Derbi Sevillano: A Tale of One City
Forget the El Clasico derby between two of Spain’s most successful clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona. The fixture which offers most passion is in the south, and it never disappoints. The Derbi Sevillano is between two clubs, Sevilla Fútbol Club, S.A.D and Real Betis Balompié, S.A.D.
Real Betis supporter, Ben Hardman said: “The Madrid derby can be simmering but the Seville derby is boiling with true fanatical passion in abundance.”
The Derbi Sevillano has been described as the most intense of the city rivalries. Dating back to the early 1900’s. Both clubs started off as Seville FC in 1905 before splitting in 1914 to form Betis Football Club. Betis, then merged with another club in the area, Sevilla Balompié which created Real Betis Balompié. As many inter-city rivalries, these two teams also had a class divide. Betis were the working class whilst Sevilla supporters often had a much higher income.
The population of Seville is divided into two categories: Sevillistas (Sevilla) and Béticos (Real Betis Balompié supporters).
Real Betis’ Ultra group, Supporters Gol Sur (SGS) are notorious for their questionable attitude. In 2013, Nosa Igiebor, a midfielder for the club received racial abuse from a small section of the home fans. After scoring a last minute equaliser against Sevilla, the Nigerian aimed a middle-finger gesture towards Real Betis fans. Following the match, he tweeted: “I want to apologise to the fans for a gesture that was not aimed at them.
“I will not put up with the racial abuse I was receiving from a few mindless fans – my act was out of frustration.”
Hardman added: “Almost all Béticos disapprove of the things SGS get up to and they have been known to have been shouted down and booed by the rest of the stadium. It’s the rest of the club minus the SGS who are the true fans.”
Despite the SGS only been a small minority, Bético, Carlos Urbano added: “They show fascist symbols and reject black players, which is absurd.”
Sevilla’s Ultras are known as the Biris Norte, named after a former Gambian footballer, Biri-Biri. Although they too have had plenty of bad press over the years, they are the exact opposite in terms of political and racial views.
The racial remarks weren’t the only incident to take place in the Derbi Sevillano. During a match in 2002 played at Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, a supporter ran on to the pitch and attacked then Betis goalkeeper, Antoni Prats. Despite emerging unharmed from the incident, the city’s image did not. Sevilla fans can often be heard chanting: “Sevilla arriba, comiendo chucherías! Betis abajo, comiendo escarabajos y escupitajos!” (Sevilla on top, eating sweets! Betis on the bottom, eating beetles and gobs of spit!).
In retaliation to the incident involving a Sevilla fan and Prats, during a Copa del Rey tie in 2007, Sevilla manager Juande Ramos was struck with a water bottle from opposing fans – causing the quarter-final tie to be postponed. Journalist, Sid Lowe stated that this was ‘not an isolated incident’.
Following the postponement, the Betis president, José Leon made his way to the press room to read out a statement: “The board of directors, the coaching staff and players of Real Betis Balompié,” he announced, “wish to express their sadness at the one-off isolated incident that has brought about the suspension of this Copa del Rey quarter-final,” to which Lowe disagreed.
The bottle had knocked the Sevilla manager unconscious, in what was a premeditated attack. Lowe described the incident: “Ramos was the only person who staggered onto the pitch, collapsed into a heap, lost consciousness and was forced to spend the night in hospital.”
However, like many derbies, it wasn’t the only attack during that game. Missiles were thrown at players in the same match, as well as managers, linesmen and referees and still nothing gets done. The fines dished out are pathetic, culprits are left unidentified and therefore cannot be banned from grounds. The very same game, Dani Alves had already been hit with another bottle and Sevilla president, Jose Maria Del Nido had been hit on the nose with a coin whilst taking his seat in the director’s box.
“Politics and sport must be separated. It would be better for everyone,” said Urbano. “Police escort fans to the rival stadium, so they can’t face each other before or after the match. Their job has improved a lot.”
The build-up on matchdays, whilst intimidating, usually pass without any major interruptions. Sevilla supporter, Ryan Benson said: “This is a pure local derby and it’s all about bragging rights. The city comes to a standstill during the match.
“Although the crowds around the stadium before kick-off (particularly at Sevilla) are quite intimidating, they’re equally worth experiencing.”
Following the passing of Sevilla defender, Antonio Puerta in 2007, the city united as one and showed the footballing world that it wasn’t all violence. Both clubs have strong family connections and often joke around with each other until the next derby. Fans of clubs would often sign up their unborn children for club memberships and taxi drivers who support one team have often refused fares that require them to drive them to the other club’s stadium. When primary school kids play football during their lunch hour, they would split their teams to who support Sevilla and Real Betis.
Urbano said: “Despite the hate and rage they feel for the rival, it end with jokes most of the time.”
Video via YouTube (Manuel Lopez Garcia)
Neither side have dominated La Liga in the past decade however, both sides do have major trophies to their name. Sevilla last won the league in the 1950’s whilst they won the Copa del Rey in the 2009-10 season. Real Betis on the other hand only have one La Liga triumph to their name. However, Betis were a dominant club in their early formation, and have since pushed for a place in European until their downfall in the previous decade. Sevilla have also enjoyed success in the Europa League of late, winning it in 2006, 2007 and 2014. Last season they played Real Betis in the last-16 on their run to the final. Having gone 2-0 down in the first leg, Los Rojiblancos pulled it back to 2-2 on aggregate in the second, taking the tie to penalties. Ivan Rakitic stepped up to take the penalty for Sevilla, meaning Nono had to score to keep Betis in the tie. It was however heartache for the Betis supporters as they saw their team crash out of the Europa League. The poor season also continued for Betis as they were relegated from the Spanish top flight.