Seville is the hotbed of football in Southern Spain and boasts two of the best atmospheres, not just in the country, but in Europe. The city is host to Sevilla FC and Real Betis, both plying their trade in Spain’s top tier and European competition this season. The two clubs are fierce rivals and compete in the ‘derbi sevillano’, made even more competitive by Betis’s recent surge back to contention in La Liga.
Location and History
Seville is Andalusia’s capital on the South Coast of Spain and was founded as ‘Hispalis’ by the Romans. Sevilla FC were the first football club in the city followed by Sevilla Balompié (‘balompié’ literally translates as football). Betis Football Club was formed after splitting from Sevilla FC before they merged with Sevilla Balompié to form the club we see today; Real Betis Balompié, in 1914.
Sevilla FC play at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán which is located slightly to the east of the city centre while Betis play at the Benito Villamarín in Heliopolis province of the city. Betis fans, or ‘béticos’, have held grudges against the rest of the city, feeling as if they and their stadium have been cut off. There are no metro lines to or from the stadium but improved bus links have made the area more accessible.
Many Spaniards and visitors alike consider Betis’ Benito Villamarín the most atmospheric stadium in Spain. It holds a crowd of around 60,000 and its steep tiers liken it to a coliseum. If you’re lucky enough to attend a ‘derbi sevillano’ there, you’ll be greeted with streams of green and white, generating a cauldron of noise. The stadium was first opened in 1929 and has been expanded three times since, with the most recent uplift coming in 2017 to take the capacity from 52,000 to 60,000.
Just 3.5km away is the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, home to Sevilla FC, which was named after the club’s president during some of its successful years in the 20th century. Nicknamed ‘La Bombanera’ after Boca Juniors’ historic ground in Buenos Aires, due to its intense atmosphere, it holds over 43,000 fans and was designed by a British architect. The Spanish national team have never lost at the stadium, which hosted the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup between Brazil and Germany.
El Derbi Sevillano
Although the Clásico is known as THE derby in Spain, many Spaniards consider this one to be one of the most important matches in the football calendar. Such is the rivalry between fans of both Sevilla and Real Betis, they can’t decide on the first official game between the two clubs. If you’re a Sevilla fan, it all started with a 3-0 win for your side in 1914, but if you’re a Bético, the first derby was won 1-0 by your team in 1915.
The animosity between the pair spreads throughout the whole city. Neighbourhoods, streets, houses and families are all divided by their colours. Various incidents have heightened the tensions, whether that be a player crossing the divide or aggressive encounters between fan groups on derby day. The hostility has softened a little in recent years. Both clubs came together to mourn the passing of Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta, who suffered a cardiac arrest during Sevilla’s season opener against Getafe in 2007 and later died in hospital.
However, whether you’re at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán or the Benito Villamarín, there is no other place to be on derby day in Seville. If you can’t get a ticket, a tapas bar is the best place to experience an atmosphere in a city that lives and breathes football.