The modern football theory states that to win, a team must invest a huge sum of money and it seems to be proven true by a few teams: Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG and Monaco. These clubs showed us how quickly a team can transform from an average side to a giant. Yet in Spain there are a few stories that refute this theory and make it invalid. Atletico Madrid are on their way to win the Spanish league unless they drop points twice in their remaining four games.
It has been said and repeated over a billion times that Atletico have sold Pizzi and most importantly their best player Radamel Falcao, yet they didn’t use that money to buy a replacement, or buy seven like a team in North London (Tottenham Hotspurs), they fixed their side with a few players including David Villa and Toby Alderweireld. Now of course, they have done a great achievement this season, but we will not discuss their story furthermore.
Athletic Bilbao have relied on side assembled by local players ever since they came to existence yet they have never been relegated and at the moment they are playing for a spot in the Champions League. And although, their achievement should be praised, we will not discuss their story either.
Today, the club we are talking about is Eibar, a second division team from a small Basque town of less than 30,000 inhabitants; they indeed have defied the modern game. Eibar are currently occupying the second place of Spain’s second division and they seem to be on track to play in Spain’s first division. Their football is not attractive at all, they generally use a very defensive method with only one player playing up front, as ten others are pinged back in their own area trying to feed him with balls and prevent the opponents from scoring. People criticize them for their football but what people don’t know is the reason behind them not being able to develop a more attractive style. The reason is simply because of the fact that nearly all the team has another job besides playing football. Football to them is something they do for fun and for the love of their own town, not for money, nor for a prestigious famous career.
The goalkeeper is a butcher, another works at a bank and another is an electrician and so on. The club is aware of its scarce financial resources and so the club’s president says that they only use the budget at their disposal and this is the secret recipe for their success. Other teams may make hundreds of millions per season yet they always find a way to use all the money they generated by giving their players huge wages or spending them on overrated players in the transfer market.
Eibar put their ethics above their ambition, for them success is not challenging Real Madrid or Barcelona for the title but rather being able to stay loyal to their own citizens by keeping the ticket prices low, by employing local players who dreamed of playing for this team. The club’s philosophy does not depend on their position in the league or whether they are in the first division or not, their aim was to always see their local fans filling the stadium wearing the shirts of their own local players. This is perhaps the only true football club still alive while the rest have developed into businesses. The purpose of football in the old days was to keep the people of the same town united behind something and to keep the social life active in the town and it was to provide the locals with fun.
Football is a sport that you have to be in the stadium to know what it really means, settling for watching your favorite team’s game behind the television does not serve any of football’s main purposes, nor does it tell your favorite club that you are actually behind them and supporting them. Before winning it is about support and faith in your own heroes, it is an honor for every member of the team to see you in the stands cheering for them and it will definitely push them to give their best even if it wasn’t enough for the win. Eibar teach us a lot of lessons, one of them, is the relationship between the club and its fans and this relationship makes football a unique sport.