Nothing suggested that the last duel between SD Eibar and SD Amorebieta would be the prelude to a historic appointment. That afternoon of April 28, 2013, with three points from group two of Second B in dispute, it was one of the many minor battles that their modest condition used to share for many years. But this Saturday’s reunion is destined to change everything. Starting at 6.15 pm, both clubs will save the 25 kilometers that separate them to star in the derby between the smallest cities in the same region – 19,529 inhabitants of Amorebieta (Bizkaia) for the 27,769 of Eibar (Gipuzkoa), according to the registry of 2020 of the INE – who have never faced each other in either of the two professional football categories. In its premiere under the heat of the LaLiga SmartBank spotlights, former players, coaches, employees, journalists and fans recounted the epic journeys of the two teams from muddy afternoons in their boots and cold in the stands.
“It’s like seeing a man on the moon”
First stop, Amorebieta. The weekend passes with apparent normality. Outside doors, grazing cows, groups of adolescents in the squares and benches taken by grandparents and grandmothers. But indoors, the extraordinary happens. In the houses, in the bars, an unusual football menu is eaten. The match of Athletic Club, the quintessential Biscayan club, is followed on the screens by a squad that last year played on a field where 50 times fewer spectators fit than in San Mamés. One of the patrons of the downtown café Venecia reflects, with the perspective of the retiree, the astonishment of the moment. “The Love on television it is like seeing a man on the moon ”.
In the town they still do not give credit to what happened last May, when they won a place to play in LaLiga SmartBank. And reasons are not lacking. By history – their highest milestone was going up to Second B, in 2011 -, due to the state of the accounts – they had the lowest budget in the world. play-off promotion- and sports structure –some players made football compatible with other jobs–, almost no one trusted the feat. Except, of course, for Asier Goiria.
Goiria is zornotzarra by birth, former player of the local team in two different stages and for five years also its sports director. The takeoff of the Blues, in part, began at the wheel of their car. In the absence of checks due to financial constraints, he took to the road in search of players in the area to design a competitive squad. Those who allowed themselves to be convinced with words such as project, seriousness or commitment became part of a humble block where, in the end, only Basque and Navarrese professionals remained. The return to the roots, the twinning around an identity, thinks the sporting director, would be the fuel that has taken the team as far as possible since its founding in 1925.
“In my times [debutó en 1998, antes de cumplir 18 años] Many of us were from here and it is something that we have tried to promote. They have also begun to bet on youngsters from the quarry, and that means that love for Amorebieta is recovering, which had been lost a bit, ”explains Goiria, who would make a good part of his career as a footballer in LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank.
The recent leap to professionalism forced them to an accelerated transformation. The old bar of the Urritxe stadium is now a press room and local matches are no longer played there but in Lezama, Athletic Club’s sports city. Step by step, they continue looking for a way to stay among the biggest in football, being the smallest by size. Perhaps also looking askance at some neighbors located 20 minutes from home, following the course of the AP-8, whose management model has been praised by business schools.
In Eibar, the fight continues
An image was recorded by the sports director of SD Eibar, César Palacios, the day he settled in the town four months ago: the tide of Barça flags on the balconies. “There were everywhere,” he recalls. Palacios, formerly of CA Osasuna and CD Numancia, acknowledges that he signed for the new position attracted by the idea of landing in a different, magical place, of an atavistic romanticism: “From the first moment you walk you can tell that there is life, there is soul, desire to live and to fight ”, he details.
The gunsmith is a different club. It is due to signs that can be seen with the naked eye, such as the huge photograph that pays tribute to the city’s first team formed by women in 1971 on the façade of its field. But also for other reasons that are already part of the history of Spanish football. , such as being the first team that placed a municipality of less than 30,000 inhabitants in LaLiga Santander and did so without a euro of debt, after tackling a capital increase of almost two million euros in 2014 through a recapture campaign in which was attended by more than 11,000 shareholders from 69 countries.
The press called all this “the Eibar miracle.” Although far from being a “fact that cannot be explained by natural laws and that is attributed to supernatural intervention of divine origin”, as the dictionary of the RAE defines the word in its first meaning, the successes achieved were manufactured with foundations as earthly as the common sense, perseverance or tireless work. That’s what Mateo Guilabert says, a 92-year-old journalist who from the modern press area of Ipurua tells how more than half a century ago he began to write his chronicles standing up, supporting paper and pen on the metal railing that once delimited the stadium.
“I have come to come here to lend a hand to sweep; Before, everything worked out between four cats. The players left work and came to train at night. And the same with the managers. You did what you could with a lot of effort ”, he recalls. Guilabert and his privileged memory is the main source to turn to to remember those times, in the sixties and eighties, when the duels against Amorebieta in Third were the great event on Sundays. “We were all on the bus and, at the beginning, only 11 players, because you couldn’t make changes. They had a mania for us because we almost always beat them ”, he jokes.
It was a time of amateurism. Of beefy and feisty players. From puddled or muddy lawns. Of more aerial balls and less rarefied where SD Eibar was not yet known for its sports prodigies. Between 1958 and 1986, according to the historian José Ignacio Corcuera, 14 opportunities for promotion were wasted in as many promotion phases.
This series of disappointments, contemporaneous with the closure or transfer of the industries that made this town nestled between mountains proud, forged the fighting character of a club and a hobby. For this reason, although in May they lost the privilege of seven years in a row playing in the highest category, the city that never lowers its arms is still taken every 15 days by toasts, flags and songs that defend its uniqueness: “It is a thing that I carry inside, it is more than a feeling, it is a way of living”.
Two real families
Eibar and Amorebieta will meet face to face on the green this Saturday with different goals and trajectories behind them, but sharing the will not to renounce their values.
On the armory side, they took the descent to LaLiga SmartBank in May in the same way as the 2014 promotion, with their feet on the ground. “As always, we start from humility and sacrifice, with the intention of returning [a LaLiga Santander] but without putting too much pressure on ourselves ”, explains César Palacios. Despite the deep renovation of the squad in a summer where there were some thirty changes, between registrations and losses, the sports director continued to apply the principle of the house – do not spend more than what is entered – and trusted Gaizka Garitano to command the dressing room, someone who was already a coach and player in the club. “I did not want to impose big changes when I arrived, but to learn from the professionals who have been doing it well for a long time. I identify a lot with the spirit of here, of ordinary, working people ”.
On the zornotzarra side, they have also decided to face the challenge of participating in the silver division with the same formula that led them to glory. Of the dozen signings, all continue to be footballers born in the Basque Country and Navarra. They have even convinced to renew another institution of the club, the driver Juanjo Batiz, with two decades behind him taking the Blues by bus through fields of all kinds, who at 65 has decided to postpone his retirement to enjoy a little more of the historical moment of the Amorebieta.
His testimony is that of someone accustomed to suckling another football, more austere and familiar, which is styled in two small footballing powers that have become successful. “The utility man is my nephew and I also have my brother-in-law on the board. Here the closeness is total. All the players get along great and wherever you go they all greet you. That is our normality and it will not change ”.