Athletic Club has its “cathedral” (San Mames Stadium), its colours (red and white), its “lions” (its players), and also its Gabarra (a river barge). It is its own special and distinctive way of celebrating its titles with its fansOther teams celebrate their victories with an open-top bus ride. Athletic Club, however, does so by sailing up the river estuary, the Ría de Bilbao, on its Gabarra, a river barge full of history. It all started back in 1983, when Athletic Club was crowned league champion for the seventh time. Twenty-seven years had gone by since the club had last won that title, and 10 years without any kind of trophy. Bizkaia was going through a sad, depressing time, fully immersed in the reconversion of its industry, and with a high rate of unemployment. Yet Athletic Club managed to reward its fans with a victory that would put a smile on their faces. One of the club’s directors, Cecilio Gerrikabeitia, who had already witnessed many of Athletic Club’s triumphs, thought that on this occasion the traditional appearance on the balcony at City Hall would not be enough. He was listening to a song when he came up with an idea that would make history, and for many would remain ingrained in their memories or in their deepest desires. The lyrics say: “Down the Nervión River, sailed a barge, rumba la rum…”. Barges were once an essential type of vessel for local industry. They are a kind of flat-bottomed boat without an engine that needs to be towed, being used for carrying iron-ore. So in 1983 a barge was rechristened Athletic, but it would no longer carry iron-ore, as instead it would become the guest of honour when Athletic celebrated winning another title.
Blog › Enjoy football › La Gabarra: the river barge Athletic Club uses to celebrate winning titles