I was born into a wonderful and unique community in 1968. I was born into a very different Gibraltar, and world for that matter, than the one we find nowadays, one that is ruled by social media. Just before my first birthday the border was closed. I have excellent memories from my child hood even though it was not until 1992 that I travelled to the UK for the first time. Access to my passion, which was football, was limited to tuning into Spanish and English radio stations over the weekend and the odd game on TV.
For those fortunate enough to regularly attend games, they will note it is impossible to absorb the atmosphere and passion that erupts out from certain stadiums around the world.
On the weekend of the 18th September 1982 shortly after my 14th Birthday my Dad decided to reward me by attending a La Liga Game to be played between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona. The trip entailed having to catch two ferries, one from Gibraltar to Tangier, then a second one from Tangier to Algeciras. I left as a very excited boy on his way to attend his first game at 7am in the morning as we arrived in our small Sevilla Hotel close to 10pm (15 hours of travel by sea and car). To put things into context the trip from Gibraltar to Seville today will take me roughly 1hr 45mins. As kick off approached late in the evening we made our way to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. As is normal in Seville this time of the year the temperatures were still in the 30’s, nothing was distracting me from the opportunity of stepping into a football coliseum for the first time in my life. I was finally going to see names like Maradona, Schuster, Buyo, Blanco, Serna, Marcos Alonso in the flesh. Up to that date I only had captured the odd picture in my head from some matches on TV and hearing their names on the radio.
A tensely contested match which was Maradona’s first season in Europe since his summer world record move from Boca Juniors ended up in a 0-0 stalemate. The atmosphere was electric, especially as the seats procured by my father were very near the famous Biri loyal supporters located in the North Lower stand of the Stadium. I have excellent memories on the long and exhaustive trip back home and could wait to return to school to discuss my experience with my friends.
The border finally opened in 1985 making access to La Liga games easier and during the season, within reason and finances allowed, visits to stadiums in the vicinity were constant. Fast forward to 2003 and after losing my job in the Finance Centre I decided to pursue a career within the football industry. I had to quickly change the hat of visiting purely as a football fan to that of a professional as I had a reputation to grow. Fortunately in the summer of 2004 I completed my first piece of business with the brand Sevilla FC, one which would over the next 4 years, rise like a phoenix from the ashes to the pinnacle of European Football.
There is a standout game of the many that I have been fortunate to attend that cemented the brand “Sevilla Fútbol Club” worldwide and it was played on the 27th April 2006. There are no words to describe the atmosphere that night in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán prior to kick off. In many ways it reminded me of my own personal “Football Cathedral”, Anfield. European nights are extra special there and that evening was as close as it gets. Shortly after in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, a country very close to my heart due to my previous career in Banking with ABN AMRO Bank, the world finally welcomed the brand “Sevilla FC” as they destroyed Middlesbrough 4-0.
Twenty four years later after attending my first game as a shy 14 year old I had witnessed their transition to lifting a top European Trophy.