There is a traditional Spanish song whose opening line states "A barge ambled down the river Nervión". The same barge, perhaps, that on the 3rd of May 1983 made its way through the estuary of Bilbao with Athletic Club's seventh Liga BBVA title and has become a symbol of the rojiblancos.
History would have it that more than one million people packed the banks of the river that spring afternoon to celebrate a long-awaited title for their team. Athletic had finished the season atop the table with Real Madrid CF one point adrift and Club Atlético de Madrid three further back.
Andoni Zubizarreta, Santiago Urquiaga, Andoni Goikoetxea, Isamel Urtubi, Manuel Sarabia and many more leones were on board Barge No. 1, which travelled the Estuary from its mouth in Getxo to Bilbao's city hall, pulled by the 'Amaya' tug, and accompanied by local trawlers. Since that day, the vessel has become part of Athletic folklore.
Pedro Aurtenetxea, the club's president at the time, could not have imagined that the initiative dreamt up by Cecilio Gerrikabeitia, a member of the board, would still carry such importance today. It was he who found inspiration in a popular song dedicated to sailors and started a tradition.
After that first voyage came those of 1983/84, when the team did the league and cup double, and 84/85, with the Supercup of Spain. Nowadays, rojiblanco fans dream of casting off the lines and sailing up the Nervión once more, bathing in the glory of the fans.
The closest they have come was in the 2011/12 season. Athletic reached the final of the UEFA Europa League and the city was starting to prepare, 25 years on, for another Estuary celebration. But this time it was not to be as Atlético de Madrid took the spoils (3-0) in Bucharest.
To the delight of the fans, the famous boat can be seen today at the Museo Marítimo de Bilbao. It is the perfect home for a historic treasure, from where, coincidentally, the new Estadio de San Mamés, another of Athletic's great symbols, can be seen.