From our base in Bilbao, the 15-strong media team, comprised of journalists from five different continents, took a one-hour shuttle to Zubieta, the impressive training complex of top-flight La Liga club Real Sociedad.
The Whites and Blues, three-time winners of LaLiga, were busy with their final preparations ahead of Friday’s Basque Derby against traditional and regional foes Athletic Bilbao, who sit just a point behind them – with a game in hand however – on the Spanish standings after seven matches.
We were able to watch 15 minutes of the first team training, with captain and former Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi and his side in good spirits ahead of the highly-anticipated derby.
#KickOff's @fabiodedoms is in Spain courtesy of @LaLigaEN. First stop is Zubieta, the training ground of @RealSociedadEN who are finalising preparations ahead of the #BasqueDerby against @Athletic_en on Friday ⚽???????? pic.twitter.com/5V0Y27iYP9— Kick Off (@KickOffMagazine) October 4, 2018
The media crew was then given a tour of the impressive complex by Sociedad’s Director of Football Roberto Olabe, who showed us the club’s eight training fields, the team’s relaxation area, video room, gym and canteen, before the club’s Academy Director Luki Iriarte gave us a tour of the club’s development facilities – made up of six junior teams, a third, second and first team, as well as two female teams – a very important aspect of the club, with 85% of all Sociedad players coming from the local Basque region and developed by the club itself.
Thereafter, we were able to mix with local journalists and attend the pre-match press conference with head coach Asier Garitano, who spoke of how the derby “is played with both your head and your heart”.
A shuttle then took the team to the coastal town of San Sebastian, where after a quick lunch, we were given a short tour of the beautiful city, which happens to be the most expensive region in Spain.
The early evening was then spent at Sociedad’s home ground, the Estadio Anoeta. The 32 000-seater, which has hosted the Whites and Blues since 1993, is a multi-purpose stadium, originally built to host athletics championships, yet is now being refurbished, with the athletics track removed, bumping up the capacity to 40 000 and bringing the fans closer to the pitch, something for which spectators have pleaded for years.
Couldn't help but feel my pulse race when standing on the centre-circle at @RealSociedadEN's Estadio Anoeta. The 38-year-old stadium is undergoing a facelift, but is nevertheless rich in history, and a must-visit @LaLigaEN venue ???????????? pic.twitter.com/3soaHmq5Ez— Fabio De Dominicis (@fabiodedoms) October 4, 2018
KICK OFF’s Fabio De Dominicis is in Spain as a guest of LaLiga. Follow KICK OFF’s social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates from Spain!