A Spanish club that has the motto “more than a club”, like the FC Barcelona, is the Basque club Athletic de Bilbao. It is in the similar position to FC Barcelona if we take into consideration what is the role of club in Basque country. After the end of the Second World War the Basque Country’s resistance became more intense with the creation of ETA, the extreme movement of the Basques which had as a goal until today the separation from the central authority of Madrid and full independence of the Basque country. Athletic de Bilbao constitutes a symbol for the Basque country until today and the club goes against the modern era of football maintaining its traditions during all of these years. Players of the club are only locals; the club’ shirts are without any foreign sponsor and accept are only local sponsors. The Basques always had followed this strict policy and philosophy since 1919. Via this policy, the club had as a purpose the creation of local heroes and players who would become representatives of the Basque community and identity. Athletic de Bilbao is representative of Basque region and promotes the Basque identity and not the Spanish. It could be characterized as territorialized club and the whole philosophy based on the belief that the football club must represent its local community. This policy applied only in the case of players not for coaches. (The other Basque subversives: Athletic de Bilbao vs. the new age of soccer, Castillo, J.C., p.711-714, Sport in Society Vol. 11, No. 6, November 2008, 711–721)
Athletic de Bilbao made Basque people to feel very proud in the early 1930’s when the club was the most successful team in Spain. After the Spanish civil war when General Franco took the power in Spain and attempting to make Spain a more united nation, regional nationalism within Spanish territory became suppressed and desires for autonomy of Basque people were actively clamped down on. The club is symbol of Basque nationalism and is very important to report the fact that is the unique club that all its players have Basque origin. The entire structure of club promotes the Basque Nationalism interior and exterior. This nationalist understanding has two dimensions: the first is the attitudes towards interior of the club, meaning that the whole club’s architecture, players, coaches and fans accepted this world view. The second is the attitudes towards the exterior, meaning the promotion of Basque autonomy in all over the world. The club has as a rule that at least one parent of player should be Basque. The foreign players are not permitted. Athletic Bilbao when beat other Spanish teams, especially Real Madrid it seems like victory of the Basque nation over Madrid and those who support the idea of more united Spanish nation. The club promotes the youth development and became one of the most productive developers of young players throughout Spain. So the players have symbolic character for Bilbao fans. Focusing on youth development is immediately connected with the Basque nationalism because the production of exclusively Basque football talents was a proof of their nationalist principles and what was the role of Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country. For the fans of Athletic Bilbao, the club is original “more than a club”, representative of a single nation, the Basque nation and enjoys respect from the whole of the Basque people throughout that region. The club can be considered as source of collective identification and expression of local community for the Basques followers of it. The Basques also do campaigns with the slogan ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local’ promoting the use of local resources. But generally that does not apply only in the case of market but in the case of anything local as well. The Basques as in football they promote anything local in an attempt to project the Basque ethnic origin. (The concept of loyalty and the challenge of internationalisation in post-modern Spanish Football, Castillo J.C., p.26, International Journal of Iberian Studies Volume 20 Number 1 © 2007 Intellect Ltd, Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/ijis.20.1.23/1, Play Fresh, Play Local: The Case of Athletic de Bilbao, Castillo J.C., Sport in Society, Vol. 10, No. 4, July 2007, pp. 680–697)
The motto “more than a club” until nowadays makes the supporters of FC Barcelona very proud for their Catalan origin, the history and titles but also for the struggle against the Franco’s tyranny. The club constitutes a vehicle for Catalan nationalism, focusing on the spread of the local unity and identity sense in times of persecution under Franco. Also the club pursued to show their Catalan nationalism via tournaments in international level. Until today the rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona has political character and not football character. These two clubs are representatives of two different political ideologies and their rivalry passed on football. In one hand FC Barcelona is representative of separation and resistance against Franco and in the other hand Real Madrid is representative of the single Spanish nation, single Spanish language and has the label of Franco’s team. Their different ideological views passed on football stadiums where the victory of one club against the other equals with superiority and pride. Match between these two clubs constitute the classic match of Spanish football not only because of their political rivalry but also because that these two clubs always had some of the best players in the world. Phil Ball in his book “White Storm: 101 years of Real Madrid” does not mention the dark relationship of Real Madrid and its president Santiago Bernabéu with Franco’s regime as probably mentioned in other books and articles in sport magazines like those of “Identity, nation-state and football in Spain. The evolution of nationalist feelings in Spanish football” and in Sport & Society magazine by Ramón Llopis Goig.
The motto “more than a club” makes also the supporters of Athletic de Bilbao very proud for their Basque identity. Athletic de Bilbao promotes the Basque football and the Basque nationalism in interior and in European Cups. Spain we can say that is the state of regional representation and not the national in International competitions. Spanish football is football of regional nationalism because of the fact that Spanish football clubs are symbols of their region and symbols of struggle for independence.