Motto: Zazpiak Bat (The seven are one)
Location of the Basque Country
The seven historical provinces usually included in the definition the greater region of the Basque Country.
|20,947 km2 (8,088 sq mi)|
• 2017 estimate
|150/km2 (388.5/sq mi)|
|Currency||Euro (€) (EUR)|
The Basque Country (Basque: Euskal Herria; French: Pays Basque; Spanish: País Vasco) is the name given to the home of the Basque people. The Basque country is located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Euskal Herria is the oldest documented Basque name for the area they inhabit, dating from the 16th century.
It comprises the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France. The region is home to the Basque people (Basque: Euskaldunak), their language (Basque: Euskara), culture and traditions. The area is neither linguistically nor culturally homogeneous, and certain areas have a majority of people who do not consider themselves Basque, such as the south of Navarre.
The name in Basque is Euskal Herria. The name is difficult to accurately translate into other languages due to the wide range of meanings of the Basque word herri. It can be translated as nation; country, land; people, population and town, village, settlement. The first part, Euskal, is the adjectival form of Euskara "the Basque language". Thus a more literal translation would be "country/nation/people/settlement of the Basque language", a concept difficult to render into a single word in most other languages.
The two earliest references (in various spelling guises) are in Joan Perez de Lazarraga's manuscript, dated around 1564–1567 as eusquel erria and eusquel erriau and heuscal herrian ('in the Basque Country') and Heuscal-Herrian in Joanes Leizarraga's Bible translation, published in 1571.
The term Basque Country refers to a collection of regions inhabited by the Basque people, known as Euskal Herria in Basque language, and it is first attested as including seven traditional territories in Axular's literary work Gero (he goes on to suggest that Basque language is spoken "in many other places"), in the early 17th century. Some Basques refer to the seven traditional districts collectively as Zazpiak Bat, meaning "The Seven [are] One", a motto coined in the late 19th century.
The Northern Basque Country, known in Basque as Iparralde (literally, "the northern part") is the part of the Basque Country that lies entirely within France, specifically as part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département of France, and as such it is also usually known as French Basque Country (Pays basque français in French). In most contemporary sources it covers the arrondissement of Bayonne and the cantons of Mauléon-Licharre and Tardets-Sorholus, but sources disagree on the status of the village of Esquiule. Within these conventions, the area of Northern Basque Country (including the 29 square kilometres (11 square miles) of Esquiule) is 2,995 square kilometres (1,156 square miles).
The French Basque Country is traditionally subdivided into three provinces:
However, this summary presentation makes it hard to justify the inclusion of a few communes in the lower Adour region. As emphasized by Jean Goyhenetche, it would be more accurate to depict it as the reunion of five entities: Labourd, Lower Navarre, Soule but also Bayonne and Gramont.
The Southern Basque Country, known in Basque as Hegoalde (literally, "the southern part") is the part of the Basque region that lies completely within Spain, and as such it is frequently also known as Spanish Basque Country (País Vasco español in Spanish). It is the largest and most populated part of the Basque Country. It includes two main regions: the Basque Autonomous Community (Vitoria-Gasteiz as capital) and the Chartered Community of Navarre (capital city Pamplona).
The Chartered Community of Navarre (10,391 km²) is a single-province autonomous community. Its name refers to the charters, the Fueros of Navarre. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 states that Navarre may become a part of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country if it is so decided by its people and institutions (the Disposicion transitoria cuarta or "Fourth Transitory Provision"). To date, there has been no implementation of this law. Despite demands for a referendum by minority leftist forces and Basque nationalists in Navarre, it has been opposed by mainstream Spanish parties and Navarrese People's Union; the ruling party up until 2015. The latter has repeatedly asked for an amendment to the Constitution to remove this clause.
