Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo says his club have nothing to be embarrassed about after being accused of “swiping” the brand of Athletic Club Bilbao a century ago.
During Spanish football’s fluid formative days, Athletic Club were established in 1898 with Atletico Madrid founded five years later by a group of Athletic fans who were in the Spanish capital and wanted somewhere to play.
This history was widely known but not often commented upon until Athletic chief executive Javier Aldazabal brought it up at the Basque club’s AGM this week, when he claimed that his club’s identity had been usurped by the team from the capital.
When Cerezo was asked about the controversy on Onda Cero radio show El Transistor, the Colchoneros chief said there had been a misunderstanding — and he did not want Atletico’s proud heritage and history to be tainted.
“We haven’t usurped, nor taken anything,” Cerezo said. “Nor have we done anything to repent about. We are very proud of our club and we’ve got nothing to hide.
“I don’t think that should be any reason for controversy or argument. On our pitch we sing Atleti, not Athletic. Those magnificent Basque students came here, it evolved and there’s been 113 years of history. I don’t want that to be tainted.”
Atletico’s own club records say their first jersey was blue and white — until a decision in January 1911 to switch to the more widely available red and white fabric also used to cover mattresses, leading to their current nickname of Los Colchoneros, or mattress makers.
Athletic also started out wearing blue and white, until 1910 when they sent an emissary to England to try and purchase some Blackburn Rovers jerseys, but he returned instead with Southampton shirts.
The version of events given by Athletic’s Aldazabal claims almost everything about Atletico was “appropriated” so that Atletico could make use of the Athletic “brand,” something he said would not be possible under today’s commercial laws.
“Athletic is a brand,” he said. “These day it would be unthinkable that someone came along and called themselves Coca-Cola of the Basque country, or that they swiped someone else’s name, as is what happened 100 years ago when [Atletico Madrid] usurped our colours, name and badge.
“Their badge in 1910 was the same as ours back then. That would be impossible now because the brand is commercially protected. It has been appropriated and after 100 years of permitted use, it’s now complicated.”