Dani Vivian: ‘No one is an obstacle. You see that spirit in Basque football, even in the kids’

Athletic defender reflects on the unique nature of playing for the club and the team’s quest to end long wait for a major trophy

Dani Vivian is reading 1984. “Maybe it’s a sign,” the Athletic defender says. He hadn’t thought of it like that, but now that he does there’s a smile. 1984 was the last time his club won a major trophy. Back then, over a million people lined Bilbao, packed on to the banks of the Nervión as the players passed in a barge. Thousands more followed in small boats, anything they could find: dinghies, tugs, canoes. The photos are astonishing and they are everywhere in the city. They are also 40 years old; just the word gabarra (barge) has something mythical about it, instantly understood and loaded with nostalgia.

Longing too. Like the immense majority of his teammates, Vivian grew up supporting Athletic and has heard about the gabarra many times but, born in 1999, he has not won and been on board or seen anyone else there either. Even the club’s sporting director has never witnessed them lifting a trophy. The barge has not sailed in four decades but permits have been requested to unmoor it, just in case. On Saturday Athletic play Real Mallorca in the Copa del Rey final in Seville, 900km south, where 100,000 Basques are expected. This could be the biggest moment in a generation, like something from another time.

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