Goalkeepers Across La Liga Wear Black Kits to Honour Legend on His 80th Birthday

Instead of wearing black to mourn, goalkeepers across Spain’s La Liga wore black in matches this weekend to celebrate one of the country’s most famous netminders on his 80th birthday.

Spanish club Athletic Bilbao invited goalkeepers from clubs in their own country and across the world to wear black kits this weekend to honour José Ángel Iribar, who turned 80 on March 1. Iribar appeared in 614 matches over 18 seasons with Bilbao, and also played for the Spanish national team in the 1964 Nations Cup and the 1966 World Cup.

Iribar — who earned the nickname “Txopo” (“Poplar”) for his towering presence between the goalposts — famously wore black kits during his time with Bilbao.

Photo courtesy AS

La Liga and the Spanish Technical Committee of Referees both granted permission for both goalkeepers in La Liga matches over the weekend to wear black.

Prior to this weekend’s matches, La Liga goalkeepers posed for photos with each other wearing black kits. Some only wore black for pre-game festivities, then wore a different colour during the actual match. Here’s a look at all the goalkeepers:

Athletic Bilbao players also wore special warmup shirts with Iribar’s name and the number 1 printed on the back.

Courtesy La Liga

Meanwhile, goalkeepers in other European leagues joined the tribute. For example, in England, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (a former Bilbao player) wore a black kit in warmups before their match against Leeds United with Iribar’s name and the number 80.

Aside from his stellar play on the pitch, Iribar also became known for his outspoken support of the Basque people. Before a game in December 1976 — about a year after the death of dictator Francisco Franco — Iribar and Real Sociedad captain Inaxio Kortabarria carried a Basque flag, the Ikkuriña, to the centre circle of the Atotxa Stadium in San Sebastián. Publicly displaying the flag had been illegal under Franco’s rule, and technically still was when the game between the two Basque Country sides was played. But thanks in part to this display, the Ikkuriña was legalized in January 1977. Today, versions of it are still prominently displayed on Bilbao’s and Sociedad’s kits.

Photo courtesy AboutBasqueCountry.eus