I have to admit that when the first comments about my "final" post last Sunday started coming in I found them so hard to read that I actually stopped looking at them - which means that just now is the first time I've sat down and gone through every word. All I can say is thank you to everyone for your kind words, and especially for taking the trouble - every one of you - to say so much more than, "Ta, mate - see you around." It's genuinely, deeply appreciated.
There are two things about this blog that I'm particularly proud of. The first is simply keeping it going for five years, which as anyone who has attempted anything similar will tell you, requires levels of self-motivation that probably aren't entirely healthy. (As I mentioned before, too often it was guilt that kept me going.) Apparently I've written over 2,000 posts, which if we conservatively average them out at 250 words each, makes more than half a million words in English about an also-ran Spanish football club in five years. Blimey - that's Infinite Jest, with added YouTube links.
But the second - and far more important - achievement of the blog has been to create a genuine little community of English-speaking Béticos and Béticas who, on good days at least, were able to come together and celebrate/commiserate under one online "roof". As several of you pointed out, the club itself does a terrible job of acknowledging our existence, so it's been a great privilege to act as an unofficial host to these "secret" meetings, especially knowing that they didn't exist five years ago.
And with that in mind, I've decided to keep the Twitter account and the Facebook page up and running, to at least give the Forever Betis community spirit alive. I'll try and post relevant links whenever possible - players bought and sold, for example - so although there won't be much in the way analysis from me, you will be able to keep in touch with the essentials of Betis news and leave your own comments. If at all possible I'll try and find stories written in English, but it's also true that services like Google Translate are improving all the time and can usually help you get the gist of a news item originally written in Spanish if you're desperate. Up till now I haven't really maximised the use of either Twitter or Facebook because neither come naturally to me, but let's give this a go and see how it works.
It's also true, though, that inspired by your collective warmth towards the blog, I'm already beginning to think of this as a Pep Guardiola-style "break from football" rather than a complete retirement. We'll see. Perhaps next time I won't make myself write match reports between the final whistle at midnight and my alarm going off at 6.45am, but on the other hand I would like to focus more on the wider social and cultural role of Betis, especially here in Seville. For example, the amazing number of times the club pops up Spanish films. Or just recently, when I went to look at a new flat with a letting agent, a friendly woman perhaps just a little older than me, who arrived on her scooter and who I liked instantly. When she gave me her card, I noticed that her agency, which is based in the posh barrio of Nervión, was called the Inmobiliaria Estadio. "I suppose that's the Estadio Sánchez-Pizjuán, then," I said - and when she grimaced, I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. Since then we've talked as much about how horrible the week of Sevilla's Europa League triunfito was as we have done about flats.
And that, in the end, is what I think supporting Betis - and writing the blog - has been all about for me: making unexpected connections through our shared affiliation, whether it's with Carmen and David, who sit next to me in the stadium every other week, or Kent in Oregon, who might just be the longest-standing regular reader, or Linus somewhere in the middle of Sweden, or you wherever you're reading this. So do keep in touch via Twitter or Facebook or email - oohbetisATgooglemail.com - and let's call this an "Hasta luego" and not an "Adios". Thanks again for all your support.