Which Spanish Football Team has an English Name?

A little piece of trivia today, because I don’t have much time for writing this weekend. Do you know the answer? (By the way, by football I of course mean soccer). I’ll put the answer after this picture of kittens:




The answer is Athletic Club. Or, as they’re better known, Athletic Bilbao. But not Atlético Bilbao, as many assume. The reason for the English name is twofold. First, Bilbao attracted immigrant workers as it became a major hub of the steel industry in the late-19th century. Many of these were miners from the north-east of England, who in the 1890s set up Bilbao Football Club. Meanwhile, many of the sons of the Basque upper classes were going to Britain to study, and returning with a love for British culture, and particularly football. A group of such young men set up another team in the city, Athletic Club, in 1901, and the two clubs merged in 1903 to become Athletic Bilbao.

It’s an interesting case of the same result – a Basque club with an English name – coming about for two different reasons. The first could be seen as a case of immigrants holding on to their native tongue, or perhaps of English speakers refusing to adapt to the language of another country. Or, in the case of the young men returning from Britain who set up Athletic Club, we might see it as an example of how the English language can be in vogue in other languages.

The club was actually forced to be known as Atlético Bilbao between 1949 and 1978, following a decree from Franco banning non-Spanish names. While such policies ended when Franco’s regime did, things are still complicated there, with the Basque and Catalan languages often getting mixed up with the independence movements in the regions where they’re spoken (and it’s interesting to note that Athletic Bilbao operates Basque cantera policy, which involves primarily signing or developing Basque players). It seems even football can’t stay free of the complex relationships with language we have here in Europe.

Image: scissorskick.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/athletic_1931.jpg

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