Tapas lovers, Flamenco dancers and worldwide football addicts, all aboard for a trip to the southwest of Spain! Today’s destination is Seville – turn to the Nervión district to see the heart of Sevilla FC, a club that is simultaneously typical and atypical, somewhat overshadowed in La Liga but tremendously successful abroad, specifically when it comes to the Europa League.
Matter of fact, how important is the UEFA Europa League? Is it prestigious, perhaps more than most national leagues? Or is it ‘Plan B’ for all the greats, the not-so-notable relative of the colossal Champions League? Truth is, the majority of football clubs establish themselves as leaders in their national competitions before launching into big bucks, international cups. However, when you play against the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona every single year, it’s not that bad of an idea to explore other ways to enlarge the trophy room. Sevilla has been doing just that for over a decade now, but it wasn’t always like that. Let’s bring it back to the very beginning.
First founded in 1890 by Edward F. Johnston, the city’s british vice consul (atypical right from the start), Sevilla Fútbol Club would only be officially recognised by the Royal Spanish Football Federation fifteen years later, in 1905. Fun fact: Sevilla’s first shirts came from Sunderland AFC, due to personal connections between both clubs’ owners, and the red and white colours would remain forever after. In the early XX century, football grew inside the autonomous community of Andalusia and Sevilla grew with it, displaying total dominance within the region. Still, it failed twice the entrance in the Primera División, with Racing Santander denying them their promotion both times.
Close to relegation in 1933, promoted to the top division in 1934. A truly joyous moment, but all the celebration was abruptly interruped when a train accident killed 9 supporters and injured over 50. The next year, the first title: President of the Republic Cup – nowaday’s Copa del Rey. After that, the Spanish Civil War led to the suspension of all the nation’s competitions. Even if not playing any official matches, Sevilla used those years to lay a long-term foundation for the future, developing their squad and buying the lot where their home base, Estadio de Nervión, was placed.
With a good couple of decades after the Civil War, Sevilla would get their one and only league title until today plus 2 cup titles, making a statement as one of the biggest clubs in Spain. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last for long: the sudden death of legendary president Ramon Sánchez-Pizjuán, in 1956, led to a massive new stadium (his lifelong dream) and then, an uncontrollable financial crisis that would culminate in 1968’s relegation.
The 80’s meant stability for the club and the early 90’s meant innovation (Diego Maradona swung by for less than a year, Luis Aragonés coached for two seasons), but a new dark phase came and would force the supporters to see their team struggling until the beggining of the new millenium.
Then, a new era. A new dimension, literally. Europa League winners, big money, then the Spanish Cup, another Europa League, more money, then the Spanish Super Cup. Trophies began to rack up when Sevilla realised that domination in La Liga was too much of a distant dream. The management style was alternative and a bit controversial (they were the first spanish team to present a full foreign-players-only lineup) but it’s hard to argue with the results. The andalusian side currently lives the best time of its existence, so it’s likely that the following record will change soon:
- 1 Spanish League
- 5 Spanish Cups
- 1 Spanish Super Cup
- 1 European Super Cup
- 5 UEFA Europa Leagues (most wins, 2 of them still on the UEFA Cup format)
- Although Andalusian Cups are not considered major glories, 17 wins in 20 editions is still very impressive
When it comes to human resources, Sevilla’s history would undoubtedly be different without:
- Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán – Sevilla’s stadium is named after him, enough said. The club acquired international relevance when he was in charge and drowned in debt after he was gone. President for 17 years in two different terms (1932-1942 and 1948-1956);
- Marcelino Campanal – A defender that is intimately connected with the club’s first success streak. The spanish international played for 16 years in Seville.
- Alhaji Nije Aka Biri-Biri – Regarded as the best Gambian footballer of all time, Biri-Biri was the first black player to wear Sevilla FC’s shirt. He was one of the sevillanos’ favourites;
- Monchi – a former goalkeeper who had a strategic eye and a knack for the football business. Led the glorious ways of the XXI century by bringing up players like the late Antonio Puerta, Diego Capel, and…
- Jesús Navas – Not retired yet, but Navas already has a guaranteed spot in the club’s history, having played a major part in the squad that won 5 important titles in 15 months. World and european champion with the spanish national team.
The latest achievements and fearful reputation in the Europa League can help the supporters cope with a difficult past, from tragic deaths to near bankruptcy. Moving forward, Sevilla will want to keep their consistency and extend this positive streak for as long as they can, because 15 years of fame can go south before you can say Adiós.