A sad day for Athletic Club who announced this evening that Rafael Iriondo, the last surviving member of their famous, formidible front line of the 1940s-50s which included Zarra, Venancio, Panizo and Gaínza, has passed away aged 97.
Iriondo, who coached Athletic as well as representing them as a player was a distinguished club member since July 1977. He spent 13 years as a member of the first team squad, making 326 appearances and scoring 117 goals. During his playing days, he collected winners medals for Athletic’s triumphs in winning one LaLiga title, 4 Copa del Reys and one Copa Eva Duarte.
Born in Gernika on 24 October 1918, Iriondo occupied the right wing in one of the most-feared frontlines in Spanish football history. He was capped twice by Spain – against Eire and Portugal, scoring once at international level.
Iriondo made his first team debut with Athletic aged 21 in September 1940 in the 2-2 draw against Valencia. During his playing days, his other clubs included Gernika, Bilbao Athletic, Atlético Tetuán, Barakaldo and Real Sociedad.
After hanging up his boots in 1955, he further his career as a coach, taking the reins at Athletic on two occasions (1968-69 and 1975-76), guiding the team to win the Copa in 1969. He also coached regional rivals Real Sociedad for two seasons (1972-73 and 1973-74) as later, Betis (1976-77 and 1977-78), with whom he won the Copa del Rey – ironically, against Athletic.