Athletic's band of brothers trumps Barca stardust

Soccer Football - Spanish Super Cup Final - FC Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao - Estadio La Cartuja de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain - January 17, 2021 Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain and teammates celebrate with the trophy Pablo Garcia/RFEF/Handout via REUTERS

SEVILLE (Reuters) - Athletic Bilbao's indomitable desire and spirit, forged from the club's fierce local identity, overpowered a Barcelona side containing world class players but lacking cohesion to win the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday.

Led by their bearded forward Asier Villalibre, who played the trumpet on the pitch after the 3-2 extra-time win, Athletic's full-blooded celebrations showed the team's sense of unity, something Barca have been missing for a while.

Barca forward Antoine Griezmann blamed the team's defeat on a lack of communication in defence.

"We didn't defend well, we didn't talk to each other. When the ball goes out someone needs to shout out instructions," he said.

Griezmann, who spent his formative years at Athletic's local rivals Real Sociedad, praised his opponents' fighting spirit after they which twice came from behind to cancel out his goals.

"They pressed us very well, they gave everything until the last minute," he added.

Athletic coach Marcelino, who was taking charge of only his third game since succeeding Gaizka Garitano, was also in awe of his new side.

"It's incredible how these players work and fight. They were so determined to win this game and we're very proud of them," he said.

While Barca's team contained eight nationalities from three continents, Athletic's players all hail from Spain's Basque region and neighbouring Navarre, a talent pool of little more than three million people.

The majority of their players, including goalscorers Oscar de Marcos, Villalibre and Inaki Williams, came through the club's academy, rather like the great, all-conquering Barca side coached by Pep Guardiola between 2008 and 2012.

Lionel Messi is one of the few remaining players from that squad but the Argentine was sent off for striking out at Villalibre and conceded last month he has struggled to warm to the current Barca side.

The Athletic squad, however, are so close that six players, including trumpet player Villalibre, decided to form a band during last year's lockdown, covering hit songs from the Basque region.

"Everything can be summed up by heart and faith," said Athletic striker Williams, whose scorching strike early in extra time won the match.

"We believed in ourselves, we knew we had the capabilities to win the game. We had to lean on our spirit, never give up and show our passion. That's what Athletic is all about."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 18
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Did you find this article insightful?


Next In Football

Ibrahimovic unimpressed by LeBron James' political activism
Brighton's Lamptey to return for West Brom trip - Potter
Liverpool's Henderson out until April after surgery
Leeds manager Bielsa hopes Villa have Grealish back
Zero to hero: Rangers' Patterson scores on return from COVID breach
Football stars Kroos, Upamecano appear in hard-hitting video against Internet hate
Ancelotti keen to be at Everton when new stadium opens
Pogba still out with thigh injury, says United boss Solskjaer
Leicester's Rodgers takes blame for Europa League exit
Pain to tiled art: Argentines honor soccer star Maradona with mosaics

Stories You'll Enjoy