In addition to those, two enclaves located outside of the respective autonomous community are often cited as being part of both the Basque Autonomous Community and also the Basque Country (greater region):
The Basque Country region is dominated by a warm, humid and wet oceanic climate and the coastal area is part of Green Spain and by extension it affects Bayonne and Biarritz as well. Inland areas in Navarre and the southern regions of the autonomous community are transitional with continental mediterranean climate with somewhat larger temperature swings between seasons. The list only sources locations in Spain, but Bayonne/Biarritz have a very similar climate as nearby Hondarribia on the Spanish side of the border. The values do not apply to San Sebastián since its weather station is at a higher elevation than the urban core where temperatures are higher year-round and similar to those in Bilbao and Hondarribia.
|Location||August (°C)||August (°F)||January (°C)||January (°F)|
According to some theories, Basques may be the least assimilated remnant of the Paleolithic inhabitants of Western Europe (specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region known as Azilian) to the Indo-European migrations. Basque tribes were mentioned by Greek writer Strabo and Roman writer Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others. There is considerable evidence to show their Basque ethnicity in Roman times in the form of place-names, Caesar's reference to their customs and physical make-up, the so-called Aquitanian inscriptions recording names of people and gods (approx. 1st century, see Aquitanian language), etc.
Geographically, the Basque Country was inhabited in Roman times by several tribes: the Vascones, the Varduli, the Caristi, the Autrigones, the Berones, the Tarbelli, and the Sibulates. Some ancient place-names, such as Deba, Butrón, Nervión, Zegama, suggest the presence of non-Basque peoples at some point in protohistory. The ancient tribes are last cited in the 5th century, after which track of them is lost, with only Vascones still being accounted for,:79 while extending far beyond their former boundaries, e.g. in the current lands of Álava and most conspicuously around the Pyrenees and Novempopulania.
The territory of the Cantabri encompassed probably present-day Biscay, Cantabria, Burgos and at least part of Álava and La Rioja, i.e. to the west of Vascon territory in the Early Middle Ages,:139 but the ethnic nature of this people, often at odds with and finally overcome by the Visigoths, is not certain. The Vascones around Pamplona, after much fighting against Franks and Visigoths, founded the Kingdom of Pamplona (824), inextricably linked to their kinsmen the Banu Qasi.:123
All other tribes in the Iberian Peninsula had been, to a great extent, assimilated by Roman culture and language by the end of the Roman period or early period of the Early Middle Ages, while ethnic Basques inhabited well east into the lands of the Pyrenees (Pallars, Val d'Aran) from the 8th to the 11th century.:4
In the Early Middle Ages (up to the 9th century) the territory between the Ebro and Garonne rivers was known as Vasconia, a blurred ethnic area and polity struggling to fend off the Frankish feudal authority from the north and the pressure of the Iberian Visigoths and Andalusi Cordovans from the south.:33–40
By the turn of the millennium, a receding Carolingian royal authority and establishing feudalism left Vasconia (to become Gascony) fragmented into myriad of counties and viscounties,:207–208 e.g. Fezensac, Bigorre, Astarac, Béarn, Tartas, Marsan, Soule, Labourd, etc., out of former tribal systems and minor realms (County of Vasconia), while south of the Pyrenees, besides the above Kingdom of Pamplona, Gipuzkoa, Álava and Biscay arose in the current lands of the Southern Basque Country from the 9th century onward.
These westerly territories pledged intermittent allegiance to Navarre in their early stages, but were annexed to the Kingdom of Castile at the end of the 12th century, so depriving the Kingdom of Navarre of direct access to the ocean. In the Late Middle Ages, important families dotting the whole Basque territory came to prominence, often quarreling with each other for power and unleashing the bloody War of the Bands, only stopped by royal intervention and the gradual shift of power from the countryside to the towns by the 16th century.:249–254 Meanwhile, the viscounties of Labourd and Soule under English suzerainty were finally incorporated to France after the Hundred Years' War, with Bayonne remaining the last Plantagenet stronghold up to 1453.
