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EHF European League

Bidasoa back on the rise

EHF / Sergey Nikolaev

The EHF Champions League winners in 1995, CD Bidasoa Irun have gone through ups and downs in more recent years. However, now they are one of the top Spanish teams again and are ready to start their third consecutive season in the European club competitions.

After enjoying some success in the group stage of the 2019/20 EHF Champions League, they were less fortunate in the 2020/21 EHF European League, but now hope to do a good job in the second-tier European club competition.

Main facts:

  • Spanish runners-up play their third consecutive season in European club competitions
  • in the past, they won the EHF Champions League in 1995 and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1997
  • coach Jacobo Cuetara starts his sixth season after taking over in June 2016
  • four players joined Bidasoa in summer, and six players left the club
  • veteran line player Julen Aguinagalde won bronze with Spain at 2020 Olympics

Most important question: can Bidasoa revive the good old days?

In the 1990s, the team from Irun were a powerhouse not only in Spain, but also in Europe, winning a number of domestic titles and two continental club competitions. Those days are long gone, but now Bidasoa look like a competitive side yet again.

In the 2019/20 EHF Champions League, the team coached by Jacobo Cuetara finished first in group C before narrowly losing to Orlen Wisla Plock in the playoffs. However, the following season became a disappointment, as the Spanish side were eliminated by RK Nexe Nasice in qualification round 2 of the European League.

Now Bidasoa are set to play in the group stage of the same competition, and although they are not among the favourites, the Spanish team hope to go far. With a number of renowned players like Julen Aguinagalde, team captain Jon AzKue, Chilean international Rodrigo Salinas, as well as some Spanish talents, Irun's squad is a good mix of youth and experience, which allows them to hope for a good performance in Europe.

Under the spotlight: Julen Aguinagalde

The 38-year-old veteran finished his glorious international career in style, winning a bronze medal with Spain at the Tokyo Olympics. However, he continues to play at club level, having extended his contract until 2022. Aguinagalde, who had started his career in Irun, returned to his home club in 2020 after a 14-year absence, including seven seasons in Poland at Kielce. Notably at Bidasoa, Julen rejoined his elder brother Gurutz, who is currently the club's president.

How they rate themselves

Head coach Jacobo Cuetara is ambitious and at the same time careful in his words.

"We aim to be competitive in the group phase and try to go as far as possible in the competition. Let us see if we can progress from the group and reach the next round – that would be already a success for us," he says.

Team captain Jon AzKue is happy to perform at this level: "For me the biggest motivation is that two years after playing the group phase of the EHF Champions League, this year we will enjoy a group phase again, this time in the EHF European League.

"Two years ago we managed to pass the group stage, and this year we want to achieve at least the same and then go as far as possible," Azcue added.

What the numbers say

CD Bidasoa Irun was founded in 1962, so the club will celebrate their 60-year anniversary next year. This fact should probably give the team some extra motivation to be successful in the opening season, both domestically and internationally.

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Did you know?

While Irun enjoyed their moments of glory back in the 1990s, the club had to go through difficult times later on. Between 2007 and 2016, they played just one season in the ASOBAL league, having spent the rest of the time in the second-tier division, and did not play in Europe between 2006/07 and 2019/20. However, Bidasoa have been on the rise recently, as they became runners-up in the Spanish league in 2019 and 2021 and returned to the international competitions.

Arrivals and departures

Arrivals: Ander Ugarte (Club Balonmano Atlético Valladolid), Adrian Fernandez (Club Balonmano Atlético Valladolid), Victor Rodriguez (Club Balonmano Atlético Valladolid), Dariel Garcia (Balonmano Guadalajara)

Departures: Adrian Crowley (retired), Nicolas Bonanno (SCDR Anaitasuna), Dan Emil Racotea (CS Dinamo Bucuresti), Iker Serrano (Club Balonmano Benidorm), Sergio de la Salud (Billère Handball), Donat Bartok (Kadetten Schaffhausen)

Past achievements

EHF Champions League:
Winners (1): 1994/95
Runners-up (1): 1995/96
Playoffs (1): 2019/20

Others:
Cup Winners' Cup: Winners (1): 1996/97; Last 16 (1): 1997/98
EHF Cup: Semi-final (1): 2000/01; Quarter-final (2): 2005/06, 2006/07
EHF European League Men: Qualification (1): 2020/21

Spanish league: 2 titles (1987, 1994)
Spanish Cup: 2 titles (1991, 1996)

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