Who or what are Real Betis Balompié?
A football (soccer, if you prefer) team in Seville, Spain. There are two major clubs in the city - Betis and Sevilla Futbol Club - and Sevillanos (people from here, as opposed to Sevillistas, fans of Sevilla FC) are rightly proud of the fact that it's the only place in Spain with a cross-town rivalry of (more or less) equals.
Real Betis Balompié ("Real" meaning royal, "Betis" being derived from the Roman word for the River Guadalquivir, and "Balompié" the archaic, non-anglicised Spanish word for football) play in green and white stripes - the colour of the Andalucían flag - and are therefore known as the verdiblancos. After relegation in May 2009 by a single goal, and failure to get promoted a year later by a single point, they finished the 2010/11 season as champions of the Liga Adelante (usually known as Segunda), and their first campaign pack in Primera in 13th.
A recent poll suggested that 40.5 per cent of Sevillanos were Béticos, compared to 33.8 per cent Sevillistas (with the remaining 25 per cent presumably aligned with Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Recreativo de Huelva, Accrington Stanley, the New York Yankees, etc). Betis currently have around 31,000 season-ticket holders (a figure that would be much higher if it was not for Spain's current economic climate).
What's so special about Real Betis?
Now, that's something which is hard to put in words. First you have to go to Seville. "What is so captivating about the city," says the Rough Guide To Andalucía, "as much as the monuments and works of art, is its essential romantic quality - the greatest city of the Spanish south, of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro, and the archetype of Andalucían promise." That's completely true, but then you have to mix in a drop of the blood from a bull slain in the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza a splash of Guadalquivir river water and a small glass of ice-cold Cruzcampo beer, and stir it up with a dose of renaissance anguish and a good helping of self-deprecating humour, preferably to the strains of a flamenco wail. Betis - who, legend has it, were formed when a working man was refused a place in the ranks of the more aristocratic Sevilla FC team - encapsulate all that in football form.
There's more, too. You don't have to dig very deep to discover that the club is about more than just the game its team plays. Betis's unofficial motto is ¡Viva el Betis manque pierda! - Long live Betis, even if they lose (transposed into Andalucían dialect) - and this understanding that defeat is part of life is hardwired into the Bético psyche. Talk to any fan for five minutes and the word sufrimiento (suffering) will invariably crop up. Béticos expect the worst, so even the smallest triumphs are celebrated long and hard, while the biggest defeats are (traditionally) accepted with a shrug, It's all part of the deal.
For a more succint explanation, let me quote José Maria Conde, president of the UK's only Peña Bética (supporters' club). Emailing me to explain the name of his Peña, which is based in Edinburgh, he wrote:
"Regarding the name of our peña, it comes from a song written by one of the most important figures in Andalucian rock: Silvio Fernández Melgarejo. Here you can have a look at the video of the song and its lyrics. I do not know how to translate it very well but it is something like 'Don't look for more because there isn't (anything else to look for)'. It represents Betis philosophy: don't expect leagues, don't expect cups, don't expect huge celebrations because you will probably not have them very often. Betis is just...Betis and being Bético simply implies facing life differently, being able to overcome difficulties with a smile and accepting defeat when it comes. That's it."
All I can really add is that when there are 50,000 fans in the stadium with every last one of them - from six-year-old boys to 76-year-old grandmothers - dressed in green and white, bouncing up and down and twirling scarves above their heads, it's a magical place to be.
Didn't the blog used to have a different name?
Until August 2012 it was called Ooh Betis, a feeble pun on the catchphrase of a terrible 1970s British sitcome. Forever Betis - the altogether more sensible new name - is the literal transation of a common Betis slogan, Siempre Betis.
How can I see a Betis game?
Get yourself to Seville one weekend and roll up to the Estadio Benito Villamarín (which in October 2010 recovered its old name after a vote among season-ticket holders) and by your tickets at the box office by Puerta 24 beforehand; it's as simple as that.. Details of the next match can be found on the club's website. (Click "Taquilla".) Tickets can also be bought online and picked up from a La Caixa ATM when you're here. Because the stadium is so big and walk-up tickets are relatively expensive - from about €30 - matches are almost never complete sell-outs. The stadium is about two miles south of the city centre and buses 1, 6 and 33 will get you there or thereabouts. Exact kick-off times depend largely on the demands of television companies and tend not to be announced until a maximum of 15 days beforehand and sometimes as late as the week of the game itself. Currently, Primera games can be any time between Friday evening and Monday night. If you need any more information/advice/help, feel free to email me at email@example.com
Are you on Twitter?
No! Hate the thing. (But I do take a sneaky peak at @pepe_mel, @salvasevilla14, @JaviChica2, from time to time...)