Basque football derbies

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Basque derbies
Locale Basque Country (autonomous community) Basque Country, Spain
Teams Deportivo Alavés
Athletic Bilbao
SD Eibar
Real Sociedad
Navarre CA Osasuna[1]
(professional level)
Meetings total 280 (domestic leagues only)
Most wins Athletic Bilbao (82)

The term Basque derbies refers to the various local derbies between the football teams based in the Basque Country (autonomous community), Spain. This can also include the province of Navarre outside of the autonomous community. It specifically refers to individual matches between the teams, but can also be used to describe the general ongoing rivalry between the clubs and fans.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]


Map of the Basque Autonomous Community within Spain

As of the 2018–19 season, there are four clubs in La Liga that play in the Basque Country area.[10] The major rivalry is between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad, representing their home provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, known as 'the' Basque derby, which has been played over 140 times in the league alone.[11][12][13][14][15]

Neither of the two smaller clubs, Deportivo Alavés and SD Eibar, have won any major honours, with Alavés coming closest by finishing runners-up in the 2000–01 UEFA Cup[16] and the 2016–17 Copa del Rey.[17] The Babazorros, based in the regional capital Vitoria-Gasteiz, is the larger club of the pair historically with a bigger fanbase and stadium, and they have spent 12 seasons in the top division across their history (they formed in 1921).[18]

In contrast, the town of Eibar, located midway between Bilbao and San Sebastián, has a population of under 30,000 and the club's first ever campaign in the Primera was in 2014–15[19] (they clinched their promotion the previous year with a 1–0 win over Alavés which also seemed destined to relegate their opponent, though ultimately Alavés won their final two games and stayed up by one point).[20][7] Eibar have remained with the elite since, despite finishing the first campaign in a relegation place – their survival was due to another club's administrative demotion.[21] Their stadium is of similarly modest stature (Ipurua holds just over 7,000 even after improvements since the Armeros settled in the top division).[22][23]

A derby match in La Liga between Real Sociedad and Eibar at Anoeta Stadium, 2015

A dramatic match between Alavés and Real Sociedad took place in June 2008 at Mendizorrotza, with both clubs involved in battles at either end of the second division table going into the penultimate round. Real looked to have done enough to secure a win until the final minutes when two late goals turned the result (3–2) and gave Alavés all three points, which proved crucial as they escaped relegation by one point; Real Sociedad finished fourth and missed out on promotion.[24][25] Nine years earlier, with both teams in the top tier, Alavés had again stayed clear of the drop zone with a 2–1 win at home to Real Sociedad on the last day.[24][26]

Having never previously met in a competitive match during their 70-year coexistence, Eibar (then in the third tier, although they would gain promotion via the play-offs at the end of the season) achieved a shock victory in November 2012 when they eliminated Athletic Bilbao, the previous season's finalists, from the 2012–13 Copa del Rey on away goals;[19] the Eibar scorer was Mikel Arruabarrena, an unsuccessful Athletic youth graduate.[27][28] The second leg at the original San Mamés was also the last cup tie (of 268 in total) played at the stadium.

The relationship between Alavés and Eibar became more strained in 2017 when CD Vitoria, Eibar's recently-incorporated farm team (based in Alavés' home town, previously an affiliate of that club and now competing directly with their reserve team) gained promotion and upgraded to municipally-owned facilities in the city.[29] A short time beforehand, Alavés had acquired the services of Eibar's youth academy director.[30]

Players and managers[edit]

Gaizka Toquero played for several clubs in the region as well as the Basque representative team, seen here

The canteras (youth academies) of Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have been analysed as being among the most productive in Europe,[31][32] with the vast majority of the players originating from the Basque region (population approximately three million).[33][34] By contrast, Alavés and Eibar have used few locals in their periods of relative success due to there being an insufficient number Basque players of the required quality – almost all who show potential at a young age are recruited by the larger duo; over the decades there is a regular pattern of Alavés losing emerging talent to Athletic, including Zubizarreta, Estíbariz, Karanka, de Marcos and Vesga.

in the modern era, no player has appeared for the first team of all four clubs in the league, although several have featured for three, including José Félix Guerrero, Xabier Castillo, Gaizka Toquero, Gaizka Garitano, Yuri Berchiche, Borja Viguera, Joseba Arriaga, Luis Prieto, Edu Alonso, Luciano Iturrino, Ricardo Arrien, Xabier Guruzeta, César and Josu Sarriegi. Toquero and Garitano were also youth players at the fourth club, and the latter was the manager who led Eibar from the third tier to the first in consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2014.[35]

No coaches have taken charge of all four clubs, but Rafael Iriondo, José María Amorrortu and Baltasar Albéniz managed three (Albéniz also coached Osasuna).