In Navarre, the civil wars between the Agramont and the Beaumont confederacies paved the way for the Spanish conquest of the bulk of Navarre from 1512 to 1524. The independent Navarre north of the Pyrenees was largely absorbed by France in 1620, despite the fact that King Henry III of Navarre had decreed Navarre's permanent independence from France (31 December 1596).:30 In the decades after the Spanish annexation, the Basque Country went through increased religious, ideological and national homogenization,:71–74 encouraged by new national ideas embraced by the rising Spanish and French absolutist monarchies during the Renaissance.:86, 100–104
|"Basque (Country) [Vasco (País)], Euscalerria or Euskalerria: Region of south-western Europe, an area inhabited especially by the 'Basques': they keep unity with regards to race and language, in spite of one sector belonging to Spain (see Spanish Basque Country [País Vasco-Español]) and the other to France (see French Basque Country [País Vasco-Francés]). The Basque Country extends over 21,023 sq km, and is home to 1,585,409 inhabitants."|
|Diccionario Geográfico Universal, Madrid (1953)|
From 1525, witchcraft allegations originating in a number of Pyrenean valleys on the rearguard of the Lower Navarre front and recent theatre of war (Salazar, Roncal, Burguete, etc.) were followed by the intervention of newly reformed and recent institutions, such as Spain's central tribunal Inquisition, the (Navarrese) Royal Tribunals, and the Diocesan Tribunal, who organized a series of trials for alleged witchcraft and heretical practices. In the heat of the Wars of Religion and the struggle for Navarre, persecution came to a head in the hysteria of the 1609–1611 Basque witch trials on both sides of the Spanish-French border, easing afterwards.
In the French Basque Country, its provinces underwent an ever-shrinking self-government status until the French Revolution,:267 when the traditional provinces were reshaped to form the current Basses-Pyrénées department along with Béarn. In the Southern Basque Country, the regional Charters were upheld until the Carlist Wars,:268 when the Basques supported heir-apparent Carlos and his descendants to the cry of "God, Fatherland, King" (The Charters were finally abolished in 1876). The ensuing centralized status quo bred dissent and frustration in the region, giving rise to Basque nationalism by the end of the 19th century, influenced by European Romantic nationalism.:277
Since then, attempts were made to find a new framework for self-empowerment. The occasion seemed to have arrived on the proclamation of the 2nd Spanish Republic in 1931, when a draft statute was drawn up for the Southern Basque Country (Statute of Estella), but was discarded in 1932. In 1936 a short-lived statute of autonomy was approved for the Gipuzkoa, Álava and Biscay provinces, but war prevented any progress. After Franco's dictatorship, a new statute was designed that resulted in the creation of the current Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre, with a limited self-governing status, as settled by the Spanish Constitution. However, a significant part of Basque society is still attempting higher degrees of self-empowerment (see Basque nationalism), sometimes by acts of violence (ETA's permanent ceasefire in 2010). The French Basque Country, meanwhile, lacks any political or administrative recognition whatsoever, while a majority of local representatives have lobbied to create a Basque department, to no avail.
The Basque Country has a population of approximately 3 million as of early 2006. The population density, at about 140/km² (360/sq. mile) is above average for both Spain and France, but the distribution of the population is fairly unequal, concentrated around the main cities. A third of the population is concentrated in the Greater Bilbao metropolitan area, while most of the interior of the French Basque Country and some areas of Navarre remain sparsely populated: density culminates at about 500/km² for Biscay but falls to 20/km² in the northern inner provinces of Lower Navarre and Soule.
A significant majority of the population of the Basque country live inside the Basque Autonomous Community (about 2,100,000, or 70% of the population) while about 600,000 live in Navarre (20% of the population) and about 300,000 (roughly 10%) in Northern Basque Country.
José Aranda Aznar writes that 30% of the population in the Basque Country Autonomous Community were born in other regions of Spain and that 40% of the people living in that territory do not have a single Basque parent.
Most of these peoples of Galician and Castilian stock arrived in the Basque Autonomous Community in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, as the region became more and more industrialized and prosperous and additional workers were needed to support the economic growth. Descendants of immigrants from other parts of Spain have since been considered Basque for the most part, at least formally.
Over the last 25 years, some 380,000 people have left the Basque Autonomous Community, of which some 230,000 have moved to other parts of Spain. While certainly many of them are people returning to their original homes when starting their retirement, there is also a sizable tract of Basque natives in this group who have moved due to a Basque nationalist political environment (including ETA's killings) which they perceive as overtly hostile. These have been quoted to be as high as 10% of the population in the Basque Community.
|Bilbao||Vitoria-Gasteiz||Pamplona||Donostia (San Sebastian)|
|Ten largest cities|
|4||Donostia (San Sebastian)||Gipuzkoa||195,226||9||Santurtzi||Biscay||47,320|
|Source: Eustat, INE, INSEE|
Various Romani groups existed in the Basque Country and some still exist as ethnic groups. These were grouped together under the generic terms ijituak (Gypsies) and buhameak (Bohemians) by Basque speakers.
