This weekend – Saturday, 23rd January to be precise – marks 100 years since D. Alaves began its storied history, and how better to mark the occasion than a home match against the reigning LaLiga Santander champions Real Madrid? A Real Madrid side, it must be said, Alaves have already beaten away from home this season.
These are exciting times to be a supporter of a club founded in 1921 and which joined LaLiga in its inaugural 1929 season. Abelardo’s side are now in their fifth consecutive season in LaLiga Santander and perhaps the strongest position in club history.
The most famous season in Alaves’ history came in 2000/01, when they famously reached the UEFA Cup final, only to lose to Liverpool 5-4 in excruciating fashion in extra-time. There have been some tough moments too, including a third-tier spell a decade ago. But the club returned to the top flight in 2016 and have gone from strength to strength, even reaching the Copa del Rey final in 2017.
The club hierarchy have put together a squad with a mix of Spanish and international talent: locally-born captain Manu Garcia, prolific forwards Lucas Perez and Joselu Mato, the goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco or winger Jota Peleteiro blend with cleverly scouted foreign talent such as Brazilian centre-back Rodrigo Ely and the Brazilian striker Deyverson in a side that plays with a high-tempo, direct style of football, so much so that visitors to Mendizorrotza are always braced for a physical and mental battle.
Notable former players include legendary 1930s Spain defender Jacinto Quincoces, Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winner Jorge Valdano, Australian legend John Aloisi and Dutch international Jordi Cruyff. Alaves are also one of the few LaLiga teams connected to a basketball club, with the pro-team of Saski-Baskonia much loved in the city.
Alaves have worn blue and white striped jerseys throughout their LaLiga history, hence the ‘albiazul’ [white and blue] moniker. Other nicknames including the self-explanatory ‘El Glorioso’ and ‘Babazorros,’ a combination of the Basque words for ‘bags of beans.’
The club have also unveiled a brand-new club crest this season to celebrate the club’s centenary, one which adds a modern touch to the famous blue and white flag which has been ever present since 1924 and which stands for the club’s key values: sacrifice, dedication and commitment. A new club anthem has been composed to celebrate 100 years of history, written and performed by Spanish rock star Mikel Izal to critical acclaim. The anthem pays tribute to ‘100 years of glory,’ the club’s values and unwavering fanbase, known to be among the most fervent and committed in Spanish football.
To make the day of the centenary even more special, the team will also wear a special commemorative shirt on Saturday night to face Real Madrid.
Vitoria-Gasteiz, the team’s home city in Spain’s northern Alava province, welcomes visitors and opposition fans with local dishes including hearty stews of meat and beans, or lighter ‘pintxos’ eaten at the bar, while the world-renowned La Rioja wine region lies just to the south. The 250,000-population city is also the ‘greenest’ regional capital in Spain; its acclaimed biodiversity and eco-friendly policies saw it named the European Green Capital of the year in 2012.
THE BASKONIA GROUP: THE UNIQUE GROUP BEHIND ALAVÉS
From Vitoria-Gasteiz to the world. This is the adventure that Josean Querejeta launched when he founded Grupo Baskonia – Baskonia Group, in English. Founded in a city with fewer than 250,000 residents, this group now has an annual turnover of more than 100 million euros and has placed the Basque capital on the map of international sport. A new level has been reached when it comes to the management of sporting entities.
The group is present in four countries on two different continents, with its teams providing a successful case study in the competitive worlds of football and basketball. The football team Alavés play in LaLiga Santander and the basketball side Baskonia compete in Spain’s Liga ACB and the EuroLeague. Other clubs play in Croatia and Japan, and the group expects to keep growing in established markets such as England, Portugal, China and Italy.
Basketball as a starting point
Baskonia, the basketball team, was the group’s first major project. Founded in 1959, over the course of six decades this team has become one of the strongest in Europe. They’ve won three Spanish league championships, six Copa del Rey titles, four Supercopa de España titles and have made five trips to the EuroLeague final four. The team has its participation in the EuroLeague guaranteed until 2026.
With a capacity for 15,544 spectators, the club’s Fernando Buesa Arena – which hosted the 2019 Final Four tournament between Real Madrid, CSKA, Fenerbahçe and Efes – sees more fans pass through its doors than any domestic rival and ranks fourth in average attendance in Europe. It is a world-class facility that has VIP areas in the stands, premium courtside seats and space for enjoying the matchday experience even beyond what takes place on the court.
Baskonia have had many world-class talents in their ranks over the years, both Spanish and international. The likes of Jose Calderon, Luis Scola, Tiago Splitter, Mirza Teletovic and Pablo Prigioni have all gone on to be stars in the NBA.
Football as an engine for expansion
Baskonia Group acquired Alavés in 2011, back when the club was in the third tier of Spanish football. In under 10 years, Baskonia Group settled the club’s debt and reached a point where it is now profitable. Alavés are currently in their fifth consecutive season in LaLiga Santander and the management model of recent times suggests they can consolidate their place in that tier. They’ve even finished ninth in the table and reached a Copa del Rey final since their last promotion in 2016.
Alavés aren’t only thinking about the past and the present, though. With the construction of a new residence for young players, they’re looking to ensure talent keeps coming through to the first team. The new 1,800 square metre space already houses 56 youngsters of 17 different nationalities.
NK Istra & Kagoshima United lead the plans abroad
Pula is a city built around Roman ruins on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula. It’s a city known for its architectural heritage, its wine and also for NK Istra, a club with a proud history in the Prva Liga, the top tier of Croatian football. Baskonia Group acquired 85% of its shares in 2018 with the aim of supporting its prestigious academy, one of the best in Europe according to the CIES Football Observatory. Along with Kagoshima United, a team in the third division of Japanese football, this is a flagship club for Baskonia Group in an international expansion.