Madrid, April 13 (IANS) While fiercely proud of its roots in the Basque region, and honoured with its connections to Scotland, Eibar’s trademark ‘azulgrana’ colours have a remarkable Catalan history.
These distinctive blue and red stripes link 26 times LaLiga champions and current trophy holders FC Barcelona with SD Eibar, the club from the smallest town to have a top flight club in any of European football’s ‘big five’ leagues.
This was not always the case, however, as following Eibar’s foundation in 1940 the team initially wore red and white stripes similar to those of bigger Basque neighbours Athletic Club of Bilbao.
That was until 1943, when federation chiefs in the local province of Guipuzcoa presented the club with a full set of FC Barcelona stripes. These colours coincided with those of their town’s traditional coat of arms, which featured a Saint Andrew’s cross and the colours blue and red. From there these became the club’s official colours, as Eibar spent most its early decades in Spain’s lower leagues.
The connection with Barcelona took a twist at the start of the 1988/89 season, when Eibar had returned to LaLiga SmartBank level second tier after 30 years further down the divisions.
Eibar’s much loved and long serving kit-man Angel Fernandez Zapico recently revealed that he visited a local department store to buy two full sets of Barça jerseys, as worn by that season’s stars Migueli, Bernd Schuster and Gary Lineker.
Zapico then carefully removed the blaugrana crests, and personally sewed an Eibar badge onto each jersey. This kit was then worn for the entire campaign as Eibar finished in a creditable 16th position, one place above Barça’s B team (then known as Barcelona Atlètic).
That remained an anecdote until more recently, when Eibar again surged through the divisions and finally achieved a first ever promotion to LaLiga Santander for the 2014/15 campaign.
Los Armeros (‘The Gunners’) had to wear a ‘change’ strip of sky blue on their first visit to Barça’s Camp Nou in October 2014. Eibar’s players and supporters then proudly wore their own blaugrana when Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique were hosted at the picturesque 7,000 capacity Ipurua stadium the following March.
Since then the two clubs have alternated colours each time they meet in LaLiga Santander, and most recently when Messi and company wore yellow as they ran out 3-0 winners at Ipurua last October.
In another neat link, young winger Marc Cucurella was wearing Eibar’s blaugrana, while on loan from parent club Barça, when he scored in a 2-2 draw at Ipurua last season.
It is unlikely that Zapico, who is still a fixture at Ipurua, will have to get his needle and thread out any time soon! But such colourful connections between clubs form part of LaLiga’s ongoing rich history.