Athletic Club: Historic team closing in on UWCL spots

"We Call It Fut Fem" – A Her Football Hub Spanish Column

Following our look at the top five Spanish teams, it’s time to focus on another club making waves in the Primera Iberdrola: Athletic Club.

Athletic Club belongs to the territorial area of ​​northern Spain. Right now they are fifth in the standings with five victories, one draw, and three defeats against Real Betis, Real Sociedad, and Levante.

If they achieve more stability in the league table, they could find themselves qualifying for the Champions League group stage. This comes after few improvements in the squad but the key leadership of new head coach Iraia Iturregi.

History in Spanish women’s football

The club was founded in 2002, 104 years after the men’s section was created. Lezama is the field where they play and it can accommodate 1,500 spectators.

The first players had football as a hobby to which they dedicated little amount of time. When they founded the section, this situation changed. The first players trained in the afternoons and would play matches at 7:00 p.m., after finishing their workday.

The second most successful club in the league

In more than 14 years, Athletic Club’s worst league position was fifth in the rankings — but they were 11th last season. The club won the league five times, being the second most successful team in Primera Iberdrola behind FC Barcelona.

They have played a total of 209 games since they entered the Spanish League. Of those games, they have won 146 with Erika Vázquez being the top scorer in the club’s history.

Vázquez is currently playing her seventeenth season at Athletic Club. In her debut season in 2004, she scored 26 goals. Now at the age of 38 years old, she holds 237 goals to her name at the club.

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Curiosities of the Athletic Club

They are “las leonas” (the lions) because of the name of the field where their male counterparts play. The men’s stadium San Mamés is named after the saint who, legend has it, was sent to the Roman Circus where lions ate him.

The professionals who make up the team were all born in or have a connection to the Basque Country. Because of this, there haven’t been many international signings except in 2016/17 when Damaris Egurrola, current Lyon midfielder, and Leyre Monente played.

They won the Spanish Women’s League in their debut as a club. They filled San Mamés stadium with 35,000 spectators on the decisive day of the tournament. Due to this historic victory, they achieved a celebration record because of the number of people in attendance. They also gathered 10,000 people in front of the Bilbao City Council after winning the 2015/16 league title.

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Five editions at the UWCL

As Athletic Club won the league five times, they were able to access five editions of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. They made their competition debut in the 2003/04 Season, but they didn’t pass. In the following years, they remained in the preliminary groups.

The last time they competed for the UWCL trophy was in 2016/17, where Danish team Fortuna Hjorring eliminated them in the Round of 32. They won the first leg at San Mamés, but lost the second leg in extra time.

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The new Athletic

Athletic suffered losses of players last season. These were players who were very important in the squad and who had a leading role.

Last season, the coach who led this project was fired in order to stop a historic crisis at the club. After nine consecutive days without winning, the technical decision was to dismiss Ángel Villacampa. At that point, the team was four points from relegation.

After entering to manage the team in 2019, Villacampa exited as the club opted for a natural relief. They turned their attention to reserve team coach Iraia Iturregi.

Athletic carried out cleaning house in 2021 with the intentions to change their situation. They did so in the middle of the season and they renewed the coach. Now the team feels fresh with the strength to fight, although they always had it.

The club currently has 16 league points out of a possible 27, with 15 goals in favor and 11 goals against. So far, they have also competed and beaten powerful teams in the league such as Real Madrid and Madrid CFF.

It is necessary to mention that the rest of the points have come from victories against teams that aren’t high on the leaderboard. But, will they manage to reach one of the three UWCL spots? Will they be able to make history again after three years?

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