Sevilla - Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán

Sevilla is all about heat and passion. It’s officially Europe’s hottest city and the home of flamenco & Carmen. A couple of times each year the temperature and desire shoot off the scale as Sevilla Fútbol Club and Real Betis Balompié lock horns. Further spice is added to the concoction when you learn that Betis emerged into this world when discontented members of the then fledgling Sevilla FC, left to form their own club in 1908. When it comes to global warming, this corner of Andalucia has a lot to answer for.

The original crest of Sevilla FC & the current, saintly offering
Football had been played in Sevilla for nearly 20 years prior to this incident, earlier in fact than the Basque country. On 8 March 1890, workers from the Rio Tinto mining company and various shipping firms, joined forces under the name of Sevilla Foot-ball Club, to play Huelva Club Recreacion. It was the first recorded instance of two clubs playing each other on Spanish soil. Over the next 15 years, British companies and ex-patriots were at the forefront of matches played in and around the Andalucian capital, and gradually, the Spanish community became involved. Eventually, on 14 October 1905, a new Sevilla Foot-ball Club was founded and set up home at the Prado de San Sebastian. Activity was sporadic in those first few years, not helped by the fact that the club lacked a benefactor. However, Sevilla FC found a knight in shining armour in the shape of Josep María Miró Trepat, a wealthy Catalan hotel owner, who just happened to be co-founder of the Spanish Foot-ball Club in Barcelona. With Miró Trepat at the helm, the club grew quickly, surviving the player exodus of 1908 and by the middle of the following decade, Sevilla FC was not only the leading club in the city, but had overtaken Recreativo Huelva as the region’s leading light.
2 for  the price of 1 The Campo de Mercantil sat within the Prado de San Sebastian  
The Prado de San Sebastian, where the club's first ground was situated, was little more than open land on the border of Parque Marie Luisa. The pitch was a simple roped-off affair and would often be in a different location within the Prado de San Sebastian from match to match. As the club grew in popularity, a more permanent facility was required and thanks to Miró Trepat's commercial contacts, funds were raised in 1913 to build an enclosure within the Prado de San Sebastian. Named the Campo del Mercantil in recognition of the chief benefactors, it featured a permanent pitch surrounded by a wire & wooden fence. The ground did not have an external wall, so admission was free, although the club charged for the rent of seats and use of the only wooden terrace. The Campo de Mercantil also saw the club's first trophy, when the Andalucian Regional Championship was won in 1915. In 1918, the club moved to its first enclosed ground, the Campo Reina Victoria. This was built on land owned by the Marquesa de Esquivel, who was persuaded by her son, an avid follower of Sevilla, to allowed the build and rent it to the club. As well as being enclosed, it featured wooden bleachers and a short pavilion. On 6 December 1923, the ground hosted the Spanish national side's first ever international in the south of the country, a 3-0 victory over Portugal. The 1925 Copa del Rey was also played at the venue, but by 1928, construction work for the Ibero-Americana Exhibition forced Sevilla to move again, to a massive expanse of land in the Nervion district.
The Campo Reina Victoria played host of La Seleccion in 1923
The club built a square styled stadium that had a capacity of 12,000 on land rented from the Marquis de Nervion. It featured one large uncovered tribuna and three smaller terraces and opened on 7 October 1928 with a match against cross-city rivals Betis, who had the temerity to win 1-2. Sevilla went on to win the inaugural second division championship, gaining revenge over Betis with a 3-0 win in the league match, but lost a promotion/relegation play-off to Racing Santander. Sevilla eventually won promotion to La Primera in 1934, by which time Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán had taken on the role of president and the Copa del Rey was won in 1935, with a 3-0 win over CE Sabadell at the Estadio Chamartin in Madrid. The city of Sevilla fell to the Nationalists at the start of the Civil War and whilst Betis' ground was bombed and rendered unplayable, Sevilla, thanks to a sympathetic board of directors, saw the Estadio Nervion become the administrative HQ of the Nationalists. On 29 April 1938, Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán signed off the purchase of the land on which the Estadio Nervion stood, along with a further 42,000 square meters that surrounded the stadium for a total of 429,000 pesetas. This was to prove to be an astute piece of business as Sevilla would benefit from the sale of plots of this land over the next fifty years.
Memories of the Estadio Nervion 1928-58
The move to the Estadio Nervion brought the best out of Sevilla as a further Copa del Rey was won in 1939 thanks to a comprehensive victory over Racing Ferrol at Montjuic in Barcelona. Some near misses in the league were all but forgotten when on the final day of the 1945-46 season, Sevilla drew 1-1 with Barcelona to pip the Catalans to La Primera title. A further victory in La Copa followed in 1948, when Celta Vigo were beaten 4-1 at Chamartin. The forward thinking Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán did not rest on his laurels however. He recognised that the club would require a larger stadium if they were going to compete and sent a fact-finding delegation to Real Madrid to quiz them about their new stadium. By the mid 1950's the club had amassed a 50 million peseta war chest, specifically set aside for the building of a stadium on the land purchased nearly 20 years earlier. Designed by Manuel Muñoz Monasterio, who had collaborated on the Nuevo Chamartin, work was under way when on 28 October 1956, the club was rocked by the sudden death of president Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Work continued, but progress was hampered by the quality of the subsoil. Over 800 concrete piles had to be sunk before construction of the main body of the stadium could commence, and it soon became obvious that their war chest would only cover a third of the costs. The new stadium opened on 9 September 1958 with a friendly against Real Jaen. Two weeks later, Sevilla played Betis in the first league match at the stadium, which Betis won again, this time by 4 goals to two.
