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Saturday 21st December 2013 ko 18.00

Campeonato Nacional de Liga de 1a División


U.D. ALMERÍA 1 (Azzez 4)

Att 26,550

Entry €60

Programme FREE

Badge €2

Teamsheet FREE

One advantage of our previous game finishing two-and-half hours before this one, was that Andy and I had plenty of time to soak up all that the Estadio Benito Villamarín and its environs had to offer.

The first task was to buy a ticket which proved to be interesting! We were directed to a booth in the bowels of the North Fondo (Stand). There were only 3 hatches open, one for complementaries, but bizarrely two adjacent hatches for home and away fans! We managed to make our choice understood, and bought top priced tickets for the middle tier of the main stand which proved to be an excellent investment. Our €60 were snatched away, the tickets thrust our way and the hatch slammed shut. Did I say something wrong?

From there we soaked up the pre-match atmosphere, enjoying an alfresco meal and coffee at a café with the stadium in the background. We watched the fans mingling, drinking red wine from plastic half-pint sized glasses. It reminded me of the German football experience with beer served in plastic glasses with a €1 deposit. No such deposit here, so the gutters were littered with the receptacles after the game.

In  the beginning was Balompié, translating literally as football, as opposed to the most commonly adopted anglicised version, futbol. They were formed by Polytechnic students in 1908 while Betis were formed by some disaffected Sevilla members in 1909. The two clubs merged in 1914 and originally played at Betis’ ground Campo del Prado de San Sebastián, but in 1918 moved to Campo del Patronato Obrero.

The club moved to their present ground in 1936 which had been built in 1929 for a major Ibero-American trade fair. They moved in, and a day later the civil war erupted, the offices were bombed and no game was possible until peace came 3 years later!

The name Betis is a corruption of the Roman name for the Baetis, the Roman name for the Guadalquivir river which passes through Seville. The Real prefix shows the club received royal patronage, in this case from King Alfonso XIII in 1914

The stadium, named after a former club president is a mix of several different building projects. The bottom two tiers of the main, west stand appear to be original features, with the third tier and roof added in 1975. The triple tier north and east stand with its sweeping curve was completed in 1999. This was planned to include the south end too, but disputes with the construction firm meant that the south end, is still a single tiered edifice originating from 1958. The steel prongs sticking out from the southern end of the east stand bear testament to the thwarted ambition of the then president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera.

It’s an odd mix of architecture, but unquestionably the visitor will stop and stare at the sheer size of the place. It looks bigger than its 52,000 capacity. However all is not well in the district of Heliopolis.

The club is rock bottom of La Liga, and sacked manager Pepe Mel a few weeks ago. What Andy and I watched was typical of a side bottom of its league, nothing goes right even if you do the right things.

Our seats were in right at the front of the middle tier of the west stand, just in front of the Directors Box. That last fact was handy, I had a chat with a guard there, and a few seconds later team sheets were provided for me doing no more than wishing a win on the team!

Almeria were third from bottom at kick-off so Ramón Azzez’s 30 yard strike in the 4th minute was as much a fillip to them, and it was a body-blow to Betis. The shot caught home keeper Sara completely wrong-footed, and even this neutral felt for him starting as he was his first game of the season. From then on, for the duration of the game Betis attacked, but somehow failed to score, even having a goal disallowed. They deserved a win, and at the very worst a point.

The Ultras in the South Fondo displayed banners with the legends “When everything goes wrong, how easy it is to surrender?” and “For the badge and shirt fight until the end.” They were magnificent and deserved far more than what they got.

The fans applauded their team, then when they’d left the pitch turned their attention to the board. Now it’s not often that you see the best part of 26,000 people pointing in your direction yelling “Puta” or to translate, “Whore!” so we turned and watched the board members passively stare back, stone-faced. Their reaction came later, sporting director, Vlada Stosic was sacked with 6 months of his contract left. He was not to be trusted with the imminent opening of the transfer window, Betis best hope of avoiding relegation.

The win lifted Almeria out of the three relegation places, but as we left the stadium we passed the executive entrance, and there’s was a further welcoming committee waiting for the board’s departure, the chants of “Puta” were ringing out as we caught our bus back to the Old Town.