The best moments in life are often spontaneous. Some of my most memorable nights out as a lad were when we had no a real plan and just went with the flow and ended up getting into all sort of mischief. My most exhilarating days travelling were when I met new people and jumped on their bandwagon.
A similar spontaneous event happened back in November 2012 when I went to my first Sevilla v Betis derby.
“Nando’s coming up early for his birthday today,” my wife said, referring to my cuñao – a much better word than brother-in-law. He lives down in Malaga and has a habit of changing his plans at the last minute.
“Really? But it’s Derby Day.”
“Yeah, I think he wants to go and watch them training this morning.” I looked at my watch, it was 10.30.
I was showered and ready within fifteen minutes, eager to get to the stadium and soak up some atmosphere before kick-off at 9 p.m. I’d only ever been inside Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan once before: to watch England get completely outplayed by Spain in a friendly where we lost 2 nil.
One thing I miss about home is the footy. I’m a Spurs (don’t start) and England fan and going to see my teams play live becomes trickier the older I get. When I was a young lad my Dad took me to every England game at Wembley between 1987 and 1994 (apart from a game against Denmark because I had scout camp, and I missed a female streaker), so that’s where I have my fondest live football memories. I’m a big Spurs fan but I’ve only seen them about twenty times in total. The best match being when we stuffed Arsenal 2 v 1 back in the 90’s. I stood up and sang for most of the ninety minutes. It was without doubt the best live atmosphere I’d ever witnessed, up until that day.
“Cuñao,” said Nando as I opened the door, “are you coming to the stadium, or what?”
“Yeah, let’s go,” I said, waving my Sevilla scarf proudly. I find it difficult to support another team, especially when Sevilla beat Spurs in the UEFA cup in my second year here, but I try to make the effort.
“What about my sister?”
“She’s hoovering,” I said. “We can meet up with her later.”
So we caught a taxi and within twenty minutes were squashed up in a crowd stamping down a tunnel towards the stands. It was a great feeling being in a manly huddle again. Even though the team were only training, the cheering, shouting and chants were enough to kick start the nostalgic footy feeling in my gut. After the training session we walked along in silence, both saying no to the touts offering us last minute tickets.
“Great atmosphere,” I said as we stopped at some traffic lights.
“Yeah, Cuñao,” he said, “shame we can’t afford it.”
“Yeah,” I said, thinking about my bank balance. I only had about 100 Euros to get me through the end of the month. Plus I had studying to do for my DELTA exam which was due in a couple of weeks, so there was no time for being hungover the next morning.
“Do you want to go then?” he said.
“I knew you’d ask. How much do you reckon the tickets are?”
“Fifty euros, at a push.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure.”
“Yeah, I’m skint too.” But there was a glint in Nando’s eye which was telling me that he didn’t care about the money either. I could feel the excitement building up at the back of my throat. My pulse raced as I thought back to those England games at Wembley, watching Spurs stuff Arsenal, and fought with my annoying ‘end of the month’ conscience.
“Fifty, did you say?”
“Yeah, about that.”
Within twenty minutes we were knocking back cruzcampos in a bar up the road while taking photos of our tickets and sending them to my wife, who luckily had given me permission to go (always check with the boss).
“This is going to be a classic, Cuñao, a classic,” he said as we chinked glasses.
He wasn’t wrong.
After the usual family birthday celebrations of a three-hour lunch followed by coffee and cake, we made our excuses and left to meet up with some of Nandos ‘old football mates’.
“Be careful,” said my wife, obviously knowing who they were, but she needn’t have worried.
Back in the day Nando used to be in with the hardcore Sevilla fans, know as Los Biris. I was half-expecting to meet a load of skinhead nutters, but they were a lot mellower than they probably were in their youth. As we entered the Sevilla Bar in Nervion, not far from the stadium, the stench of stale booze darted up my nose. There were only a dozen or so people, but they were all suitable drunk.
“What are you drinking?” said one of Nando’s mates.
“I’ll just have a beer,” I said.
“A beer?” he replied. “Don’t you want a copa?”
“Nah, bit early for me,” I said, as I noticed the array of spirit bottles sprawled out on the table. It was so unlike a pre-game bar back home; no one would dream of knocking back the rum and cokes before a game, or would they?
Nando introduced me to his crew and they caught up, chatting about the old games and predicting results for the evening. Despite the slurring, it was all quite civilised and chilled.
Then it all changed.
“Right, are you ready for one of the best football matches of your life?” Nando said as we set off to the stadium.
“Sure,” I said, not expecting much from the game. I’d seen most of the derbies on the T.V. since I’d been in Spain, but none had ever been ‘a classic’. Sevilla normally won and there was never much to talk about the next day.
As we got nearer the stadium the atmosphere began to get wilder. Groups of lads and ladies were standing about, chatting, singing and doing their usual bottellon (they buy booze and stand about wherever drinking). The streets were covered in glass bottles and rubbish. The police didn’t seem that bothered about the loitering, maybe they were waiting for it to kick off.
“One more?” Nando said as we got near the entrance.
“Have we got time?” I said. “It starts in twenty minutes.”
“There’s always time for one more,” he said, heading past the stadium towards another bar. I scanned the clientele as Nando chatted to some more ex-pals. Yet again everyone was drinking copas. I just didn’t get it, why weren’t they sinking back the pints? I suppose it all did the same job at the end of the day.
“Nando, shouldn’t we get inside the ground and get our seat?” I said, the responsible Englishman.
“What time is it?”
“We’ve only got five minutes.”
We shot out the bar, pushed in the ‘queue’, which was a mass of drunken men and women, and pushed through the turnstiles. The banging and drumming was deafening as we got inside.
“I think we need to go that way,” I said, looking at the ticket.
“Nah, follow me,” said Nando, darting straight ahead towards a different entrance. The noise of the crowd got louder as the pitch came into view. The buzz of being at a live game hit me like a train and I was blown away by the atmosphere, but I still hadn’t seen the real essence of a Sevilla v Betis derby. To be contd…