21 May

On this day in 2006, Wales played a friendly match against a Basque XI in Bilbao.

Despite not being recognised by Fifa nor Uefa, the Basque Football team (Euskadiko Futbol Federakundea) have been playing representative matches since 1915 when they beat a Catalonia XI in the San Mamés, home of Athletic Bilbao.

During the Spanish Civil War the Euskadi XI toured Europe and South America playing exhibition matches to raise money for the Basque cause.

They played sever teams from Eastern European countries who were sympathetic to their fight against the facist armies of General Franco as well as facing leaning club sides like Racing Paris.

In 1938 they headed to Mexico where, bizarrely, they had been invited to participate in the Mexican league, which to complete the fairytale story, they went on to win!

At the end of the Civil War, under Franco’s dictatorship, the autonomous regions such as the Basque Country and Catalonia were oppressed and attempts to express their national identity were quashed.

But in 1979, four years after the dictator’s death, the Euskadi XI played their first match since 1938 beating the Republic of Ireland 4-1 in Bilbao.

Wales had travelled to take on the Basque side as their then manager, John Toshack, had strong conections in the area following his time in charge of Real Sociedad in Donostia.

Ryan Giggs scored the only goal of the game in what was his first appearance in a friendly match outide Wales … but unfortunately for Giggs, no caps were awarded for the match.

Euskadi: Inaki Lafuente (Bilbao), Edu Alonso (Alaves), Aitor Lopez Rekarte (Sociedad), Ivan Campo (Bolton), Mikel Labaka (Sociedad), Patxi Punal (Osasuna), Xabi Prieto (Sociedad), Julen Guerrero (Bilbao, capt), Joseba Etxeberria (Bilbao), Mikel Alonso (Sociedad), Igor Gabilondo (Sociedad).

Subs: Asier Riesgo (Sociedad), Josu Sarriegi (Alaves), Inaki Munoz (Osasuna), Javi Garrido (Sociedad), Fernando Llorente (Bilbao).

Wales: Paul Jones (QPR), Joe Ledley (Cardiff), Lewin Nyatanga (Derby), Danny Gabbidon (West Ham), James Collins (West Ham), Carl Robinson (Norwich), Carl Fletcher (West Ham), Craig Bellamy (Blackburn), Rob Earnshaw (Norwich), Simon Davies (Everton), Ryan Giggs (Man Utd, capt).

Subs: David Partridge (Bristol City), Andrew Crofts (Gillingham), David Vaughan (Crewe), David Cotterill (Bristol City), Gareth Bale (Southampton), Craig Davies (Verona), Lewis Price (Ipswich).


Referee: Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez (Spain).