The news spread around the Basque pilota world like gunpowder: “Bixintxo Bilbao has been punished for bringing out the ikurrina (the Basque flag) on the podium”. He was the world champion pilota player in 2018 along with partner Peio Larralde.
The International Basque Pilota Federation (EPNF) considered pilota-player Bixintxo Bilbao showing the Basque flag at the world championship in Barcelona to be a "serious infraction".
27 year-old Bixintxo Bilbao is from Ziburu (Lapurdi, Basque Country) and reached the finals along with Peio Larralde.
The French Pilota Federation agreed with EPNF's decision. According to the federation, the regulations do not permit showing symbols other than those of the federation itself.
Bilbao has appealed against the sanction he has been given.
Many Basque Country pilota associations, pilota-players and friends declared their support for the player as soon as the news came out: "What I did was natural, I got onto the podium with the values I have and the way I am", Bilbao explained. The sanction imposed has angered many Basques.
If it is carried out, the Lapurdian will not be able to compete for one year.
The World Pilota Championship was held on 20th October, 2018 at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron court. Bilbao won the gold medal in the final. The French players beat the Mexicans in two matches. Along with Bilbao, Mathieu Ospital, Peio Gixandut and Peio Larralde made up the French side.
The international federation has cancelled its sanction.
Federation president Xabier Cazaboun explained in a letter that it had been his "own personal decision". In the note published he thanked the president of the Spanish Pilota Federation –Julian Garcia Angulo– and the legal advisor to the United Basque Sports federation –Juan Carlos Soto–.
On the other hand, Cazaboun spoke out against the "verbal and written threats" he had received over previous days. "Nothing can justify using written violence, insults, slurs and lies when we're talking about pilota, and even less so when we move away from the values of sport and have political aims".
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