Too often when someone talks about La Liga, we only hear about the Madrid sides or Barcelona. Very rarely does a club like Real Betis get any mention unless they have a good run, or some players attract attention from elite clubs in Europe. To be fair to those people, Real Betis has been a mid-table to relegation side for most of its existence. There are however some era’s in the club’s history that stand out from the rest.
Anyone who has read “Into the Frying Pan of Spain”, by Colin Millar, has learned how the city of Seville, has a local derby between Sevilla and Betis. Without giving away the story of the book, the story of the Betis’ good times is always fun.
Betis had a rough start to their life, as they were formed as a splinter from the oldest club in the region, Sevilla FC. They started out as Beits Football Club, but later merged with Sevilla Balompie to become Betis Balompie. Betis received their royal patronage in 1914 to finally settle on their name – Real Betis Balompie. One of their best managers was the legendary Patrick O’Connell, his first stop before later saving Barcelona from extinction. As mentioned above, this is during the Spanish Civil War, all royal patronage was outlawed so Betis renamed themselves Betis Balompie. 1934-35 would be the one and only La Liga they captured, pipping Madrid FC to the title by a single point – another club that had to give up its royal patronage.
This would be the last, and only title the club would ever win. Over the next season, Betis would drop to seventh place, and the Civil War would start, cancelling football in the country for the next four years. When the sport returned, Betis were relegated. They continued to drift mainly between the second and third division for the next 18 seasons before regaining their status in Spain’s top tier.
Finally, in the late 1970s, there was another golden period. This time, Betis won the Copa Del Rey of 1977 in the Vicente Calderon against Athletic Bilbao. Athletic Club is the big club of the competition, up until recently they had the most Copa Del Rey wins. It’s since been surpassed by Barcelona. The match went to penalties after a 2-2 during regular time, for Betis both goals were scored by Francisco Lopez. The match was decided after ten penalties as Betis won 8-7.
Unlike now where it’s easier for clubs to get into European competitions, back in the seventies you had to win a cup or a league to get into Europe. This propelled them into the European Cup Winners Cup. It was a great run for the club, as they took out Milan in the first round, before getting knocked out of the quarterfinals by Dynamo Moscow. Unfortunately, their league form dipped drastically and they were once again relegated from La Liga.
This ushered in a period of problems, both on and off the pitch. The club went through a heap of players and coaches to achieve success. That was of no help as the club were going through a financial crisis. They did however jump back up into La Liga and had some enjoyable years in the middle part of the 1980s.
The next best period was ten years later in the mid-nineties. Lorenzo Serra Ferrer took the club back up from the Segunda, and managed them to third in the La Liga in 1994-95, which got them into the UEFA Cup. Then three years later, he led them to another Copa Del Rey, which they ended up losing to Barcelona 3-2. Ferrer was soon hired as the manager for Barcelona, and Betis went through another era of instability with controversial managers and relegations.
The good times came back as Ferrer returned from Barcelona to steady the ship. Starting back in 2004, he worked his magic again getting the club up to fourth place, becoming the first club from their region to make the Champions League. However, Ferrer did one better winning the Copa Del Rey in 2005 against Osasuna. This time around, Betis didn’t need penalties to win and took care of it in regular time as they won 2-1 with late goals from Ricardo Oliveira and Dani sealing a historic second trophy.
Recently they’ve been a yo-yo club, but have provided some great wins and entertainment in the league. For all those people who want to watch a fan club, but not become a glory hunter Betis may be one of those clubs. Of course, a new supporter of the club could be considered a hipster.