Tag: Sports

Young Basques making sports careers for themselves in the United States

The Basque-language daily Berria included an interesting report in its Sunday edition yesterday on three young Basques forging sports careers in the United States.

Jagoba Nabarte (Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, 1992) is a professional jai-alai player. In 2015 he received an offer to play at the Dania Jai-Alai fronton in Dania Beach, Florida, and in his own words, he didn’t have to think much about accepting because since the age of fifteen he’d had the goal of going to the US one day to play jai-alai: “On more than one occasion, someone who’d played in America showed up at one of my training sessions, and told me about how it was over there, and I was a little envious.” Although he was supposed to go to Florida in 2015, visa problems delayed the trip. He’d already quit his day job and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to fulfill his dream, and in the end, he had to wait until February this year to make the journey. He recently returned to the Basque Country after a six-month stay in Florida, but will shortly return to Dania Beach, where he finished in the upper half of the final classification table during his previous time there; not bad for a rookie pelotari. He observes that the courts are different in the US and the balls faster, two technical differences that he had to learn about quickly and the hard way. It goes without saying, too, that, as he notes, the bets are larger too in the US!

Uxoa Bertiz (Elizondo, Nafarroa, 1997) has been attending Drury University in Springfield, MO, on a soccer scholarship for the last three years and plays for the Drury Panthers. It has always been her dream to be a professional soccer player, and she did play for Real Sociedad in Donostia as well as the Basque national team. But as she says, she always thought she may go to the US one day: “Soccer in the United States has always attracted me.” Finding it hard to balance her passion for soccer with her studies back home, she applied to several US universities, where she knew the school system made it easier to continue her education while developing as a soccer player. Ultimately, Drury made her an offer and she traveled to Missouri to further her career: “For me, it was the best option, and I didn’t think twice.” She’s now studying computer engineering at Drury and has a busy schedule, getting up at 5 am every day for early morning training before attending class between 9 am and 3 pm, finishing up with more gym work in the afternoon. While it’s been tough to uproot from her family and friends and move thousands of miles away, she’s proud of what’s she’s achieved. And so she should be!

Eneritz Larrañaga (Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa, 1998) plays for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College women’s basketball team in Miami, Oklahoma. She’s been in Oklahoma since August 2016 and, as she herself says, while it was tough to make the transition at first, once she made some friends, that helped a lot. In her own words, the “most difficult thing has been adjusting to the US style of basketball, because it’s a lot more individual and physical.”  She didn’t get a lot of game time during the first few months there, but has gradually adapted to the style of play. She’s also studying International Business, while training five days a week (starting at 6 am before class and then again in the evenings). And if that were not enough, she also works part time in a coffee shop. As she says, she really values getting to know lots of people from different countries but, naturally, she also misses her family and friends. Still, she’s happy to be getting a good education and achieve a good level of English, while also being able to play the sport she loves.

Read the full report (in Basque) here.

Basque Country women’s soccer team loses to Ireland

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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.

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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

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.

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Julian Vergara Medrano (1913-1987)


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

Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2015 in Bilbao, Basque Country.

Saturday, September 26, witnessed the grand finale of the 50th Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Bilbao. Relive the event here.

 Video taken for YouTube

If you want to know more about Bilbao or the Guggenheim Museum, check out That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture, and Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, available free to download here. In relation to the event itself, see also Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport.

Remembering the “Sagebrush Battle” 84 Years Later

On July 4, 1931, on an extremely hot summer day, a long expected boxing match took place in Reno, Nevada: Max Baer vs. Paulino Uzkudun. The “Sagebrush Battle,” as the Nevada State Journal titled it, was a tough twenty-round fight between heavyweights Baer, from California, and Uzkudun, the professional Basque boxer from Errezil, Gipuzkoa. Not risking anything, both fighters resisted each other and tried to avoid falling to the burning ground until the very end. Finally, Uzkudun was victorious over Baer after Jack Dempsey, in his dual role as referee and promoter, raised the Basque boxer’s hand.

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Nevada State Journal front page on July 4, 1931

The fight was greatly hyped. The match between Max Baer and Paulino Uzkudun in 1931 generated huge interest at both the local and national levels. Next day, on July 5, the New York Times reported the battle round-by-round as follows:

Grinning, gold-toothed Paulino Uzcudun out-roughed Max Baer, rangy Californian,…

Clubbing, butting, heeling, and wrestling marked the battle from the opening gong until [the very end]… The two warriors violated most of the rules of ring etiquette in efforts to beat each other down in the resin of the sun-scorched battle pit.

