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The world’s goalkeepers wear black for Iribar

From Kepa at Chelsea to Celtic’s keeper in Glasgow and all of LaLiga’s keepers... the world’s football community pay tribute to Txopo, who turns 80.

The world’s goalkeepers wear black for Iribar

What started out as a localised tribute in Spain has spread to other parts of the world. All of Europe’s goalkeepers want to wear black to celebrate José Ángel Iríbar’s 80th birthday and Athletic Club’s invitation to pay tribute to him by wearing the same colour jersey as Txopo was famous for during his playing days. The invitation was initially made just to clubs from the Vizcaya region of the Basque Country but was later extended to all clubs in the top two professional divisions of Spanish football. Real Sociedad, Valencia, Sevilla, Getafe, Cádiz, Betis, Leganés, Granada, Alavés, Eibar, Sporting and Real Zaragoza are among many clubs who have already given the go-ahead to support the initiative.

Athletic understand that some flexibility might be required to avoid any colour clashes on the pitch: “If for whatever reason, it is not feasible for a goalkeeper to play in black, goalkeepers can alternatively pose in black for the official, pre-match team photo”, the Bilbao-based club offered.

Spain, Scotland, England salute Iribar

Alex Remiro and Jeremías Ledesma got the tribute to Iribar underway, wearing black kits in last night’s LaLiga game between Real Sociedad and Cádiz at Reale Arena. In the Scottish Premiership, Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart will wear black in tomorrow’s clash with St. Mirren. In England’s Premier League, Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga took to the field in this afternoon’s meeting with Leeds wearing a black jersey with Iribar’s name, along with the number 80 - the number of candles which José Ángel blew out to toast his birthday on Wednesday.

Legendary Athletic and Spain goalkeeper Iribar was renowned for his black jersey during his playing days from his beginnings in the 1960s up until his retirement in the 1980s. He wanted to imitate his idol Lev Yashin, the ‘Black Spider’, a Soviet goalkeeper who played in black. Back then, some goalkeepers also usually wore caps to protect their eyes from the glare of the sun, they would mark out a line in the centre of the six-yard box, wore cotton knee pads and even elbow pads because the heavy, leather regulation balls stung when struck, and their gloves were also made of leather rather than cotton and rubber.

Betis welcomed the proposal - their goalkeeper, either Rui Silva or Claudio Bravo, will wear black at the Benito Villamarín on Sunday night when Real Madrid are guests. Two goalkeeping legends appeared in the photograph that the Sevilla-based club published on their official Twitter account when they announced that they would gladly be taking part - Iribar himself and José Ramón Esnaola. The two keepers in black, shaking hands before the penalty shoot-out in the 1977 Copa del Rey final between Betis and Athletic at the Vicente Calderón - an epic shootout which went to sudden death with both sides taking eight spot-kicks each. Andoain beat Txopo to score the decisive penalty and give Betis their first Copa del Rey.

Iribar in action against Barcelona.
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Iribar in action against Barcelona.DIARIO ASDiarioAS

Iconic goalkeeping kits

Other great goalkeepers have gone down in history for their career as world champions and some also for being associated with a colour - such Italian legend Dino Zoff who wore grey, Germany’s Sepp Maier and his pale blue jersey, the iconic yellow jersey which England’s Gordon Banks wore during the team’s World Cup triumph in 1966.


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