The new stadium in 1959 and all trace of Estadio Nervion has gone.
The new stadium, named Estadio Sánchez Pizjuán in honour of the late president, had become quite literally, a money pit. As a result the original plans were scaled back, leaving a 53,000 capacity stadium instead of the original plans for a 70,000 arena.  On opening, the stadium consisted of a single tier around all four sides and two anfiteatros on either side. In fact it took a further 17 years and 78 million pesetas to complete the upper end terraces and fill in the corners, raising the capacity to 70,000. The cost off the stadium meant that Sevilla could not continue to compete at the very highest level and league form throughout the sixties was distinctly patchy, culminating in relegation to La Segunda in 1968. It was a brief visit and a season later on their return to the top division, Sevilla finished third. This was a temporary peak for by the end of the 1971-72 season the club was back in La Segunda, where they would stay for three seasons. 
The stadium's complete and Sevillistas look forward to mid-table anonymity
Over the next twenty years the club racked up a succession of mid-table finishes, never coming remotely close to winning anything. It has to be said, that for all the passion and grandeur that surrounds both Sevilla and Betis, the return in terms of trophies is pretty paltry. Maybe this parsimonious return has intensified the rivalry, as the Sevilla derby does often have a status that belies the participants actual success. Whilst there have been numerous incidents of bad blood between the factions, there are also many contradictions, including Betis using Sevilla's stadium in 1982 whilst their own ground was redeveloped and Sevilla receiving its only support from Betis when the club was threatened with demotion in 1995. The social lines have also become blurred in recent times. The traditional view was that Sevilla was the club of Nationalist supporting middle classes, whilst Betis had a left-wing, working class following. In truth, you will find supporters of both clubs in every conceivable walk of Sevilla life, even within the same family.
Sevilla show the world what it's got
The next major change to the stadium came in the build up to the 1982 World Cup. The main addition was the erection of a roof over the Tribuna. Whilst simple in design, it is also stunningly elegant, balanced on stilts high above the upper tier of seating. A retaining wall had to be built to support the cantilevered roof and it is on the centre portion of this wall, above the main entrance, that an eye-catching Mosaic stands. Created by local artist and Sevillista, Santiago del Campo, it depicts the club crest and the shields of 60 other clubs who have visited the stadium. New floodlights were also added, but instead of towers, they sit on  gantries around the top of the bowl and along the fascia of the roof. The addition of extra seats and improved media facilities saw the capacity drop to 66,000. Surprisingly, the stadium only hosted two matches at WC'82, the first round clash between Brazil & USSR and the memorable semi-final between Germany & France. Four years later, the instantly forgettable European Cup Final between Barcelona & Steaua Bucharest was played at the stadium. 
Santiago del Campo's amazing Mosaic
Over the past 30 years, very little has changed has so far as the stadium is concerned. The  UEFA all-seater ruling saw the capacity cut initially to 45,000, then drop to 44,000 for Champions League games. Off the pitch, things have been far from sedate as the club has put their fans through the emotional mangle. More mediocrity followed in the 1980's and 1990's, although the club escaped demotion at the eleventh hour in 94-95 when they did not submit accounts to the federation. Relegation to La Segunda followed in 1997 and although they returned to La Primera in 1999, they dropped back to the second division a year later. Then with  strong base of home grown players, Sevilla began to re-establish itself in La Primera. Regular European football was rewarded with back to back UEFA Cup victories in 2006 & 07 and the club made regular appearances in the Champions League. The Copa del Rey was also won in 2007 and again in 2010. All in all, Sevilla  won six trophies in a four year spell, the most productive period in the club's history.
Estadio RSP - One SMF
For all its uniformity and frankly tired demeanour, I still love the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. You see this stadium has an aura about it, that when full, makes it one of Europe's most intimidating arenas. Add to that the sleek lines of the roof and the brilliant contrast between the green of the pitch, the red & white of the seats and the deep azure of the Andalucian sky and you have one sexy stadium. It's not just me and the faithful of Sevilla Fútbol Club who like the stadium, La Selección is also rather found of it, although one suspects that this has more to do with their unbeaten record here, rather than appreciation of its sartorial elegance. 
Is there a better looking stadium than the RSP when the sun shines?
There is no denying the fact that the stadium has seen better days. Like a fading movie star, the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán cannot rely on a soft focus lens to hide the cracks and wrinkles for too much longer. The municipality would like the club or Betis to share the Olimpic stadium, a soulless  white elephant that was built on La Cartuja island at the turn of the century. It may prove to be a short-term option should the club redevelop the current stadium. With little in the way of funds however, selling the land on which the stadium stands may prove to be the most likely outcome, but only once the economy picks up. In the meantime, let's enjoy, no celebrate this fantastic stadium because once it's gone, nobody will  build another like it.
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