In the Middle Ages, many Franks settled along the Way of Saint James in Navarre and Gipuzkoa and to a lesser extent in Bizkaia. This process also happened in Northern Castile. They were all collectively called Franks because most of them came from French regions (Normans, Bretons, Burgundians, Aquitanians etc.) but an important minority of them were in fact of German, Dutch, Italian, English and Swiss stock. Some were also from even more distant lands such as Poland or Denmark. Due to this migration, Gascon was spoken in the centre of Donostia-San Sebastián, until the beginning of the 20th century. Navarre also held Jewish and Muslim minorities but these were expelled or forced to assimilate after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. One of the outstanding members of such minorities was Benjamin of Tudela.
Much as has been the case for Spain's two other major economic poles (Madrid and Catalonia), the Basque Country received significant immigration from other poorer regions of Spain, due to its higher level of economic development and early industrialization. During the second half of the 20th century, such immigrants were commonly referred to by some Basques as maketos, a derogatory term which is less used today. Similarly, a disdainful term, caseros, has been used by many immigrants to refer to the native population speaking in Basque.
Since the 1980s, as a consequence of its considerable economic prosperity, the Basque Country has received an increasing number of immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe, North Africa, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and China, settling mostly in the major urban areas. Nevertheless, foreign immigrant population is surprisingly lower in the Basque country than in Madrid and Catalonia, despite having similar GDP per capita and significantly lower levels of unemployment.
Currently, the predominant languages in the Spanish and French Basque Countries are Spanish and French, respectively. In the historical process of forging themselves as nation-states, both the Spanish and French governments have tried more or less intensely to discourage the use of Basque and its linguistic identity. The language chosen for public education is the most obvious expression of this phenomenon, something which surely had an effect on the current status of Basque.
Despite being spoken in a relatively small territory, the rugged features of the Basque countryside and the historically high population density resulted in a heavy dialectal fragmentation throughout history, which increased the value of both Spanish and French respectively as lingua francas. In this regard, the current Standard form of Basque was only introduced in the late 1960s, which helped Basque move away from being perceived – even by its own speakers – as a language unfit for educational purposes.
While the French Republic has historically attempted to absorb ethnic minority groups – including the French Basques – into a linguistically unified state, Spain in turn has accepted intermittently in its history some degree of linguistic, cultural, and political autonomy to the Basques. Altogether there was a gradual language shift towards Spanish language in the Basque-speaking areas of the Spanish Basque Country, a phenomenon initially restricted to the upper urban classes, but progressively reaching the lower classes. Western Biscay, most of Alava and southern Navarre have been Spanish-speaking (or Romance-speaking) for centuries.
But under the regime of Francisco Franco, the government attempted to suppress Basque nationalism and limit the uses of the Basque language. Even the activities of the Euskaltzaindia (Basque Language Academy) were severely curtailed. In general, during these years, cultural activity in Basque was limited to folkloric issues and the Roman Catholic Church, while a higher, yet still limited degree of tolerance was granted to Basque culture and language in Álava and Navarre, since both areas mostly supported Francoist troops during the war.
Nowadays, the Basque Autonomous Community enjoys some cultural and political autonomy and Basque is an official language along with Spanish. Basque is favoured by a set of language policies sponsored by the Basque regional government which aim at the generalization of its use. However, the actual implementation of this official status is patchy and problematic, relying ultimately on the will of the different administrative levels to enforce it—Justice, Health, Administration. It is spoken by approximately a quarter of the total Basque Country, its stronghold being the contiguous area formed by Gipuzkoa, northern Navarre and the Pyrenean French valleys. It is not spoken natively in most of Álava, western Biscay and the southern half of Navarre. Of a total estimation of some 650,000 Basque speakers, approximately 550,000 live in the Spanish Basque country, the rest in the French.
