ADITYA GOKHALE | 22nd September 2019

The battle between Sevilla and Betis is always one for the ages (El Español)

El Gran Derbi is considered as the most intense rivalry in Spain. The derby at times is even more intense than the likes of the El Clásico and the Derbi Madrileño (The Madrid Derby). While the other derbies are watched by more people around the world, the Seville derby between Real Betis and Sevilla  is the most passionate affair in Spanish footballing culture.

The birth of Seville’s finest

Formed in 1890, Sevilla is the oldest club in Spain. They won their only league trophy in the 1945/46 season and title wins have evaded them ever since. However, Los Hispalenses are best known for winning the Europa League 5 times in 10 years, between 2006 and 2016. Arsenal manager Unai Emery coached the Andalusians to 3 consecutive Europa wins in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Real Betis was formed officially in 12 September 1907, after a merger between two clubs. Following an internal split within Sevilla FC, another club was formed, Betis Football Club. In 1914, they merged with Sevilla Balompié. The club received its royal patronage in the same year, and therefore adopted the name Real Betis Balompié. Although they were formed after Sevilla FC, Real Betis were the first to win the league title, doing so in the 1934/35 season, but Sevilla has now become the more successful club, with Real Betis only managed to win the Copa del Rey in 1977 and 2005, and not gaining any European success along the way.

A layered enmity

While the Gran Derbi is not the most popular derby in the world, it is definitely one of the most passionate affairs in Spanish football. Sevilla FC’s home stadium, Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán is located only 4 kilometers away from Real Betis’ home ground, the Estadio Benito Villamarín. This causes a lot of sparks to fly between the fanbases of the two clubs.

Seville is a city that runs mostly on its small markets and tourism and on derby day, the city comes to a stand still; almost all the markets are closed down and public transport sees a massive dip four hours before the derby. The fact that Real Betis was formed due to an internal split in Sevilla FC, the rivalry between the management is also very high.

Rivals, not Enemies

On August 28, 2007 the city of Seville was shocked to its core that Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta had passed away at the ripe age of 22. This came after Puerta collapsed on the field due to a cardiac arrest during a match against Getafe at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Although, Puerta was able to walk off the field later, he suffered another cardiac arrest in the tunnel, before being resuscitated and rushed to the hospital. The news shocked the whole world as the footballing world went into mourning.

As a sign of respect, all of Real Betis’ players attended Puerta’s funeral. The next matchday brought upon a sign of respect and humanity as Real Betis fans chanted Antonio Puerta’s name in the 16th minute of their game against Almeria. Additionally, Real Betis and Sevilla fans both chanted his name in the first derby of the season at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, with scarves with Puerta’s name on it, being held up by all. Too round up the noble gestures, Sevilla officially thanked Real Betis and its fans for their support during this difficult time.


Blockbuster clashes

The 2013/14 Europa League saw  Betis and Sevilla go head-to-head in the round of 16. What followed was a duel for the ages; Sevilla won the first leg at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 2 goals to none. A week later, Verderones finished the 90 minutes with the same scoreline and the game headed to extra-time. Penalties ensued and Sevilla eventually won the tie, beating Betis 3-5.

Another classic match took place in January 2018 when Sevilla hosted Real Betis for the first derby of the 2017/18 La Liga season. The visitors took an early lead with Fabian Ruiz scoring in the 56th second of the game. Sevilla quickly equalized with a goal from Ben Yedder in the 13th minute, before Feddal restored the Los Verdiblancos’ lead in the 21st minute. That was not all for the first half as Simon Kjær dispatched a leveller for the home team.

The half-time whistle ended a high-intensity half at 2 goals each. The second half saw Durmisi and Segio Leon score in the 63rd and 65th minute respectively to give the visitors a 2-goal lead, before Sevilla’s Clement Lenglet scored a towering header to half the lead. The last 20 minutes saw the home team pushing for the equalizer but were unable to do so as Betis’ Cristian Tello scored in the 95th minute, to seal a memorable 5-3 win away from the Benito Villamarin.   

When Sevilla and Real Betis face off, expect footballing brilliance coupled with ardent supporters from both sides that have the element of history adding fuel to the fire of the contest.