The past is an illusion: On Beticos, Sevillistas, and stagnation in Southern Spain

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Over the course of the past six months I’ve spent a considerable amount of time conducting research on both nationalism and market integration in football as part of a long-term thesis project. On January 9th and 10th, I attended both Real Betis and Sevilla’s Copa del Rey matches. The disparate experiences seen in the neighborhoods that house the teams, Heliopolis and Nervion respectively, revealed the lasting effect of the financial crisis on the game and offered a view into the state of the coming years. This micro-level experience fell in line with my macro-level my analyses. First: football responds to the market before the market in economic downturns and slower in recoveries, and second: that regional identities are magnified in times of economic crisis. Oh, and I also had a blast.

My week in Sevilla was a performance piece. I had elaborately designed to evade cultural superstition and sideways glances of nationalistic scorn so that I could see what being a ‘Sevillista’ or a ‘Betico’ really represented to the supporters and the neighborhoods that they represent. I wanted to become an insider, to really see what made these people tick. I stayed the bulk of my time in Nervion where there is no reason for tourists to visit the drab unornamented buildings and spent my time in the gap between tapa and racion. Not a tourist, but definitely not a local. My mission was to be a fly on the wall - I had a great time failing with that as my objective.

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Imagining the Iberian Championship: Catalunya claims Group A

By Dermot Corrigan, imagining in Madrid

When the Iberian Championships was first mooted (last month, here on A Football Report), there was some skepticism in Spain as to the concept’s viability, given the tightness of the club schedule, rivalries between different footballing authorities with competing jurisdictions, the logistical challenges involved, fraught political atmosphere etc. But due to the diligence and far-sightedness of those involved in the project, and the generosity of a certain gulf-oil-money fuelled TV broadcaster looking to break into vital European markets, the first round of games is now taking place during this week’s international break.

As is customary in Iberia, the draw was organised to give the better supported teams the best possible chance of progressing, with the top four ranked sides - Castilla, Catalunya, Euskadi and Valéncia - securing home advantage for two of their three group games. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque did the honours at the neutral territory of the Andorran FA HQ, with the coaches and captains of all eight teams showing up for the event, along with a healthy smattering of regional political dignitaries and cultural figures. There was a surprisingly positive mood of friendship and fraternity among all involved, especially with the first tranches of TV money being delivered up front.

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Don’t annoy a Sevilla fan. Simple.

Moments after their match against Levante kicked off, the game was suspended for a few minutes as fans threw dozens of tennis balls onto the field. The protest was against El Clásico, which altered the game’s schedule to a late night kickoff. This naturally angered the proud Andalusian fans who also held a banner saying: “Stop the match, that Mou is talking." [posted by DV]

Traveling España: Previewing La Liga’s Basque Country, Andalucia, and Valencia

By Kaushik Lakshman, our new La Liga expert. Give him a warm welcome!

The new season of La Liga is almost upon us and there has been a lot shake-ups in several squads. The big two have gotten stronger, but there have also been significant improvements in the next rung of teams. While these may not result in the big two being toppled, there is still lot to look forward to. This preview is split into two parts, and we will take a look at each team, region by region and how their season looks to be headed. In part one, we travel through the Basque country, Andalucia and Valencia; and in part two, the big cities of Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the rest of España.

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Winner By “Goleada”

by Elizabeth Hanchett, in New York

Barça have done it again.  After a shaky beginning of the season with five points lost at home since league competition began, the blaugrana received Sevilla, a side which has consistently been troublesome for the Catalans.  Sevilla knocked them out of the last edition of the King’s Cup earlier this year and almost cost Barcelona their Spanish Supercup in August.  Despite missing first keeper Andrés Palop due to injury, Barça also went into the match knowing it was going to be a tough one.  Coach Pep Guardiola stated in a press conference yesterday that Sevilla was a great team and that “it will be a huge match”.

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A French Problem at Arsenal? Gunners sign Sebastien Squillaci

By Ulysse Pasquier, writing from Montreal

    Arsene Wenger has announced this week the signing of Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla after the French defender successfully underwent a medical examination in North London. The 30-year-old was given a 3-year contract and is Arsenal’s third signing this summer after fellow francophones Koscielny and Chamakh joined the Gunners from Ligue 1. 

Squillaci is an experienced signing that will help strengthen Arsenal’s back-line after losing Philippe Senderos, William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre at the end of last season. Although maybe not the best known among French defenders, he certainly can tell what it’s like to play at the very highest of levels. Squillaci joined Monaco in his early career and was part of Didier Deschamps’ team which reached the final of the Champions League in 2004 after an incredible run. Quickly establishing himself as one of the best center-backs in Ligue 1, Squillaci signed with Lyon in 2006, winning 2 league titles in the process, before heading to Spain two years later. 

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Super Barcelona destroy Sevilla at the Camp Nou

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates his second goal against Sevilla with his teammates Dani Alves (L) and Pedro (R) during their Spanish Super Cup second leg soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona August 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Portugal

Barcelona hit 4 past Sevilla to conquer their 9th Spanish Super Cup title. The Super Messiah was the star of the show netting a hat-trick, but the whole team played an influential role in the goals. Last night was a Blaugrana team victory, not a Messi victory.

Barcelona overturned their 3-1 1st leg defeat in trademark style with Puyol, Iniesta, Ibrahimovic and Villa starting on the bench. From kick-off they dominated against a poor Sevilla side which rested some key players. The home side circulated the ball in their typical “tiki-taka” style with a fast rhythm, Pedro exploded down the right flank flying past 3 defenders to cross the ball which Konko unfortunately hit past his own keeper. The goal scored in the 13th minute and was a glimpse of what was yet to come.

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Spanish Super Cup Preview: Barcelona vs Sevilla

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Portugal

The winner of the 2010/2011 Spanish Super Cup will be awarded the trophy tonight at the Camp Nou. Sevilla won the first leg 3-1, but Barcelona are boosted with the return of their Spanish World Cup winners and a match fit Messi, The Messiah.

Barcelona opened the scoring in the first leg with a goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But the Andalusian side were the strongest on the field and in the second half they turned the result around with goals from their lethal top strikers Kanoute and Luis Fabiano. Sevilla were up against a young Barcelona team where many cantera players and regular substitutes featured in the game. However, the opposition will be a world class side tonight as the likes of Pique, Xavi and Iniesta return to the field were they frequently win and play the world’s best football.

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Sevilla Draw First Blood

Barcelona's Seydou Keita (R) is challenged by Sevilla's Julien Escude during their Spanish Supercup first leg soccer match at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville August 14, 2010. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER IMAGES OF THE DAY)

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Lisbon

After Barcelona were 1-0 up at half time, it seemed that the Spanish champions were going to win the Super Cup first leg. However, Sevilla’s lethal attacking partnership fought back in the second half to produce a 3-1 comeback.

A Barcelona side without their regular stars and with Messi on the bench, had a promising start to the match. Maxwell playing on the left of the attacking formation, set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic who tapped in a long range pass. The “Barcelona B” side continued to dominate a slow first half with little scoring occasions and flair. The second half was crying for a spark.

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