This week’s listening practice report focuses on one of the big games in Spanish football – the Basque derby between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad. You can find more football words and expressions in our glossary of footballing phrases, and you can visit our site to access all the previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then contact us at There are also explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) at the end of the post.

Listening Practice: The Basque Derby

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In Spanish football there are some huge rivalries – el Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Madrid derby between Atlético and Real Madrid, the Galician derby between Celta and Deportivo and, of course, the Seville derby between Sevilla and Betis and the Basque derby that sees Real Sociedad take on Athletic Bilbao.


The Basque Country is actually an autonomous region of Spain and is situated in the north of that country. The Basque region is made up of three provinces: Álava, Biscay and Gipuzkoa  and its largest city is Bilbao – where Athletic are from – followed by Vitoria and then San Sebastián which is where Real Sociedad come from.


The first ever Basque derby took place in 1909 though the first league meeting occurred in 1929 when the game finished in a 1-1 draw. Since then the two sides have faced each other 138 times with Bilbao winning 56 and La Real 45 times.

Basque Players

Both sides had a policy of only signing players from the Basque region until 1989 when Real Sociedad broke with tradition and signed Irish striker John Aldridge who went on to become a club hero. Athletic still continue the practice of using only Basque players in their team though they have had overseas managers during their recent history.


Bilbao have won the Spanish title on eight occasions with the last win back in 1984 when they also won the Copa del Rey to complete a wonderful double. Bilbao have won the Spanish Cup on 23 occasions with only Barcelona ahead of them in the list of most winners. Real Sociedad have won the league title twice with their last win coming in 1982 and they have also won the Spanish Cup on two occasions.

Good Bye

Let us know if you hear any of the words and phrases from the show or maybe if you know how to say them in another language – drop us a line at:


  • take on: To play against; to face
  • autonomous region: Part of a country; though the region has some say over how it is governed. There are 17 regions in Spain.
  • is made up of: Comprises
  • broke with tradition: Changed their policy

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Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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