Sevilla-Betis tuned down but silence can still be beautiful

Half an hour before kick off in the Seville derby on Thursday night, Sevilla and Betis presidents José Castro Carmona and Ángel Haro had a chat, leaning on a hoarding and both sporting coronavirus-imposed face masks in their respective club colours. In the background, nothing. It was a curious scene to reinitiate the Liga campaign in a game that is usually so raucous. More raucous than any other in the division, in my opinion. Seville is a city twinned with itself, with two patron saints, San Leandro and San Isidoro, two martyrs, Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, two virgins both called Esperanza, the Trianera and the Macarena and it could even be said two separate cities within the the city, the neighbourhood of Triana and Seville itself. This duality explains the special relationship and rivalry between Sevilla and Betis.

As such, the Seville derby is a game in which the absence of fans rings louder than any other, or at least that is the case in Spain. But it is what it is and I would like to take the opportunity to say that unlike LaLiga chief Javier Tebas I am not in any rush to see spectators back in stadiums. I would prefer we wait until a Covid-19 vaccine is widely available or until the authorities are assured that we have definitively beaten the coronavirus. Until then, I have little faith. Even if the grounds are only at 30 percent capacity that is still thousands of people, getting to the stadium in buses, on the metro, stopping and congregating at bars before and after the game. To me it seems like an unnecessary risk. We have been getting used to the idea of not going to games for some time and there is little point in rocking the boat for the sake of it now.

A Seville derby in "beautiful silence"

On Thursday we were present at a derby played out in “beautiful silence,” which allowed us to hear the cheeping of swifts in the stadium punctuated by the thud of the ball and the occasional shout. There was no noise but there was a derby and it served to underscore the difference between both sides at this stage of the interrupted season. Sevilla have come out of quarantine firing, they were the better side, they created more chances from the flanks through the duos of Navas-Ocampos and Reguilón-Munir and they were worthy victors, albeit with the aid of a rather harsh penalty that gave them the lead. Betis game Sevilla a helping hand: they were soft at the back and lacked an edge in attack. When Joaquín, who I have missed, took to the pitch the score was already 2-0. But just seeing him for a few minutes was worth it.