The Basque education system in Spain has three types of schools differentiated by their linguistic teaching models: A, B and D. Model D, with education entirely in Basque, and Spanish as a compulsory subject, is the most widely chosen model by parents. In Navarre, there is an additional G model, with education entirely in Spanish.
The ruling anti-Basque conservative government of Unión del Pueblo Navarro opposes Basque nationalist attempts to provide education in Basque through all Navarre (which would include areas where it is not traditionally spoken). Basque language teaching in the public education network is therefore limited to the Basque speaking north and central regions. In the central region, Basque teaching in the public education network is fairly limited, and part of the existing demand is served via private schools or ikastolak. In southern and some central areas this policy has resulted in schoolchildren having to travel sometimes for hours every day in order to attend education provided in the historic language of Navarre, largely relying on public subscription (yearly festival Nafarroa Oinez, solidarity from the ikastola network, donations, etc.) or receiving as a result no allowances for school meals. Even in northern Basque or mixed language areas, allegations raised by Basque speaker associations point regularly to a conspicuous disregard for recognised language rights, e.g. virtual non-existence of Basque language medical assistance across areas where the vast majority is Basque speaking, insufficient Basque speaking librarians, no broadcasting permission in the last 20 years (as of 2013) for the only Basque language radio in Pamplona, Spanish monolingual signalization and even removal of bilingual one, etc. Spanish is or can be spoken in Navarre by the entire population, with few exceptions in remote rural areas.
The European Commission for Regional or Minority Languages to which Spain is signatory has issued a number of recommendations in order to guarantee a real official status for Basque language (2004), e.g. the suppression of the administrative linguistic divides of Navarre for considering it an obstacle to the normal use of Basque and discriminating against Basque speakers,:76 the filing of the case against newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria and restitution to its normal operation,:66, 79 as well as guarantees to prisoners of receiving and sending correspondence in Basque,:80 to mention but a few.
The situation of the Basque language in the French Basque Country is vulnerable (as rated by Unesco). The pressure of French as a well-established mainstream language and different administrative obstacles to the consolidation of Basque-language schooling make the language's future prospects uncertain. On 14 June 2013, pointing to the 1850 Falloux act and declaring thereafter that French is the official language of France, the regional subprefect declared illegal the Hendaye council's subsidies to finance a new building for a Basque-language school. On 6 November 2013, the Basque language school network in the French Basque Country, Seaska, bitterly criticized the French state before UNESCO for not complying with its international commitments and actually failing to accept minorities by violating their linguistic rights. In November 2013, France decided not to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The earliest university in the Basque Country was the University of Oñati, founded in 1540 in Hernani and moved to Oñati in 1548. It lasted in various forms until 1901. In 1868, in order to fulfill the need for college graduates for the thriving industry that was flourishing in the Bilbao area, there was an unsuccessful effort to establish a Basque-Navarrese University. Nonetheless, in 1897 the Bilbao Superior Technical School of Engineering (the first modern faculty of engineering in Spain), was founded as a way of providing engineers for the local industry; this faculty is nowadays part of the University of the Basque Country. Almost at the same time, the urgent need for business graduates led to the establishment of the Commercial Faculty by the Jesuits, and, some time thereafter, the Jesuits expanded their university by formally founding the University of Deusto in Deusto (now a Bilbao neighbourhood) by the turn of the century, a private university where the Commercial Faculty was integrated. The first modern Basque public university was the Basque University, founded 18 November 1936 by the autonomous Basque government in Bilbao in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. It operated only briefly before the government's defeat by Francisco Franco's fascist forces.
Several faculties, originally teaching only in Spanish, were founded in the Basque region in the Francisco Franco era. A public faculty of economics was founded in Sarriko (Bilbao) in the 1960s, and a public faculty of medicine was also founded during that decade, thus expanding the college graduate schools. However, all the public faculties in the Basque Country were organized as local branches of Spanish universities. For instance, the School of Engineering was treated as a part of the University of Valladolid, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) away from Bilbao. Indeed, the lack of a central governing body for the public faculties of the Bilbao area, namely those of Economics in Sarriko, Medicine in Basurto, Engineering in Bilbao and the School of Mining in Barakaldo (est. 1910s), was seen as a gross handicap for the cultural and economic development of the area, and so, during the late 1960s many formal requests were made to the Francoist government in order to establish a Basque public university that would unite all the public faculties already founded in Bilbao. As a result of that, the University of Bilbao was founded in the early 1970s, which has now evolved into the University of the Basque Country with campuses in the western three provinces.
