Passion. A word overused, be it to describe a football player tearing around the field like a headless chicken or a Coach screaming from the sidelines barely keeping the veins in his head. The meaning is often truly missed. In Sevilla, the word passion means something else. Passion means everything. It is the way you talk, eat, drink, dance, love, or play football. Here, we will focus on that that final thing – football.
In Sevilla there are two kings constantly battling for superiority, one is Sevilla and the other is Real Betis. The former had some magical years, but now they are reduced to watching them on their DVD players rather than building upon them. Betis, meanwhile, are just thankful to be rubbing shoulders with the big boys again after dalliances with a madcap President, fragile finances and the second tier.
Coming into this game, a few statistics are worth looking at concerning the derby. Sevilla have failed to win any of their last four in the League. Betis, meantime, have won the last two at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and their supporters danced all night in the higher echelons of the wonderful stadium based in the Nervion district of the city. Benat, with his free-kick wizardry, played the tune.
Games between the two have been ferocious down the years. Others would just say they had been 'Andalusian'. It has seen bottles thrown at coaches, punches landed, Presidents paying money to opposing teams to beat their great rivals, and bar room brawls. It took Juande Ramos being knocked unconscious by a thrown bottle and the death of Antonio Puerta to calm the tensions between the two clubs, with the Betis squad attending the funeral of the Sevilla full-back. Then, with Betis' relegation and absence from the top flight, they still knew each other existed but did not come into contact.
Still, the atmosphere inside the stadium on Sunday evening will be blistering and will not suffer, yet although this game falls in November the heat generated in the stadium will be like any July afternoon in Sevilla. Dani Alves, formerly of Sevilla, said this week this game was "Passionate, tougher than a Clasico". If you played in this game, you just 'get it'.
Biris Norte, Sevilla's Ultra group, announced they will be attending after not doing so for any home games this season due to a war with club President Jose Maria del Nido. Although many disagree with their causes and actions, the fact is this derby is a better spectacle with them present.
On the field, neither side have found great consistency. Sevilla started well but eventually dropped off and currently have won just once in their last six League games. Form counts for little here though, and Michel's job will be to focus his team and get back to basics – the winning should then come. In the meantime, Betis hit fourth place recently but doubts about the mentality and versatility of the team were again questioned with the loss to Granada at home.
Pepe Mel spoke with typical directness about the game: "For me this week takes precedence for Pepe Mel the fan over Pepe Mel the professional". His players will be clear on what is required from them, such is the way of Mel.
Football, especially at the highest level, has had much of its life sucked out of it due to the cast iron grip of the modern game. The Sevilla derby gets the blood pumping, lungs raw and heart racing. The passion is no conjured-up state – it is real.