A Different View of the Sanchez-Pizjuan

SEVILLA’S Ramon Sánchez-Pizjuan stadium is usually packed to the rafters with some of Spanish football’s most passionate fans, cheering on their team as they push for domestic and European glory. But in January I got to experience the ground in a very different situation, as I attended Sevilla Atletico vs Real Oviedo in a Segunda Division match.

Sevilla Atletico are Sevilla’s B team and won promotion to La Segunda at the end of last season and as a result have been playing their home games at the main club’s stadium. They are currently the only B team in the second tier, thus rubbing shoulders with some of Spanish football’s big names who have fallen on hard times. One of these is Real Oviedo. I last mentioned them when I was writing about Compostela’s San Lazaro ground, as I was at the match where they won their Segunda B group on the path to promotion in 2015. Having bought shares to help the club in 2012 when they were on the verge of going out of business, I’m quite proud that since coming to Spain in 2013, I’ve managed to see one Oviedo game every season.

Tickets were only €5 (and also buy one, get one free) and this brought out a decent crowd of home fans, along with a significant support from the visitors. I met and spoke to fans from Oviedo itself, but also ones who have been living in places such as Seville, Málaga, and Granada for years, for whom this represented a great chance to cheer on their team in person without having to travel the length of Spain for the privilege.

All the fans were housed together in the lower deck of the preferencia, which gave the game a somewhat eerie feeling, being played out in a stadium where empty red seats outnumbered fans by more than 3-1. The game provided plenty to incident, although for a long time it looked like being a routine win for Sevilla Atletico, who raced into a 3-0 lead by the break. It was hard to believe that Fernando Hierro, such a great defender in his playing days with Real Madrid and Spain, could have coached a team to defend so poorly. A 75th minute penalty from Toché offered Oviedo a glimmer of hope, but this was swiftly shut down with two goals in five minutes from the hosts. Game over, or was it? First Toché and then Linares reduced the deficit to 5-3 and Oviedo began dreaming of an improbable comeback, which despite a few chances, sadly didn’t materialise.

Maybe I should go to more games in La Segunda, between this, my September trip to Córdoba and my pre-Christmas game in Vallecas, I’ve seen 16 goals over three games. It definitely deserves its reputation as one of the most unpredictable leagues in football!

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