Fan-owned, academy-led, stylish and successful, Sevilla are a club from which the rest of Europe could learn some lessons. Instead, other clubs often settle for stealing the stars, from players (Jose Antonio Reyes, Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos) to the coach (Juande Ramos).
Funnily enough, Ramos couldn't repeat his Sevilla success with Tottenham – possibly because of expectations heightened by Sevilla's back-to-back UEFA Cup wins in 2006 and 2007, possibly because he didn't have the extraordinarily successful youth academy set up by Ramon 'Monchi' Rodriguez which produced 20 first-teamers in half a decade.
They may not always hit the heights of those heady days of European dominance via an attacking 4-2-4 formation, but the Rojiblancos (Red-whites – also, note, the nickname of Atletico Madrid and a couple of other suitably stripey types) haven't finished outside the top six since 2003.
Since summer 2009 there's been something else missing in Sevilla's life – near-neighbours Betis, who were relegated to the Segunda. The two clubs had memorably traded blows throughout the previous decade, promoted together in 2001 and sharing a typically Andalusian dedication to attacking football.
Not that they saw each other as blood brothers. As Betis striker Dani put it: "There's no derby like Betis-Sevilla, not in Spain. Barça-Madrid is a
joke in comparison. That's not a derby; THIS is a derby." For once, all Sevillistas would agree. So, too, do the
media, invariably describing the Seville derby as the most passionate in
Spain, a rivalry with real edge.
When Sporting Gijon travelled to Betis in 1996-97, the home fans
roared on the visitors because they wanted struggling Sevilla to go
down. But Sevilla got revenge three years later, sending Betis down by
losing 3-2 to Real Oviedo, having taken off Norwegian goalkeeper Frode
Olsen because he was attempting to make saves.
Seville is a city divided by football and obsessive about its teams; no
one remains indifferent. The divide is, broadly speaking, a reflection of
social class. In their pristine white, Sevilla are the establishment.
Get a ticket in the main stand and you'll find yourself surrounded by
fat, cigar-smoking men with slicked back hair and Ralph Lauren shirts.
But with European football becoming a habit at the Sanchez Pizjuan, it's
a sacrifice worth making.
Twenty minutes' walk down the Avenida Eduardo Dato, which runs
straight out from the city centre, the Sanchez Pizjuan is a proper
Spanish football stadium: a 45,000-capacity bowl adorned with a
wonderful tiled mosaic, no roof (except over the posh seats), close to
the pitch and plain white, it creates real atmosphere, led by the
members of the Biris supporters behind the south goal - the place to
sit. Tickets are more expensive than Betis.
There's one other thing you should remember when visiting the Sanchez Pizjuan. With just over a quarter of an hour gone, no matter what happens on the pitch, the fans will applaud solidly. It's in memory of yet another academy graduate, Antonio Puerta, who in August 2007 collapsed on the pitch and later died. The club weren't allowed to retire his No.16 shirt, but the fans won't allow his memory to fade.
Club address Avenida Eduardo Dato, 41005
Telephone (0034) 954 535 353
CITY GUIDE: SEVILLE
Seville is the first city of Andalucia, of which Byron once said:
"Seville is a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women." That
wouldn't do justice to modern-day Seville, however. This city isn't for
the faint-hearted, of mind or body: it's Spain's bullfighting hotbed and
the birthplace of flamenco, while in summer temperatures soar off the
Perhaps as a result, it's a famously nocturnal city, brimming with
dancing and drinking until daybreak. Seville has several culinary
specialities. Tapas, though eaten throughout Spain, is a Sevillian
favourite, and locals keep cool swigging tinto de verano (the Andalucian
Pimm's – lemonade and wine with plenty of ice) while sitting with
friends in the squares. You won't be short of things to do in Seville,
even without mentioning the Macarena.
From the airport you can take the bus (operated by Amarillos) which
leaves hourly. The bus costs 2,50 euros, or you could catch a cab for 15
Avda. de la Constitucion 21, (0034) 954 221 404. See www.turismosevilla.org for more details.
If you're in Seville between July and September, visit the open-air Cines de Verano and take in a film with a beer and tapas.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Seville is the home of flamenco, and while many of the flamenco bars are
tacky and overpriced, some are worth visiting. Los Gallos, on the Plaza
Santa Cruz, is definitely amongst the best if you can stretch to the €27 entry (which does include a free drink). See www.tablaolosgallos.com for more.
SOMETHING FOR THE BLOODTHIRSTY
Bullfighting isn't for the faint-hearted – people and animals can die
messily in front of you – but if you fancy a bit, call the Plaza de
Toros (954 228 457) on the day from 4.30pm for a ticket.
The famously exhilarating Semana Santa, held during the week before
Easter – a marching procession with flamenco dancing and drinking in
equal measure. The party continues just two weeks later with the
week-long Feria de Abril.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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