Diary of a first European away day: Real Betis in sunny Seville

Jonathan Kahn explains his first Euro away before flying back to the same Spanish city for Manchester United’s Europa League quarter-final against Seville.

When I asked my bosses when was best for me to use my final week of holiday, I didn’t expect it to turn into the adventure it did, but some things are just meant to be.

A quick check of the fixtures whilst I was off showed United were due in Seville for the second leg of the Europa League last 16 against Real Betis. That would be great I told myself, but I have no credits. Luckily for me many of the regulars suffered from Spanish burnout and tickets were available for all. With the help of a couple of friends everything was sorted within an hour, though the prospect of two seven hour overnight layovers in Madrid was daunting (anyone who has been to Madrid airport will confirm how utterly awful it is).

The odyssey began at lunchtime the day before the game as myself and my travelling companion, Josh boarded a train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. With a tube strike causing chaos it was a trip on Thames Link and the Elizabeth line to get ourselves to Heathrow Airport (I must say I love that Heathrow has plug sockets and USB sockets in the seats in departures, I’ve not seen that anywhere else.) After a short hop to Madrid the adventure was about to begin.

We landed to the news that Real Madrid had put pay to the much media-hyped Liverpool comeback story with a 1-0 win at home. When you’ve got 7 hours to kill in Madrid and Real have just knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League? Why not take a trip to the Bernebau of course. Soak in what’s left of the atmosphere, say thank you, greet the fans, take some pictures before you head back for the night.

On the trip I also discovered my phone had failed to switch over to Spain and nothing I did got it working. With lines closed there was nothing I could do until arrival in Seville, but at least there was Wi-Fi.

Whilst waiting in Madrid airport domestic terminal to be able to go through, Josh encountered a United fan who had run into some bother. Having spent the night in Madrid, he arrived at the airport telling us that on the metro during the day, his wallet was stolen, leaving him totally stranded. Josh sorted him out with some cash and eventually we made out way to the only thing is the entire terminal that was open, McDonald’s, where they at least had plug sockets so we could keep our phones charged through the night and our fellow who joined us had managed to get his account transferred to Apple-pay so treated us to a cup of tea to say thank you as we made our way to the departure gate, having managed to grab maybe half an hour of sleep in the airport.

We finally landed in Seville early on the day of the game and from the airport it was straight to pick up our tickets then to the hotel, which was an adventure in itself as instead of being in Seville it was in the small town of Benacazon, about an hour outside of Seville, not exactly ideal, though it was a very nice hotel. After checking in, it was time to find out how to get to Seville. We ended up taking a 20 minute walk to a train station, where we managed to miss the train, meaning an hour wait for the next one, and an hour or so journey in. The bus was generally not much better, yes this place was remote.

We eventually made it into the city and given we were there for a days we made our first trip to go and get tourist passes that allowed us free travel on all the buses and trams around the city. We had made arrangements to meet some fellow Reds who travelled over from Israel, so we headed there before a quick stop to try and charge phones before heading to the stadium.

As with most United aways, where your seat actually was didn’t matter too much — just stand anywhere — so I found myself with a group who made the short hop from Gibraltar. But the more interesting story came post-game. Whilst waiting to be let out of the stadium we found ourselves talking a group who really did have an adventure. They initially intended to fly from Manchester to Milan, the onto Bologna and finally onto Seville. But nothing ever goes as planned. Having arrived in Milan, the flight to Bologna was cancelled they ended hiring a car to make the drive instead . The lengths we go to to follow the Reds. After the game it was make sure we make the last bus back to Benacazon for the hour journey back, then it was time to finally get some sleep.

The next day it was off to explore Seville. This time, there was no walk to the train and, for some reason the bus ride was 25 minutes (maybe it’s after a certain time it gets longer). The first stop was the old town to check out the Cathedral, the Gardens and the surrounding area before a visit to a place I remembered from 10 years previous, Plaza De Espana. Whilst there it was time for the draw for quarter finals, where of course we drew Sevilla, because who else would it be. So the only proper thing to do was to pay a visit (maybe not for the last time) to Estadio Sanchez Ramon Pizquan to get in the mood. After a quick lunch Josh had said he wanted to take a boat tour of Seville so hopped on board one of the best ways to see some of the city’s hidden gems, if you find yourself with an hour to kill before the next round, I highly recommend doing this.

During our walk through the town the day before I had noticed a sign for an aquarium and we’d seen part of it on our boat trip so our final stop of the trip was to pay a visit. The place is vast and filled with all kinds of scary and exotic creatures including a great Anaconda and a Great White Shark and my personal favourite. The Chocolate Chip Starfish, it turns out Fred Durst gets his inspiration from many places. Then it was back to the airport for the return journey.

The trip concluded with a train ride back to Manchester before the short trip to Old Trafford to watch United reach the FA Cup semi finals.

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