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Kenneth Asquez - Columnas Blancas

The Mother of all derbies

In 2003 I was privileged to experience the rivalry “in situ” of a Sevilla v Betis derby game. The first game at the Sanchez Pizjuan ended in a 2-2 draw. It was a thoroughly entertaining game played at a very high intensity. As a passionate Liverpool fan, I understand the nature of having the “city bragging rights” just after a derby game. But I was unable to understand the hatred that one could sense within the crowds. The return game at the Benito Villamarin also ended in a draw, 1-1 this time. I sensed the same hatred.

Passion for football knows no frontiers and takes on an almost religious quality in places like England with the Premier League, in Italy with Serie A and of course in Spain with La Liga. But this was different. My regular visits to Merseyside derbies, memories were that of red and blue families mixing together in the stands, or in bars before the game.

Towards the end of the 2003/04 season I found myself dealing with both clubs as they were interested in recruiting one of my players who although at the time was injured, his early season form, made him an interesting proposal for both clubs. During the months of April and May I found myself in countless meetings in both Stadiums. As a non resident of Seville I was able to go in and out relatively unnoticed.

The dialogue was mostly with both sports directors, I had at that stage, not met either of the clubs charismatic Presidents, however the end of the Rocio festivities quickly ended this and I had all of a sudden walked into the lion’s den as negotiations intensified.  The city rivalry was transferred from the pitch into the offices. One day I was meeting Betis’s charismatic President Manuel Ruiz de Lopera at his private office in Calle Jabugo, the following I was meeting Seville’s world respected Sports Director Ramon Rodriguez, in a central Madrid Hotel.

The media got wind of this fact and found myself fighting fires on all fronts whilst having to make a decision with my client’s best interests at heart. Decision time arrived on a key date in my life, my son’s birthday, his tenth and the first one I missed. Negotiations with both teams was transferred to Madrid were FC Nantes, the current team who my client played for, had set up base. At around 2am we departed the FC Nantes base in Madrid with my client a Seville player. Mr. Lopera was not a happy man and my three subsequent telephone conversations with him not pleasant, thankfully the conduct of his Sports Director was at the height of such a great institution like Real Betis is and to date we still enjoy a great close friendship.
I was still perplexed as I continued to sense the hatred from the stands of the respective stadiums to the offices. I had never come across this hence why it stood out so much to me.

Fast forward to 2007, when I saw a massive shift from hatred to solidarity as a result of the unfortunate sudden death of Antonio Puerta. As the eyes of world’s media immersed on the city of Seville to cover the tragedy in August 2007, both clubs stood hand in hand united by grief and in compassion.

Derby games from this day on changed, in my opinion, for the benefit of the two clubs, both sets of fan and the city. The City of Seville is privileged to have two such well known and international brands and should be promoting this unique product across all the four corners of the globe.

#onecity #twoteams #one passion #sevillafc #realbetisbalompie


Traducción realizada por David Cárdenas Dolbear (@DavidDolbear)

La madre de todos los derbies

En 2003 tuve el privilegio de experimentar “in situ” la rivalidad” de un derbi Sevilla-Betis. El primero, en el Sánchez Pizjuán, terminó en empate (2-2). Fue un partido muy entretenido y de alta intensidad. Como “hincha” apasionado del Liverpool, entiendo la importancia del “derecho a presumir” en toda la ciudad, otorgado a la afición del equipo ganador desde el final del derbi hasta que se juega el siguiente. Pero lo que no comprendía del todo era el odio que se destilaba de la grada. El derbi de vuelta aquel año, esta vez en el Benito Villamarín, también acabó en empate (1-1 esta vez). Noté el mismo odio en el ambiente.

La pasión por el fútbol no conoce fronteras, y adquiere una dimensión cuasi-religiosa en lugares como Inglaterra con la Premier League, en Italia con la Serie A y, por supuesto, en España con La Liga. Pero esto era distinto. En mis citas regulares con el derbi de Merseyside, mi recuerdo principal era el de familias red y toffee entremezcladas en las gradas o en los pubs antes del partido.

Hacia el final de la temporada 2003/04, me vi envuelto en negociaciones con los dos clubes, ambos interesados ​​en fichar a uno de los jugadores a los que representaba por aquel entonces. Aunque se encontraba lesionado en ese momento, su buen inicio de temporada atrajo ofertas interesantes de ambos clubes. Durante los meses de abril y mayo me encontraba inmerso en innumerables reuniones en ambos estadios. Al no residir en Sevilla, pude entrar y salir pasando relativamente desapercibido.

Las negociaciones paralelas se sucedieron principalmente con sus respectivos directores deportivos, y hasta entonces no conocía a ninguno de los carismáticos presidentes del Sevilla y del Betis. Eso cambiaría después del Rocío, cuando me vi repentinamente en la boca del lobo a medida que se endurecían las negociaciones. La rivalidad de la ciudad se trasladaba del campo a las oficinas. Un día me reunía con el carismático presidente de Betis, Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, en su oficina de la calle Jabugo, y el otro con el admirado director deportivo del Sevilla, Ramón Rodríguez “Monchi”, en un céntrico hotel de Madrid.

Los medios se enteraron de estas negociaciones, y me vi peleando en varios frentes con la responsabilidad de tomar una decisión que tuviera en mente los intereses de mi cliente. El día de la decisión llegó en una fecha clave en mi vida: el cumpleaños de mi hijo (el décimo, y el primero que me perdía). Las negociaciones con ambos equipos se trasladaron a Madrid, donde había establecido su base el FC Nantes, el equipo en el que jugaba mi cliente por aquel entonces. Aquel día salimos de Madrid alrededor de las 2 de la madrugada, siendo ya mi cliente oficialmente jugador del Sevilla. El Sr. Lopera no estaba precisamente contento, lo cual quedó plasmado en las tres conversaciones telefónicas que tuve con él después de aquello. Afortunadamente la conducta de su Director Deportivo sí estuvo a la altura de una institución tan grande como es el Real Betis. y hasta la fecha todavía mantenemos una relación de amistad.

Rebobinemos el tiempo hasta 2007. En aquel año se observó un cambio masivo en el ambiente de la rivalidad Sevilla-Betis. El desafortunado y repentino fallecimiento de Antonio Puerta cambió el odio por la solidaridad. Al tiempo en que las cámaras de todos los medios de comunicación del mundo apuntaban a Sevilla para cubrir la tragedia de agosto de 2007, ambos clubes se mantuvieron de la mano, unidos por el dolor y la compasión.

Desde ese momento, los derbis cambiaron -en mi opinión- en beneficio de los dos clubes, sus aficiones, y la propia ciudad. La ciudad de Sevilla goza del privilegio de tener dos marcas tan conocidas internacionalmente, algo que debería promocionar en todos los rincones del mundo.

#unaciudad #dosequipos #una pasión #sevillafc #realbetisbalompie

Discovering the brand “Sevilla Fútbol Club”

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.

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