I left work in Rabat Friday afternoon to take the train up to Tangier, then across the ferry to Algeciras, spending the night in Algeciras before ride-sharing up to Sevilla with some Andaluces heading up for Semana Santa, which was just about to kick off as I arrived in Sevilla. The city was really buzzing, mostly for Semana Santa, but I like to imagine it was for Sevilla’s match with Deportivo that afternoon.
I snuck in a few tapas and some Cruzcampo along the way, while visiting with some old friends and some new friends…all Sevillistas, of course! When I headed towards the stadium, I started getting worried I wouldn’t get into the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with the banner, as various people noted that they generally don’t let in banners. I crossed my fingers and headed towards the stadium. As I walked in, the security guard looked at me like I was crazy and asked me to open the banner. When I opened the banner, he still looked dubious.
As luck would have it, the Sevilla head of PR, Jesus Gomez, walked out of the Press Room and spotted the banner. Chris had texted with him earlier in the week and warned I was coming (in a good way). Jesus immediately told the security guard to let me through and proceeded to come over and shake my hand. I had barely rolled the banner back up when the man I was here to honor, Monchi, literally jetted right past me into the press office. I was ecstatic to see him, but spent the whole pre-match kicking myself that I didn’t yell out at him or somehow get his attention to show him the banner.
Once I got the banner hung up in the stadium, the countless fans that started flowing in all were taking their pictures with the banner, laughing at the name “MonchisMen, hahaha, que bueno!” but to my relief not paying much attention to the not-very-Spanish looking guy with Monchi written on his shirt in permanent marker. Side note, I had written “Monchi in Roma” and crossed out the word Malaysia from my 2014 Sevilla Kit)
The match itself didn’t give me much time to regret missing my photo op with Monchi, as there were 3 goals on the scoreboard by the 10th minute. I’m not much of a tactics wonk, so I won’t dive too far into the match itself, but I can say that Sarabia was back in form playing like a beast and that Correa was leaving it all out on the field like he always does. Vietto won the award for “longest face of a warmer-upper” likely because he knew there was no way he was actually going to go into the game, barring some bizarre sequence of red cards or injuries. Getting the win and being able to yell “gooooooooooool” four times in one match were both a supreme delight.
I was about to rush off to a friend’s place in Nervion after the match when I realized I had bought the wrong size of shirt and had to wait in the 40 minute line in the official stadium store. What a fortunate delay, because as I walked out of the store, I see Monchi walking out of the side entrance of the stadium looking like he was in a hurry. Thankfully a couple fans stopped him while I was furiously ripping open the banner and yelling like a crazy person “Look, Monchi, a cartoon version of you!” I had learned my lesson the first time and wasn’t going to let this opportunity get away from me.
Monchi was within reach, and he thankfully was supremely kind taking a picture as we were holding the Monchi’s Men banner and taking pictures with the throngs of fans who started hurrying over. He even got countless requests to take pictures with Depor fans, which I found a bit odd (and/or tasteless). Anyhow, I was (and still am) over the moon at having gotten to sneak up to Sevilla for the match, at our victory, and at having gotten to meet the Leyenda Sevillista, as the Biris dubbed him in their Tifo outside the stadium on Saturday.
In the end, I spent 28 hours travelling up to Sevilla and back to Rabat (where I was on a work trip for part of April), and spent only 16 waking hours in Sevilla, but it was ABSOLUTELY worth it. Vamos mi Sevilla, Vamos Campeon! I’ll save the sappy goodbyes for others, but you’ll always be Sevilla FC’s patron saint, and a huge piece of Sevilla history. Gracias, Monchi, gracias!