Seville derby win can transform the season, admits Betis' Joaquin
When Betis finally snapped a six-year winless spell in the league against city rivals Sevilla in January with a 5-3 away win, there was only one thing on veteran midfielder Joaquin's mind: celebrating in style.
"Tonight no-one can rest and no-one should be drinking Nestea. Anyone who gets home before five in the morning should be fined," said the 37-year-old Spaniard, who is known as much for his lively personality as his ability as a player.
His words encapsulated the passion of one of Spanish football's fiercest rivalries, known locally as El Gran Derbi (The Big Derby) and which will bring the city of Seville to a standstill on Sunday when Betis host Sevilla in La Liga.
"For the people of Seville the derby is one of the most important events of the year," Joaquin told reporters in a conference call.
"Weeks before the game people start talking to you about it on the street, telling you how excited they are about it and how you have to win. The feeling between the two sets of fans is indescribable, you really have to experience it first-hand to understand it."
Former Sevilla defender Julien Escude once described going to play at Betis as like going to war and tensions have often flared when the two teams meet, most famously in 2007 when then Sevilla coach Juande Ramos was knocked unconscious by a bottle thrown from the crowd.
Betis supporters showed solidarity with their rivals, however, after Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta died following a cardiac arrest in August 2007. They displayed a mosaic in tribute to the player in their first game after his death and joined Sevilla fans in a memorial at the derby.
Betis endured their own tragedy when their player Miki Roque died of cancer aged 23 in 2012.
"Fortunately, the game is usually played with sportsmanship these days even though the feelings between the two fans are still very strong," said Joaquin.
"Some people will roll out the same cliches and say it's just another game or it's only worth three points, but that's not true. A win can give you a huge morale boost and transform your season."
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