Ever since David Beckham signed for Real Madrid, there has been a proliferation of English language coverage of on Spanish football. As well as podcasts and newspaper articles, there have been some great books., the majority focus on Barcelona and Real Madrid.
However, for those interested in Spanish football outside of El Classico, there a few gems. I reviewed Euan McTear’s excellent ‘Hijacking LaLiga’ here and he has also written a great book on Eibar. Colin Millar has now done the same for football in Seville with a comprehensive, and very enjoyable, account of the history of Sevilla and Real Betis.
The Frying Pan of Spain traces the origins, history, key personality and modern development of both football clubs. In doing so, it also tells the story of the city and its evolving place in Spanish life.
Millar clearly has a deep love for the city and for Spain. The opening few chapters of the book provide an excellent scene setter – for both football and life in the city of Seville and also in Spain more generally. He frequently quotes Phil Ball’s excellent book ‘Morbo’ which so brilliantly captures the unique rivalries of the Spanish game and is probably my favourite book on Spanish football. The opening chapters are a great primer before the book heads back in time to trace the often-disputed origins of both teams.
Millar highlights that the rivalry between the two clubs isn’t ideological in the way some rivalries are, like that between Barca-Real Madrid. Instead, it’s an intra-city rivalry more akin to a Liverpool v Everton. The dual-biography nature of the book works quite well. It is fascinating how often the fortunes of the clubs rose and fell in contrast to the other.
I have to admit, as a kid, I disliked all clubs with ‘Real’ in their title – part love of Barcelona, part my natural Irish anti-Monarchist tendencies. However, when Real Betis signed Denilson for a world record fee in 1998. I couldn’t get enough of his step-overs and have had a soft spot for Betis every since. So I was pretty happy to learn the ‘Real’ title was never really seen as a sign of particular monarchist tendencies!
It’s a relatively long book, but a very easy read. Full of fascinating insights into the city – its politics, its people and its football – it’s a book that is a very welcome addition to the growing library of great English language books on Spanish football.