In Navarre, Opus Dei manages the University of Navarre with another campus in San Sebastián. Additionally, there is also the Public University of Navarre, with campus in Pamplona and in Tudela, managed by the Navarrese Foral Government.
There are numerous other significant Basque cultural institutions in the Basque Country and elsewhere. Most Basque organizations in the United States are affiliated with NABO (North American Basque Organizations, Inc.).
Since the last quarter of the 20th century, there have been very different political views on the significance of the Basque Country, with some Basque nationalists aiming to create an independent state including the whole area, and Spanish nationalism denying the very existence of the Basque Country. The dynamics of controversial decisions imposed by Spanish tribunals on Basque nationalist parties ideologically close to ETA left for over a decade a distorted representation of the Basque politics in local councils and regional parliaments, as well as a swiftly changing array of disbanded party names, new alliances, and re-accommodations (since 1998).
During the 2011 Spanish parliamentary elections, the coalition Amaiur (former Batasuna plus Eusko Alkartasuna) came up first in parliamentary seats (7) and second only to UPN-PP (5 seats) in popular vote in the Southern Basque Country, followed closely by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (5 seats). Geroa Bai secured a seat in Navarre, with the Basque Nationalist Party getting 5 (all from Basque Autonomous Community).
Despite Amaiur's results, the group was refused a parliamentary group in an unprecedented decision in the Spanish Parliament, on the grounds that the coalition's MPs represented two different constituencies. As a result, Amaiur (5th political group in the Spanish Parliament altogether) remained in the Grupo Mixto with a myriad of different parties from all over Spain, while the so-called Basque Group includes only the 5 members of the PNV and the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi).
However, in December 2015, the Spanish parliamentary elections saw the rise of Podemos (7 MPs) and the Basque Nationalist Party (6 MPs) at the expense of EH Bildu (2 MPs), while Madrid-based mainstream parties continued their steady decline trend, with the Spanish Conservatives (allied with UPN in Navarre) getting 4 MPs, and the Socialists 4 MPs.
Since the 19th century, Basque nationalism (abertzaleak) has demanded the right of some kind of self-determination, which is supported by 60% of Basques in the Basque Autonomous Community, and independence, which would be supported in this same territory, according to a poll, by approximately 36% of them. This desire for independence is particularly stressed among leftist Basque nationalists. The right of self-determination was asserted by the Basque Parliament in 1990, 2002 and 2006.
According to Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Article 2, "The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards". Therefore, since this precludes a declaration of independence of Spanish regions, some Basques abstained and some even voted against it in the referendum of 6 December of that year. However, it was approved by a clear majority at the Spanish level, and simple majority at Navarrese and Basque levels. The derived autonomous regimes for the BAC was approved in later referendum but the autonomy of Navarre (amejoramiento del fuero: "improvement of the charter") was never subject to referendum but just approved by the Navarrese Cortes (parliament).
There are not many sources on the issue for the French Basque country.
Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) was an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and evolved from a group promoting Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Basque Country. ETA is the main organisation of the Basque National Liberation Movement and was the most important participant in the Basque conflict. ETA declared temporary ceasefires in 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2006, but these subsequently came to an abrupt end. However, on 5 September 2010, ETA declared a permanent ceasefire that is still in force – moreover, on 20 October 2011 ETA announced a "definitive cessation of its armed activity". On 2 May 2018, ETA issued a historic statement declaring a definitive end to its armed struggle, after six decades of political conflict.
The main sport in the Basque Country, as in the rest of Spain and much of France, is football. The top teams – Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Eibar, Alavés, Real Unión and Barakaldo – play in the Spanish football league system. Athletic Bilbao has a policy of hiring only Basque players, which has been applied with variable flexibility. Local rivals Real Sociedad used to practice the same policy, until they signed Irish striker John Aldridge in the late 1980s. Since then, Real Sociedad have had many foreign players. Athletic's policy does not apply to head coaches, with famous names as Howard Kendall and Jupp Heynckes coaching the team at various points.
