There are some occasions in football when it is possible to ascertain when a group of supporters has just endured their worst ever moment as a spectator. More often than not, these moments occur in matches against their most hated rivals.
Yes, no Manchester United fan would have enjoyed watching their side lose 3-0 at home, but to witness such a defeat against a resurgent Liverpool, well, that is going to hurt a lot. Similarly, Fiorentina supporters would have suffered acutely on Thursday night after they were knocked out of the Europa League by despised rivals Juventus.
No prizes for guessing where the most pain was endured on the evening, though. In the city of Sevilla where Real Betis were defending a 2-0 lead against neighbours Sevilla, with a place in the Europa League quarter-final at stake.
The deficit was overturned at Bentio Vilmarin on Thursday, with Sevilla winning 2-0 and eventually progressing in the cruellest fashion – via a penalty shootout. More salt for that gaping wound.
Real Betis Coach Gabriel Calderon has offered his sympathy to the team’s supporters after the defeat.
“I’m sorry for the fans, they deserved the joy of winning,” the Argentine began.
“In the first half the team was stuck and didn’t do the things they normally do.
“We allowed Sevilla to score a deserved goal.
“In the second we were more like ourselves but they scored with the only opening they had.
“Then we went to penalties and the rest is history.
“We suffered three injuries…everything is happening to make sure we continue to suffer.
“I have no more words. I congratulate the players. In the first half we were unable to do what we do so well.
“We’ll see how the team is physically and psychologically after this.”
Devastated on both counts, one would imagine. For this, notwithstanding the global appeal of the clasico, is as fierce a rivalry as one can find in Spain.
Even the New York Times, not normally given to eulogising about European football, once devoted an article to the frenzied passion generated by the Andalucian skirmish.
There have been reports, subsequently confirmed that the celebrating Sevilla players trashed their dressing room after the game. Here are the photos to prove it. Classy.
I came across a blog written by a Betis fan who attempted to rationalise what happened.
Of Thursday’s shootout defeat to Sevilla, he was commendably philosophical.
The way I try to look at penalties, philosophically speaking, is that if your team has to take them it means they’ve already lost, in not having beaten the opposition when they had the chance. OK, so there’s a sneaky back door into the next round, but it’s nothing to be particularly proud of.