The "Bilbao Effect" is the phrase used to described how the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum transformed the Basque city from a place in permanent industrial decline to a tourist hub. But while the facade of the city may have changed, its Basque roots remain as strong as ever. Athletic still operate a policy of using players born in the region and somehow still manage to stay competitive in Spain's Primera Liga.
The club have eight league titles to their name and won the Copa del Rey an incredible 23 times. However, they have not won a trophy since 1984. Keeping to their Basque-only policy has stopped them signing a number of foreign stars, although they have had several coaches from abroad. In the late 80s and early 90s the team's fortunes followed those of the city, but in 1997 the doors of Gehry's Guggenheim opened and the city was reborn.
Athletic, caught in the slipstream of this renaissance, finished runner-up in the 1998 championship. In 2004, the local artist Dario Urzay was commissioned to bring a modern feel to Athletic's traditional red and white striped shirts. Inspired by the work he saw at the Guggenheim, Urzay produced a psychedelic nightmare that you could wear. Abu Dhabi is hoping to entice visitors once Gehry's Guggenheim opens on Sadiyat Island.
Let us hope we do not see the Abu Dhabi sides Al Jazira or Al Wahda suffering a similar fate in years to come.