As soon as, just before 7pm yesterday evening, the second Alcorcón goal hit the back of the net to finally confirm Betis's promotion, there was only one decision for the club's fans: the station or the stadium?
As my flat is only 20 minutes' walk from Santa Justa and an hour from the Benito Villamarín, it wasn't such a hard choice to make. So at about 8.30pm my wife and I joined an estimated 10,000 Béticos gathered around a side entrance of Seville's main railway station to await the arrival of a couple of dozen young men (and half a dozen older ones). It was quite a wait, too - apparently the lively celebrations of fans and players on the train contributed to a delay of half an hour (which is most unusual on the super-efficient Spanish railway system). Not that the crowd seemed to mind. Kept entertained by a non-stop loop of Betis songs and local celebrity chat-show host Manu Sánchez, we waved our flags and sang and bounced until, just before 10pm, the players finally arrived. To a roar that seemed to stun them, Pepe Mel's boys (and the man himself) just had time to to wave at the crowd from a railed balustrade before they had to climb aboard their open-top bus and head for the stadium. A little local knowledge allowed us to see them pass twice, and then we headed home to catch the rest of the festivities on TV.
And they were worth seeing, too. On a makeshift stage in front of the Benito Villamarín, the players were introduced one by one to an adoring 20,000 or so fans. Each one - some more sober than others, Beñat - made a little speech of gratitude and picked out a tune from the Betis songbook, before (usually) having their shirt ripped apart by team-mates. To judge from the Twitter feeds of Betis-following journalists, the whole party didn't wind up till around 5am. (See yet more pictures here.)
The festivities resumed this evening with a reception at the town hall - how about this for a sweet photo - followed by dinner and, starting right about now, a private party for every single employee of the club at a venue in Triana's appropriately named Calle Betis.
Some brief personal thoughts from yesterday...
l I was reminded time and time again of the June 15th 2009 demonstration against owner Manuel Ruíz de Lopera. Back then, Rafael Gordillo manned the barricades in a green T-shirt, singer Rafa Serna led the chorus of his centenary anthem, and 65,000 protested at the demise of a once-great football club. Less than two years later, Gordillo is president and wearing a tie, Rafa Serna is still singing the same himno but this time as a guest of the directors, and countless thousands are in the streets celebrating Betis's re-emergence. The symmetry is so neat as to be almost unbelievable. And where is Lopera? Who knows. Despite the fact he officially still owns 51 per cent of the club, we haven't heard a word from him.
l One thing that was particularly noticeable to me - and was also mentioned on the local TV coverage - was just how many kids were there. I get the impression that parents enjoy explaining what the club is about as much as they do simply passing on their allegiance, and it's obviously very encouraging for the future. Besides, call me immature but there's something endlessly amusing about a sweet-looking 8-year-old girl with ribbons in her hair cheerfully singing, "¡Puta Sevilla, puta Sevilla!" (quite rude actually).
l Talking of which, readers who have visited Seville will know that the station is actually quite close to Sevilla's Estadio Sánzchez Pijzuan. With the city's other team kick-off against Real Sociedad at 9pm, dozens of Sevillistas had to pass through the green-and-white hordes on their way to the game. The whole thing passed off entirely without incident - and actually lots of Sevillistas are glad to have the derbis back - but the mutual distaste was quite amusing to observe. Have you read about couples who are divorced but still have to live together because they can't sell the matrimonial home? That's a bit what it was like.
l Quote of the day came from Pepe Mel on the Benito Villamarín stage to the thousands of Béticos in front of him: "Me da verguenza que me queréis tanto." I'm embarrassed that you love me so much. Aaaaah.
(The pictures above were taken by me, so they're not very good - but they should give you an idea of what it was like to actually be there.)