The most renowned Basque footballer of all time is possibly Andoni Zubizarreta, who holds the record for appearances in La Liga with 622 games and won six league titles and one European Cup. Nowadays, the most well-known Basque football player is Xabi Alonso (winner of two European Championships and one FIFA World Cup) who played for Real Sociedad, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Other notable Basque players include Mikel Arteta, Javi Martínez, Iker Muniain, César Azpilicueta, Asier Illarramendi, Andoni Iraola, Aritz Aduriz and Ander Herrera. Both Athletic and Real Sociedad have won the Spanish league, including dominating the competition in the early 1980s, with the last title won by a Basque club being Athletic's 1984 title.
At international level, Basque players were especially prominent in Spanish selections prior to the Civil War, with all of those at the 1928 Olympics, and the majority of the 1920 Olympics and 1934 World Cup squads, born in the region.
Football is not that popular in the north but the region has produced two well known and successful football players, Bixente Lizarazu and Didier Deschamps of France. They were among 22 players that won the 1998 World Cup. In the 2010s, Aviron Bayonnais FC developed international players Stéphane Ruffier and Kévin Rodrigues, as well as Aymeric Laporte who transferred from Athletic Bilbao to England for a fee of €65 million.
The territory has an unofficial 'national' team which plays occasional friendlies, but not competitive matches against conventional national teams. Navarre has its own representative side which convenes rarely.
Cycling as a sport is popular in the Basque Country. Miguel Indurain, born in Atarrabia (Navarre), won the Tour de France five times. Fellow Basque cyclist Abraham Olano has won the Vuelta a España and the World Championship.
A professional, UCI ProTeam cycling team hails from the Basque Country: Movistar Team as well as a defunct team, Euskaltel–Euskadi. The Movistar team traces its history back to the Banesto team that included Indurain.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi cycling team was commercially sponsored, but also worked as an unofficial Basque national team and was partly funded by the Basque Government. Its riders were either Basque, or at least grew up in the region's cycling culture; members of the team were sometimes strong contenders in the Tour de France held annually in July and Vuelta a España held in September. The races often saw Basque fans lining the roads wearing orange, the corporate colour of the telecoms company Euskaltel's team, coining the term the orange crush during the Pyrenees stages of the Tour de France. Team leaders included riders such as Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sánchez and David Etxebarria.
In the north, rugby union is another popular sport with the Basque community. In Biarritz, the local club is Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque, the name referencing the club's Basque heritage. They wear red, white and green, and supporters wave the Basque flag in the stands. They also recognize 16 other clubs as "Basque-friendly". A number of 'home' matches played by Biarritz Olympique in the Heineken Cup have taken place at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian. The most famous Biarritz Basque player is the legendary French fullback Serge Blanco, whose mother was Basque. Michel Celaya captained both Biarritz and France. French number 8 Imanol Harinordoquy is also a Biarritz Basque player. Aviron Bayonnais is another top-flight rugby union club with Basque ties.
Pelota (jai alai) is the Basque version of the European game family that includes real tennis and squash. Basque players, playing for either the Spanish or the French teams, dominate international competitions.
Mountaineering is popular due to the mountainous terrain of the Basque Country and its proximity to the Pyrenees. Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte (Aretxabaleta, 1968) is one of the most respected mountaineers in the world. The Basque mountaineer has managed to crown the 14 eight thousands in the world, all of them "Alpine" style, i.e. without oxygen and few camps and without Sherpas. This is something only 8 people on the planet have achieved. Juanito Oiarzabal (from Vitoria) holds the world record for number of climbs above 8,000 metres (26,000 feet), with 21. There are also great sport climbers in the Basque Country, such as, Josune Bereziartu, the only female to have climbed the grade 9a/5.14d; and Iker Pou, one of the most versatile climbers in the world. Patxi Usobiaga, proclaimed world champion in Xining, China, 2009. In 2010, Edurne Pasaban became the first woman to climb the fourteen eight-thousanders.
The Basque country sporting tradition is linked to agricultural pursuits such as mowing with a scythe, or loading carts, but adapted as competitions with points awarded for specific criteria such as time, precision, elegance and productivity.
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