The Pride of Bilbao (not the boat)

Athletic v Barca by ben bore (rhys)

Spain’s wonderful summer

Like many people around the world I have to say that I have been impressed with Spain this summer. Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon triumph over Federer was the kind of robust and meaty four-courses-followed-by-brandy-and-cigars-type encounter that was, by far, the most satisfying post Sunday lunch workout I’ve ever had (shouting at the TV during a sporting event counts in my world is ok)

Meanwhile the football team were simply irresistible at the Euro 2008 tournament in Austria, best team by miles in every department.

So Spain gets the old London bus treatment with two massive sporting achievements coming along at once, after having spent years waiting for one. At last they can be proud to rule the waves in some sports that don’t involve sticking spikes in cows whilst prancing about in shiny man-tights.

But in the midst of all this jubilation we should reserve a mention for Athletic Bilbao, the finest football club in Europe. For as the summer rumbles on and we hear the heart-rending stories of Christiano Ronaldo and his ilk, branded slaves by FIFA as they struggle to survive on a meagre £125,000 per week, this little club continues to recruit players only from the Basque region that it represents, and manages to survive in the cut-throat world of professional sport despite the obvious handicaps that such a principled sporting stance creates.

So if you do catch the Pride of Bilbao from Portsmouth to Bilbao this summer, make sure that you take a walk down to the real pride of Bilbao, Athletic’s stadium (the cathedral as it is known locally) and pay your respects to this plucky little football club, the last one in Europe to remember what a principal look like. Amen.

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