Bilbao counting down to EURO 2020
"A city that breathes football" was the fitting description given to Bilbao at the unveiling of its UEFA EURO 2020 host city logo on Thursday.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin was present in Bilbao, located in the Basque region of Spain, as the proud city celebrated its role as one of the 13 cities that will stage an eagerly awaited EURO final tournament in four years' time.
The event took place in Bilbao City Hall, a short distance from the majestic Estadio de San Mamés, which will hold three group stage games and one round of 16 match in 2020.
Alongside Mr Čeferin at the ceremony were Bilbao-born Ángel María Villar Llona, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis, Spain's national team coach Julen Lopetegui, and representatives of the city of Bilbao.
Eleven of the 13 host cities have now unveiled their logo, all of which feature an iconic bridge from each venue – emphasising EURO 2020's mission to build bridges between nations and football fans.
Bilbao's own logo showcases the impressive bridge and church of San Antón, authentic emblems and symbols of the city.
"EURO 2020 will be a great celebration of football," said Mr Čeferin. "Bilbao is a great city and we expect a fantastic atmosphere here."
"San Mamés is one of the best stadiums around," he added, "and has a legendary atmosphere. The games here will be a great success."
Meanwhile, Ángel María Villar Llona paid a warm tribute to his birthplace. "Bilbao is a great city, with excellent infrastructures and a stunning new stadium," he said.
"All the teams that play here will be very well received," he continued. "This city has a historic team in Athletic Club and simply breathes football. The people of Bilbao live for club and international football."
The mayor of Bilbao, Juan María Aburto, talked of the city's immense pride at the prospect of hosting part of Europe's premier national team competition in 2020.
"I want Bilbao to show UEFA, the RFEF and the teams that come here that it is going to be a great success," he said. "We want everyone who visits us to become ambassadors for the city – a city united by bridges, that truly believes in Europe."
Former Athletic goalkeeper José Ángel Iribar, a local hero and winner of the European title with Spain in 1964, was also present at the event, which was notable for a display of traditional Basque dancing.
"I have great memories of the European Championship," he said. "I had just started playing with Spain, and winning it meant that everyone started to recognise me as well as my team, Athletic, and my city, Bilbao."