Athletic Club and Barça are classic and legendary teams in Spanish football. Both the sides are strongly represent the athletic traditions in both Euskadi and Catalonia. Athletic and Barça have always been in Primera División since the Liga was established in 1929
RAFAEL MORENO ARANZADI, ‘PICHICHI’ (1892-1922)
The Pichichi award was established in the 1952/53 season in memory of Athletic Club’s Rafael Moreno ‘Pichichi’, who was one of the best goal scorers in the history of Spanish football - the other big goal scorer was Barça’s Paulino Alcántara. Moreno donned the Athletic Bilbao strip between 1911 and 1921. He was born in Bilbao on August 8, 1892. Moreno was given the nickname ‘Pichichi’ in Athletic’s youth system for being the smallest player on the team. The Basque fans saw him a living symbol of Athletic, unmistakable with his handkerchief tied in to four knots which he wore on his head. With the Leones he won four Spanish Championships (1914, 1915, 1916 and 1921).
He hung up his boots in 1921, he passed away months later on March 1st, 1922 when he succumbed to typhus. He was only 29 years old. He will always be remembered thanks to the painting ‘Idilio en los campos de sport' painted by famous Basque artist Aurelio Arteta. There’s also a bust of the player, made by Quintín de la Torre, which was installed in San Mamés in 1926. The player is also the protagonist of the novel written by Juan Antonio de Zunzunegui Chiripi (1931), which contrasts the Moreno’s footballing feats with social issues of that era.
In 1898 a group of young Basques opened up the Zamacois Athletic Club gym and a year later a group of young foreigners led by Joan Gamper started Solé gym, where FC Barcelona started. Here are a series of curious anecdotes from two of the oldest clubs in Spanish football:
- The first time fans from both teams met was on May 15th in 1902. Both teams were participating in a tournament in Madrid in honor of the coronation of Alfonso XIII. The show match was between Barça and Vizcaya, a team made up of both Athletic Club and Bilbao FC players. The Basques won by 2 to 1 and the behavior of both sets of fans was commendable. When the team returned to the Basque Country, Bilbao asked the fans to greet the players that “beat the best team in the world, Football Club Barcelona.” A Catalan, who wasn’t really a fan of football, living in Bilbao added a negative tone to the celebrations when he said: “I don’t understand how the people of Catalonia and the Basque Country, who are very serious and have a good work ethic, can dispute anything by kicking each other.”
- The first “ticket scalping” event between the two sides was at the field on Industria avenue during a friendly match between Barça and Athletic Club (January 2, 1916). Two thousand people were unable to watch the match at the stadium and scalpers opened up booths around the stadium in the hopes of offloading their tickets that cost them six reales for the astronomical price of five pesetas (4 US cents). The Barcelona public was taken with the prospect of watching the legendary Basque striker Rafael Moreno ‘Pichichi’ (Yes, this is where the award gets its name), who curiously didn’t score. Barça’s prolific goal man, Paulino Alcántara, also didn’t score. Barça, however, did win the match by 1-0 thanks to a goal from Alfred Massana.
- On May 7th of the same year, Athletic defeated Real Madrid by 4-0 at Espanyol’s grounds (on Muntaner ST) in the final of the Spanish Championship. In the stands thousands of Barça supporters cheered on the Basque side and subsequently celebrated Athletic’s title in the streets of Barcelona.
- 1928, February 21st. Athletic and Barça played a Champions Tournament match in the 1927/28 season. Up until that point, the Azulgranas has never won at La Catedral, but the hex was broken thanks to a solitary goal from the striker Josep Sastre (0-1). The Basque fans couldn’t believe that their team had lost at home to the Catalans, but a Bilbao daily forgave Athletic for the defeat because the Barça goal was, in fact, Basque in nature: “the way they played football, their factions and their magnitude [was Basque].”
- On February 8th in 1931 Barça suffered the biggest thrashing in the history of the Liga. On that day Athletic Club beat the Catalans by 12-1 at the San Mamés. Barça did not have a bad team, in fact the attacking line was made up by Piera, Sastre, Goiburu, Arnau and Parera. Furthermore, Barça finished runner up that season, only one point adrift of Athletic, who finished first. On that day, the players who were at odds with the Club’s board of directors, went on the famous “fallen legs” strike. In other words, they lost to prove a point.
- In the 1941/42 season Barça a terrible La Liga campaign, however the team enjoyed a good end of the season. On July 21st, 1942, the team won the Spanish Cup in the final, celebrated in Madrid, against Athletic Club. The Catalans won the game by 4-3. Days later, on July 28th, Barça fought off relegation in the playoffs against Real Murcia by 5-1. A Basque journalist wrote that the streets of Bilbao were in anguish over Barça relegation game and that after the match there was a collective sigh of relief when the Catalans maintained their spot in Primera.
- During the 50s the Slovakian manager Fernando Daucik led both Barça and Athletic to success. From 1950 to 1954 he was the boss of the legendary Barça team now known as the Barça of the Five Cups. The team featured a young Ladislao Kubala. During that glorious era, Barça won two Ligas (51/52 and 52/53), one Copa Latina (1952) and three Spanish Cups (50/51, 51/52 and 52/53). Barça’s poor 1953/54 season saw the manager take his skills to Athletic, where he led the renovation of legendary attacking set of players like Iriondo, Venancio, Zarra, Panizo and Gainza. Success followed Daucik as well, between 1954 and 1957 he won a Liga title (55/56) and two Cups (54/55 and 55/56) with Athletic Club.
- In 1960 Athletic sold Jesús Garay to Barça. With the money from the sale they were able to add another level on top of San Mamés. The new level was popularly known as the “Tribuna Garay” [Garay’s Stand].
- Barça captain Johan Cruyff wore the Catalan flag as the captain’s armband for the first time on February 1st, 1976. The match was at the Camp Nou against Athletic Club. The country was transitioning to a democratic form of government at the time.