It all started with the parish priest of Sondika, Patxi Cantero. Before the celebrations of the town of 1970, Ana Astobieta and a group of girls proposed to him to form a feminine equipment. Despite the times they were running, instead of being scandalized, he approved the proposal, became the coach of the team and, to convince reluctant parishioners, organized a charity match against Zamudio. Sondika's Maiona won 2-0. Then Astobieta took the reins, took the title of coach and took the team to the First Division, where he played two years. When it was disbanded, the players went to Leioa, the germ of Athletic.
Athletic, they say, is different. And also in women's football. The record of attendance that San Mamés obtained Wednesday, in the party of Glass against the Athletic one (48.121 spectators), is only an example. The previous record was also held by the Bilbao club, which bet heavily on women's soccer for more than a decade. Athletic participated in four of the five women's matches in Spain with the most spectators. The second on the list is Athletic-Híspalis (2003), with 36,000; the third Athletic-Barcelona of 2006, with 26,000; the fourth Atlético-Madrid CFF, of 2008, which attracted 22,202 fans; and the fifth the Basque derby Real Sociedad-Athletic of 2018 in Anoeta, with 21,500.
The Athletic has already had a woman as president for a few months, Ana Urquijo, and by then women's football was already institutionalized in the club. On June 18, 2002, Athletic signed an agreement with Leioa EFT, the club that took over from the one founded by Patxi Cantero, the priest of Sondika, who had promoted to the highest category that season, and took over the team , which was renamed Athletic Club Bilboko Futbol Kirol Elkarte Berria. Only another First entity, Espanyol, had a team in the top category, which hosted 12 clubs. Then, the athletic director of Athletic, Andoni Zubizarreta, commissioned Ernesto Valverde, technician in the quarry, to create a new structure.
Athletic won the Superliga in 2002 and two years later already had the trophy in property after adding three consecutive titles. In 2006-07 they won their fourth league and fifth in 2015-16. It is the club that has added more titles, five, four Levante and Barça. Now, Atlético and Barcelona dominate the category, although the distances are not as great as in men's football. Athletic, fifth in the Iberdrola League, was third last season.
Javier Uria, the first president who opted for the women's team, allocated 90,000 euros of budget. They were enough to win the first League. Fernando Lamikiz multiplied by four the investment, which in 2006 exceeded 400,000 euros. The players were not professionals yet. They were paid for their studies, diet and bonuses, and in some cases they were looking for a job that they could combine with training. The current goalkeeper, Ainhoa Tirapu, holder with Spain in the World Cup in Canada in 2015, was working at that time in Decathlon. Now he is professional.
Athletic allocates 1,700,000 euros to the budget of the women's team. He has invested in structure and improvement of salary conditions, in addition to university scholarships, bonuses, accommodations and study centers. All the players of the first team are professionals and full time. "The demands of the players of the Liga Iberdrola for the collective agreement have already been assumed by Athletic", they recall from the club.
In any case, the rojiblanca entity begins to have difficulties to compete with the great transatlantic ones. The club has a budget of 3.5 million and is the only female club profitable, because it has the sponsorship of the Stanley company, which covers it completely. The rojiblancas have participated twice in European competition, the first in UEFA 2007, after winning the Superliga, and the second in the Women's Champions League, eliminated in sixteenth.
In Lezama they trust in their usual policy, to play with soccer players of the land, which gives them an extra identification with the amateur. It is difficult to think, if not, to fill a field like San Mamés. Joseba Agirre, who was Athletic midfielder in the eighties, has a staff formed exclusively by players from the Basque Country or Navarre. Account, yes, with virtually the same means of support as the first team. Athletic Women play in the same field as Bilbao Athletic. It has a second team, in addition to another one in children's category that will be completed with one more in cadets. What began in a parish of Sondika is today an unstoppable phenomenon.