Sunday 26 May 2013 is a date that fills the fans of Athletic Club de Bilbao with dread. For that day will bring with it an end to nearly 100 years of official matches at their beloved San Mamés, Spain’s most atmospheric and iconic stadium. Now it would be very easy to become morose and dwell upon the loss of one of football’s really great arenas. However, sulking is not for me. Instead I want to celebrate this truly unique structure and reflect on its significance to the club, its supporters and the wider footballing public.
|The sun sets on the old San Mamés, but work continues on the new|
Now is a good time to remember that San Mamés was Spain’s first purpose built football ground. Opened on 21 August 1913, Athletic has won 8 La Liga titles and gained 19 victories in the Copa del Rey during its watch. Let's wonder at all the marvellous players that have graced the hallowed turf – Pichichi, Zarra, Ganzia, Iribar, Zubizarreta, Guerrero, Etxeberria. All have been greats of the Spanish game, and all are Athletic legends. And do not forget the great leaders who have melded together Athletic’s historic teams. Pentland, Garbutt, Urquizu, Daučík, Aguirre and Clemente.
|The start of a century of memories|
Spend some time to reminisce about the many fabulous matches this great stadium has staged. The first match nearly a century ago, when Pichchi fittingly scored the first goal at San Mamés. The numerous Basque Derbies. The dozens of times Barcelona & Real Madrid have been sent away with their tails between their legs. And don’t forget the great European nights and The La Liga title celebrations. Also, let's admire the Fans, who have supported great teams and not so great teams with a passion and verve that made San Mamés the most intimidating arena in Spain. And never, ever forget that incredible arch. Whilst all around was grey, the arch shone brightly as a symbol of Basque pride. It was unique in structure and unique in significance.
|100 and out|
Moreover, let’s remember that despite its loss, memories of San Mamés will continue to add richness and bring pleasure to those who experienced it first hand or marvelled at it from afar. It may be the end, but it doesn't mean we will forget.
You can read all about the History of the magnificent San Mamés here and its successor, the imaginatively named Nuevo San Mamés here.