La Liga: Athletic Bilbao-Homegrown Footballers at Their Finest

From a foreigner’s perspective, Spain is truly an interesting county. For those of you that don’t remember my previous post on Spanish Football and Basque Nationalism Spain has a ‘central’ culture, but most Spainards feel more of a cultural tie to the region where they are from. Ask someone from Barcelona where they are from and they will tell you they are Spanish simply because you don’t know where Catalonia is or what the Catalan language sounds like. But, ask them again where they are ‘really’ from and they will tell you they are Catalan. The same goes for the Basques who live in the north. Many Basques consider themselves to be ‘Basque’ and not ‘Spanish’.

Spain has a very long, historical tradition of ‘home-growing’ their footballers and bringing them up through the ranks. I mentioned this policy briefly in the Athletic Bilbao season preview, but it is really something that I would like to shine a bit of light on for everyone to see.

Cantera is a Spanish word meaning ‘quarry’, but more importantly for us, it refers to Spanish youth sides, or the process of the bringing a player up through the youth ranks. No where else is the cantera policy more prevalent then in Athletic Bilbao, and no where else is a side more homegrown than in the Basque capital.

Athletic Bilbao have a simple ‘policy’ when summed up says ‘If you aren’t basque, you don’t play for us.’ The actual saying used is

Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación.
With home-grown support and a fan base, you don’t need foreigners’,

This policy is more of a ‘practice’ than a ‘law’ per se, since there is nothing written in stone on this subject. However, most Athletic fans feel this policy gives them identity, something minorities in Spain love to express and feel.

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