Other minor rivalries[edit]

While they are minnows in La Liga, Eibar have been very much at the head of the food chain of small-town Basque football since the 1980s and have rarely competed at the same level as their geographical neighbours (CD Elgoibar, CD Lagun Onak, SD Amorebieta, SD Beasain, SCD Durango, Tolosa CF). Until their rapid rise, Eibar's closest battle at a provincial level was with Real Unión from Irun – although the two towns are on opposite sides of Gipuzkoa – with both existing well below local heavyweights Real Sociedad in the regional pecking order and on friendly terms with them due to the clear disparity in their statures.[36]

Something of a rivalry developed between Alavés and CD Mirandés during the 2010s due to the teams sharing divisions for much of the decade.[37][38][39][40][41] However, while this is certainly a matter of local interest (the towns are about 30km apart), it is not a Basque derby as Miranda de Ebro is just over the Álava border into the Province of Burgos (Castile–León region), therefore regional pride is at stake when the sides meet.

The regional dimension is also present when Athletic Bilbao meet the biggest club in the Cantabria region, Racing de Santander, but that historic[42][43][44] and unpredictable[45] rivalry, which has been referred to in the past as 'the duel of the North'[46] is dormant as Racing have not played in the top tier since 2012;[47][48] a cup tie in 2016 resulted in a straightforward Athletic win[49] but fans of both teams were reminded of a previous meeting in 2008 when the opposite result occurred.[48][50]

Historic clubs[edit]

Several Basque clubs (as well as the reserve teams of Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad, and sometimes Alavés) play in the semi-professional third tier, which is organised on a regional basis; therefore local derbies occur between them regularly. The squads of these clubs are composed mainly of former Athletic and Real youth and reserve trainees who failed to make the grade at the top level.

Two of the teams, Real Unión and Arenas Club from Getxo, were among the strongest in Spain during the early decades of football in the country.[51] Each won several editions of their respective regional tournaments in the 1910s and 1920s – Arenas battling with Athletic in the Biscay Championship and Real Unión with Real Sociedad in the Gipuzkoa Championship) – and also appeared in a number of Copa del Rey finals: Arenas played in four, winning one (1919), while Real Unión were victorious in four of their five finals. Their last win in 1927 was against Arenas, with the match in Zaragoza being one of the first to be broadcast over radio;[52][53] this is the only all-Basque Copa final which did not involve Athletic Bilbao.

Due to this strong performance, both were invited to participate in the inaugual season of La Liga in 1929, Real Unión surviving for the first four years of the competition and Arenas for seven.[54] Due to the small scale of the clubs and the communities they represented, they were soon overshadowed by big-city teams as the game became professionalised and spread in popularity around the country. Neither Arenas nor Real Unión would appear again in the top division or make it back to the cup final beyond the 1930s, although they have survived into the 21st century competing at lower levels (Real Unión had a brief experience in the 2009–10 Segunda División.

The Basque team which spent the most time in the second division without ever being promoted – 28 seasons – is Barakaldo CF, and since the 1990s they have also been perpetually in the third tier.

Osasuna and Navarre[edit]

Location of Navarre, with the Basque Autonomous Community to the west and Aragón to the east

Another major club in the same part of Spain, CA Osasuna based in Pamplona, is often considered to be a Basque team and a participant in the region's derby matches[55][56][57][58][59] due to cultural ties with their homeland of Navarre (part of the Greater Basque Country); their ultras group Indar Gorri is favourable towards Basque nationalism.[56][60] Nevertheless, at times their relationship with the neighbouring teams, particularly Athletic Bilbao, has been hostile.[61][62][63][64][65][66]

One reason for the animosity among the supporters is the long list of players who have featured for both clubs,[67] with many (Ziganda, Larrainzar, Lacruz, Tiko, Orbaiz, David López, Muñoz, Javi Martínez) born in or near Pamplona but signed by Athletic as they fit their selective player recruitment criteria.[68] In the 21st century, Athletic have also trained several Pamplona natives (Iraizoz, Gurpegui, Llorente, San José, Muniain, Williams) from a young age in their youth setup when in the past they would have been likely to join Osasuna's cantera, at least during their formative years.[69] [70][66] In summer 2017, Athletic's approach to sign 18-year-old Jesús Areso from Osasuna's youth team (paying his contractual release clause amount, making it impossible for Osasuna to reject the approach) led to the Pamplona club temporarily breaking relations with their Bilbao neighbours in annoyance due to the impolite manner in which their board felt the business was conducted.[71] That closely mirrored a previous situation in 2005 when Osasuna objected to Athletic recruiting Isma López and Javier Eraso from their cantera.[72][66]

