Friday, January 2, 2015

MC Sports Report: UEFA Cup Match in Seville

Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán
Capacity 45,000
After attending two football matches in Madrid, I was hoping I might find one more match to attend before we left Spain. As always, I went to my "go-to" app - ESPN FC to check the schedules for our two remaining cities - Seville and Granada.

Good news! Seville was playing at home on our last night. It was a must-win match in the 2014 UEFA Europa League against a team from Croatia. As it turns out, Seville was the defending UEFA Champion after defeating Benfica (Lisbon) last year for the title. When we got to Seville I went out to the stadium a couple of days before the match and bought the cheapest ticket available - 30 Euros (or about$38 at today's exchange rate). FYI, the US Dollars has increased in value by 10% over the last 6 months which is making everything more affordable for us.

Three nights later I jumped on the C2 city bus ($1.75 one way) to the stadium for the match which started at 21:05 which converts to 9:05 pm. Seville was hosting HNK Rijeka which is one of the reasons I decided to go to this match. Back story....

In the Spring of 1999, my final year at the Northwest Marine Trade Association I got a call from someone from the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce who asked if I wanted to join a trade mission to Croatia. It was a great experience with a dozen business and civic leaders from Seattle/Tacoma under the direction of the USAID. We spent most of our time in Rijeka which sits on the Adriatic near the Italian border. It was a fascinating trip and now five years later I would have the chance to see their football team in action.

As usual, I got to the match about an hour before kick-off. I took a few pictures of fans congregating outside nearby bars (no alcohol in Spanish La Liga stadiums) so fans get their fill ahead of time. While I was wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere, I saw a half-dozen police officers having deep in conversation. I had my iPhone on camera-mode and was ready to snap a photo of them when one of the officers looked up gave me a cold stare. I could tell by his look that I had better not take that picture. I didn't and moved-on. I continued wondering for a block or  before I felt someone tapping me sharply on the shoulder. I turned around to find it was that same officer. Now he was firing questions  at me in Spanish. fOops. I only speak English.

Pre-match tailgating without a car
Good news, he spoke English, too and wanted to know if I had taken a picture of him and his colleagues. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if I snapped a photo or not, so he asked to see the my camera. I obviously complied and flicked through the dozen photos I had taken so far. Indeed, I had not taken a photo of the officers and the cop sent me on my way with a more friendly pat on the back. At that point, I was more that ready to find my seat.

Inside the stadium the sign says "keep going up"
Stairs, stairs and more stairs to my seat
Okay. I found Gate 18. Easily got through security and headed up the stairs. And then up a few more stairs, until a nice attendant saw me staring at my ticket with that sort of 'I hope there aren't any mores stairs' look on my face. He quickly offered to help and ushered me to my seat in section F40.

Even though I was just 20 rows from the top, the stadium was smaller that others I have been in, and my seat was virtually on the half-way line. Wow! It was the best seat I've ever had since attending my first European match in Holland 16 months ago.

View from my seat. Best ever!
People started filling in around me and by the time the match started almost every seat in my section was full. There was a very loud woman on my right who I was pretty sure did not speak English so I took the big leap of faith and turned to the young man on my left. "Do you speak English?The answer was yes! I knew then I was in for a great evening.

His name was Pablo and he was in his final year of Medical School at age 22. Great guy. Good English  so we delved into Seville's football history, La Liga, Spanish history, politics, tuition fees for college, medical school and a dozen other topics - and that was before the match got underway!

Soon to be pediatrician Dr. Pablo
I adopted FC Seville for the night and was happy to see them go ahead in the 19th minute with a goal from young 20 year-old Denis Suarez. At the half it was still 1-0 to Seville

Super Star of the future - Denis Suarez on loan from Barcelona
After the break, the match was fairly even until late in the 2nd half when Rijeka realized that they would soon be out of the tournament if they didn't score. Instead, they got three yellow cards in the last 15 minutes  - so instead of a goal, the match went to Seville who advances to the next round.

Over the years, Seville has had a great run in the 1st Division
Afterwards, I learned that Pablo's home was in the same area where we were staying so we headed to the bus stop with thousands of other fans. I was home in one piece by mid-night.

Another great sports outing for the logbook!  And as always, sitting next to someone who speaks English adds so much enjoyment to the experience. Of course it is completely random and in this case I was particularly surprised since we found fewer English speakers in Spain than we have in any of the  other twenty-six countries we have visited.

Happy New Year football fans! I'll be back with a report next time we are in a city where I can catch another match.


1 comment :

  1. Nice post!
    Enjoy your travel Michael, I hope it'll be a great and funny experience.
    Hugs from your friend in Sevilla, Pablo!!