An Official Basque Soccer Team Would Flourish, But FIFA And UEFA Still Oppose – Forbes - Techy Hunters

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

An Official Basque Soccer Team Would Flourish, But FIFA And UEFA Still Oppose – Forbes

La Liga is home to a wealth of Spanish players, but not all want to play under the same flag. Many from Bilbao, Pamplona, and San Sebastián, for instance, play for a Basque national side. But despite its efforts to become official, the latest coming last week (Spanish), it keeps hitting its head against a brick wall.

In many ways, an internationally registered Basque soccer team has what it takes to compete strongly on the world stage. Yet, despite having the resources to thrive competitively, its attempts to receive recognition from global governors FIFA and UEFA remain rejected. Should it one day be granted, it would be eligible to qualify for and play in major tournaments like the quadrennial World Cup (FIFA) and European Championships (UEFA).

The stumbling block revolves around identity. Known widely by its native name Euskadi, its desire to compete as a separate entity has been steadfast. But as each federations’ response has demonstrated, it has not yet satisfied the demands required to establish itself for good. 

Whether this eventually happens or not depends on the finer details. While various countries such as Costa Rica, Nigeria, and Venezuela have respectfully pitted their wits against the side, both bodies consider the region an autonomous community rather than an independent state accepted by the international community. Bureaucracy even dictates that communication between Basque and world soccer officials passes through the Spanish national soccer association (RFEF).

Basque players, led by coach Javier Clemente, are limited to playing friendly matches, though a successful application to join FIFA and UEFA would provide a competitive calendar. Some case studies have proved this possible, such as the Faroe Islands’ official formation despite being a Danish outpost. The Euskadi soccer federation released a statement lamenting the most recent rejection but assured that it would keep trying to secure the recognition “required by our society.” 

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The first overture came in 2018 when the federation agreed to submit its case to FIFA. It did so for the first time in 2020 and has now tried again..

The desire for an established team is there, but other factors are making things tricky. For example, having no distinct league system makes it harder to separate Basque clubs from the all-encompassing La Liga, with prominent sides like Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, and Alavés mainstays within the Spanish soccer pyramid.

Although this may seem disconnected from global affairs, it proves that soccer lines remain blurred between the Basque game and soccer throughout the country. And then there is the question of personnel. Mikel Oyarzabal, perhaps Real Sociedad’s most important player, was selected for both the Euros and Olympic squads and is now a fully fledged Spain international, despite previously playing one game for the Basque Country. Securing the commitment of all players from the region would strengthen the Basque hand and perhaps weaken the Spanish one.

Were the federation to win its battle, the players would give anyone a game. Of course, they would have to earn their stripes to climb the rankings. A squad virtually composed of La Liga players is a welcome starting point, though. With a solid setup in place, including a vastly experienced manager, there is no reason why they couldn’t aim for a place inside the top 50 teams in the world.

Behind the scenes, the foundations appear strong too. The Basque Country is one of Spain’s most prosperous areas and has the power to govern facets of its society, like tax, health, and education. Having a determined backing proves it can do the same in soccer too. Athletic Club and Real Sociedad also traditionally pride themselves on homegrown players, so there are plenty of options on the field.

It just needs the seal of approval.



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