country’s international games here: http://www.eff-fvf.eus/pub/calendarioEliminatoriaSelEspecial.asp?idioma=eu&idCompeticion=17

Athletic Bilbao women’s soccer team 2015-2016 champions!

athletic women's team

A huge congratulations from everyone at the Center to the women of Athletic Bilbao who have been crowned txapeldunak (champions) of the Spanish soccer league for the 2015-2016 season with still a final round of games to play. This is the fifth occasion on which Athletic has won the league.

Check out a brief report at the club’s official site here.

Zorionak, neskak!!! 

Flashback Friday: Red Army

On December 11, 1932, the Basque soccer team Osasuna (Club Atlético Osasuna) won 5-1 away to Athletic Madrid (Club Atlético de Madrid) in the Spanish Second Division, at the former Metropolitan Stadium of Madrid. In this match, Osasuna’s young forward Julian Vergara Medrano (1913-1987) scored all five goals. In 1932, during his debut season, Vergara scored a total of 34 goals for Osasuna. Three years later, in 1935, Vergara led the Basque “red” team (see below) to promotion to the first division. By then, he had established himself as one of the best soccer players at Osasuna. Vergara played for Osasuna until 1939. The professional soccer club Osasuna, based in Iruñea (Navarre), was founded in 1920 by the fusion of two small local teams–the Unión Sportiva and the New Club. Since its inception, the team has traditionally worn red jerseys and therefore this color has always been associated with Osasuna and its supporters.

Vergara

Julian Vergara Medrano (1913-1987)


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

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