Cautions by Referee Dempsey had only momentary effect. When Paulino quit cuffing, Baer started heeling. The Californian missed a couple of pivot punches, but not intentionally. On occasions, they butted like goats. Baer started wrestling and Uzcudun retaliated by twisting his rival half way out of the ring.

…Kidney and rabbit punches, therefore, were countenanced.

For a twenty-round bout, the big fellows set an unusually fast pace. The last five rounds developed the more furious exchanges. As they struggled along, mauling and planting solid punches in swift rallies, the advantage see-sawed from one to the other.

At no time was either out in front and at the end of the nineteenth Referee Dempsey told newspaper men the last round would decide the fight. Paulino had the better of the last session. He tore into his bigger rival and rushed him into the ropes, meanwhile scoring heavily with hard punches to the midsection. Baer’s occasional rallies were weak-hearted.

Baer went into the bout with most of the physical advantages on his side, but Paulino was the favorite from the start. Ignoring Baer’s superior reach, the sturdy Basque bobbed in and out to thump the Californian regularly with solid lefts to the body.

In the fifth round, Paulino scored with some heavy blows to the jaw and Baer appeared in distress. But by the time the eighth round rolled around, the Californian was leading with his stocky rival retreating around the ring.

Uzcudun’s greater experience stood him in good stead. He fought cooly, whereas Baer lost his head at times to beat the air with wild swings…

The match attracted around 18,000 people. This fight went hand in hand with the legalization of gambling in Nevada as means of economic development during this critical period in the American history in the early thirties. The Baer-Uzkudun match of 1931, according to historian Richard Davies, revived the fusion of the western athletic hero and economic promotion in Reno.

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Reno’s Virginia Street days before the boxing match

Furthermore, the victory of Uzkudun over Baer resulted in a great deal of pride on the part of the Basque-American community. Unsurprisingly, Basques living in Reno and surrounding areas took an active interest in the fight during the days before and after the event. Almost the whole Basque immigrant community of northwestern Nevada attended this big fight, including a large number of sheepherders who absented themselves from their work on the rangelands. Indeed, this fight provided a historic opportunity for this immigrant group to express pride in its roots and reaffirm its Basqueness in the American West.

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Promotional photograph of Paulino Uzkudun, 1930


Sources:

  • “Fighters Ready For Sagebrush Battle,” Nevada State Journal,  July 4, 1931.
  • “Paulino Defeats Baer in Reno Bout,” New York Times, July 5, 1931.
  • Richard O. Davies, “A ‘Fistic Festival’ in Reno: Promoting Nevada’s New Economy,” Mariann Vaczi, ed., Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport (Reno: Center for Basque Studies, 2013), 295-314.
  • Richard O. Davies, The Main Event: Boxing in Nevada from the Mining Camps to the Las Vegas Strip (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2014).

To learn more about this story, check out the book Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, in which you can find an interesting chapter on the Baer-Uzkudun match by Richard Davies entitled “A ‘Fistic Festival’ in Reno: Promoting Nevada’s New Economy.”

Barcelona vs. Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey

Gear up as tomorrow, Saturday, May 30th,  Bilbao and Barcelona play for the Copa del Rey in the oldest Spanish soccer competition.

Mariann Vaczi graduate of the Center for Basque Studies PhD program (2013), gets us ready as tomorrow one of the most well-known football competitions will take place between Barcelona and Bilbao’s Athletic. Mariann’s most recent article article in Catalan, Les cendres de San Mamésis about the increasingly popular practice of placing the ashes of the loved ones in soccer stadium. She describes the case of a Bilbao fan who spread the ashes of his sister in San Mamés and who attributed to her intervention the fact that Athletic did not lose the first category that year. This makes reference to one of the chapters of her book “Soccer, Culture and Society in Spain: An Ethnography of Basque Fandom” published by Routledge (2015) and which elaborates on the cultural premises and sociopolitical ties that bind Bilbao’s soccer fans. Mariann did her field work on Bilbao’s athletic club in which she studied soccer from anthropological and sociological perspectives, including the interfaces of sports with globalization, identity, gender, politics and the media.

In addition, Mariann also edited Playing Fields: Power Practice and Passion in Sports, which is a collection of articles on sports from a variety of perspectives and scholarly disciplines.

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