José Ángel Ziganda played for and managed both Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao

The two clubs have a mutual foe in Real Madrid,[73][74][75][76][77] and Osasuna have their own inter-regional and ideological rivalry with Real Zaragoza, the only major club in neighbouring Aragón.[56][78][79][80]

Like Alavés and Eibar, Osasuna have never won a major trophy. They have spent longer in the top tier than the other clubs (35 seasons), but also had several spells playing at lower levels. The population of their home city is similar to that of Alavés, as is the capacity of their stadium (El Sadar). They were Copa finalists in 2005,[81][82] losing to Real Betis who had defeated Athletic Bilbao on penalties in the semi-final to end the possibility of a rare all-Basque final.[83]

The most famous player to have featured for Osasuna, Athletic and Real Sociedad is Ion Andoni Goikoetxea, and Vicente Biurrun also did so. Asier Riesgo played for Real, Eibar and Osasuna, and Tiko, Aitor Ocio, Pizo Gómez, Mikel Kortina and Asier García for Osasuna, Eibar and Athletic.

At the semi-professional level, clubs from Navarre (including Osasuna's reserves) are sometimes placed in the same section as teams from the Basque Autonomous Community, depending on the preferred method of distributing the teams evenly across the four groups each year. Below that, each autonomous community is allocated a section in the amateur fourth tier, the Tercera División, with the regional federations operating their own leagues further down the pyramid. At youth level, Basque and Navarrese clubs are grouped together in the top under-19 league, the División de Honor, but separately in the second-tier Liga Nacional and in younger age groups.

Friendly trophy[edit]

In 2016, the Euskal Herria Kirola (Basque Country Sport) organisation announced they would create a friendly trophy for the teams in the territory, based on a similar existing idea for the equivalent women's teams. The results of the Basque derby league matches (20 relevant fixtures during 2016–17, including Osasuna in the consideration)[84] would be collated, with the top two clubs playing off in a match at the start of the following season to determine the winner of the trophy and thus the 'best' Basque club for that year.[85]

In the first edition of the Euskal Herriko Futbol Txapelketa (Basque Country Football Championship), the participants were Athletic Bilbao and Alavés;[86] in a somewhat embarrassing outcome, the match in Barakaldo was abandoned by the referee in the closing minutes due to disorder among the players with the score at 2–2, and no winner was declared.[87][88] The second edition in 2018 was contested between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, with the latter winning 1–0 to provide the competition with its first outright champion.[89]

All-time meetings table (Spanish league)[edit]

The five major clubs in the Basque region have met each other in the domestic league a varied number of times in various divisions. As Osasuna is not always considered to be a Basque club, their results have been recorded separately with a grand total for all five clubs. Updated to end of 2017–18 season[a]

Alavés vs. Athletic Bilbao[90] 26 4 19 N/A N/A N/A 3
Alavés vs. Eibar[91] 54 16 N/A 21 N/A N/A 17
Alavés vs. Real Sociedad[92] 38 10 N/A N/A N/A 21 7
Athletic Bilbao vs. Eibar[93] 8 N/A 5 1 N/A N/A 2
Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Sociedad[94] 142 N/A 58 N/A N/A 47 37
Eibar vs. Real Sociedad[95] 12[b] N/A N/A 3 N/A 4 5
Total (BAC) 280 30 82 25 N/A 72 71
Osasuna vs. Alavés[96] 52 16 N/A N/A 26 N/A 10
Osasuna vs. Athletic Bilbao[97] 76 N/A 38 N/A 17 N/A 21
Osasuna vs. Eibar[98] 26 N/A N/A 6 10 N/A 10
Osasuna vs. Real Sociedad[99] 78 N/A N/A N/A 23 40 15
Osasuna total 232 16 38 6 76 40 56
Grand total (5 teams, GBC) 512 46 120 31 76 112 127
  1. ^ Applies to either team playing at home, includes all La Liga, Segunda División and Tercera División seasons from 1929, and Segunda División B from 1976
  2. ^ the source incorrectly counts two matches between Eibar and Real Sociedad B in 1986–87

Teams in the Basque Country[edit]

Division Team(s) Navarre
La Liga Athletic Bilbao; Real Sociedad; Alavés; Eibar ---
Segunda División --- Osasuna
Segunda División B Amorebieta; Arenas Club; Barakaldo; Bilbao Athletic; Gernika; Leioa; Real Sociedad B; Real Unión; Vitoria Osasuna B, Tudelano, Peña Sport, Izarra


  1. ^ Osasuna are based in Navarre, considered to be part of the Greater Basque Country, the others being in the Basque Autonomous Community
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