UEFA Europa League 2018-19 (Group Stage)

Estadio R.Sanchez Pizjuan

Thursday 13th December 2018

Sevilla v FC Krasnodar

The message from the Biris Norte set of Sevilla fans was simple as a huge flag was unfurled before kick off.  The flag was emblazoned with an image of the Europa League (UEFA Cup) trophy and the club crest. The words on it needed no explanation – ‘This Love is Immortal’.

Despite the riches and modern day success the Estadio R.Sanchez Pizjuan is a place where once upon a time the home side were perennial strugglers and fans were a little out of love with a losing side.  Once the team of Diego Maradona, Sevilla were seemingly always in the shadow of the giants of the Spanish game and even relegated in 1997.

Sevilla, having been without a trophy since the 1940’s, suddenly entered a new era of success as the new Millennium emerged.  During May 2006 a star studded side under Juande Ramos won the UEFA Cup in Eindhoven against Middlesborough by 4-0.

Since that win in the Netherlands another 4 Europa League titles have followed in 2007 (v RCD Espanyol), 2014 (v Benfica), 2015 (v Dnipropetrovsk) and during 2016 (v Liverpool).   Domestically the Super Cup has been won as have two Copa Del Rey titles in 2007 (v Getafe) and 2010 (v Atletico).

Success though has not came without tragedy most notably with the death of UEFA Cup winner Antonia Puerta in 2007.  On 25 August 2007, Puerta collapsed and lost consciousness in the Sánchez Pizjuán penalty area due to a cardiac arrest.  This came during Sevilla’s first La Liga match of the 2007–08 campaign against Getafe CF and he later died.  

Puerta’s name and image is currently featured on the exterior of the Sevilla stadium.  His first club meanwhile AD Nervion also play football at a ground named in his honour.

Estadio R.Sanchez Pizjuan

Once the first and only choice for the home games of the Spanish National team, the Estadio R.Sanchez Pizjuan was a host for the 1982 FIFA World Cup and possibly the most infamous night of that World Cup.

This was the stadium where West Germany played France in a dramatic World Cup Semi Final watched by nearly 50,000 fans.

The game (where defender Patrick Battiston was injured thanks to a reckless challenge by Harold Schumacher) was eventually won via a dramatic penalty shoot-out by the Germans after a thrilling game had ended 2-2.

Sevilla FC were founded in 1890 many years before local rivals Real Betis.

In 1928 during the Spanish League’s inaugral season Sevilla were still a Second Division side.  The club had to wait until 1934 before they could follow local rivals Real Betis into the top division.  Around this time Sanchez Pizjuan became the club President and started planning for a new stadium despite the country being in the midst of an ugly Civil War.

In 1956 the President sadly died before seeing his dream become a reality.  The new Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán was eventually built to replace Sevilla’s old Estadio de Nervión and opened in 1958.  It was originally an all-standing stadium that could house up to 70,000 spectators.  The capacity was reduced (currently 42,714) when it was refurbished and transformed into an all-seated venue for the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

Strikingly similar perhaps to the one time Vicente Calderon home of Atletico Madrid, the current Sevilla stadium is characterised by the main stand’s upper tier which has a red roof; a feature which creates a graceful counterpoise to the three open sides of the stadium all of which are open to the sunshine that Seville enjoys.

Another striking feature of the stadium is the colourful mosaic which sits above the main entrance to the ground.  Perhaps unique in European football this work was created in 1982 by a local artist and cost a total of 6 million pesetas.   Using only local materials the mosaic depicts the club crest and is surrounded by the crests of sixty major clubs from Spain.  Also featured are the crests of clubs from around the world who have played football against Sevilla and important dates from the club’s history.

Seville

Located in the south of Spain deep in the heart of Andalusia, Seville is at the heart of an autonomous community and the most populous and second largest autonomous region in Spain.  Therefore, it is in many ways like Catalonia or Galicia, namely a historic nationality with its own range of distinctive cultural traits in music, costume and landmark.

Warm all year Seville is then an intoxicating mix of resplendent palaces, churches and winding medieval lanes that can make navigation tough if you are a first time visitor.   Flamenco clubs keep the intimacy and intensity of a centuries old dance tradition alive whilst aristocratic mansions (many of which host embassy buildings) recall the city’s past as a showcase Moorish capital.

Football in Seville was introduced (just as it was in Huelva) by Scots industrialists.

To be exact Sevilla Fútbol Club was founded on 25 January 1890 as Sevilla Foot-ball Club.

The club’s founding document was published in the Dundee Courier newspaper on 17th March 1890 with the annoucement that a group of young founding members were to play under football under Association rules.

The club’s first president was a Scotsman called Mr. Edward Farquharson Johnston.  He was the British vice-consul in Seville and co-proprietor of the firm MacAndrews & Co, a ship-owners who ran commercial lines between Spain and the UK.

Spain, compared to most nations, has been slow in its development of new football stadia.  Perhaps the biggest changes have been those at Athletic Bilbao (New San Mames) and Atletico Madrid (Wanda Metropolitano) where larger modern stadiums have replaced the old traditional fortress homes of both clubs.

Recent make-overs have breathed new life into the exteriors of the Sánchez Pizjuán with the addition of new lighting and images of club legends.  However pressures to progress have emerged and the local Sevilla municipality would like Seville and rival Real Betis to use the Estadio Olimpico on La Cartuja, a soulless white elephant used for the 2003 UEFA Cup final.  This stadium stands on an island on the River Guadaquivar and while modern it is disliked by fans of both clubs.

More recent concerns surround the possible sale of the club to the US based Kraft Group (the owners of NFL’s New England Patriots).   A number of angry demonstrations against a possible takeover by US backers have occured amidst rumours Sevilla president Pepe Castro is brokering a deal.  The consortium led by Kraft is seeking to complete a purchase in a business deal said to be called “Sevillistas Unidos 2020 ” leaving many fans worried about where Sevilla will play its home football matches come 2025.

Matchnight

The opening songs from Seville fans almost certainly removed any doubts as to how the home fans feel about the possible US sale.  One huge banner stated nuestra pasion no se negocia (our passion is not negotiated) while repeated chants of El Sevilla no se vende! (Sevilla is not for sale) were directed at the Presidential box all evening.

That there is a lot of anger amongst fans is surprising given that Sevilla as a club is having possibly its best campaign for many years.  The club recently found themselves at the top of the La Liga table ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona.  Meanwhile the possibility also exists of a sixth Europa League title come May 2019.

This 3-0 win over FC Krasnodar of Russia was another step towards that sixth title and enough to put them into the knockout last 32 stages of the Europa League.  

Sevilla have a habit of picking up talent from France and it was French forward Wissam Ben Yedder who scored twice inside the first 10 minutes to blow the Russians away.  The second half also saw Ever Banega adding a penalty on 49 minutes after Ramirez was sent off for a deliberate handball.

Now playing under promising young manager Pablo Machín Díez, Sevilla had lost the away tie against the Russian by 1-2 with only a Nolito goal to speak of on the night.   As it was this win against the Russians was about as convincing as you can get with particularly impressive performances by the likes of Roque Messa, Benega, Ben Yedder and Czech goalkeeper Vaclik.

Sevilla will now play Lazio in the last 32 of the 2018-18 UEFA Europa League.

Sevilla: T.Vaclik, S.Gomez, T.Carrico, G.Mercado, E.Banega, S.Escudero, Q.Promes, F.Vazquez, Roque Mesa, W.Ben Yedder, A.Silva. Coach: Pablo Javier Machín Díez

FC Krasnador: S.Kritsyuk, C.Ramirez, J.Fjoluson, A. Martynovich, S. Petrov, M. Pereyra, C. Kaboré, Y. Gazinskiy, V. Claesson, I. Ignatyev, Wamberto. Coach: Murad Musaev

Referee: Daniel Stefanski (Poland)

Full set of images from Seville can be viewed here.