Seville is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain and is known worldwide for its Feria de Abril (April Fair) and Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations. No visit is complete without taking in the cathedral and its bell tower, nor the Golden Tower or the Plaza de Espana. Also, any self-respecting football fan will have another two essential attractions on their agenda: the Sanchez Pizjuan and Benito Villamarin stadiums.

As part of its regular series on classic clubs, presents the history of Sevilla FC, from its roots in the Nervion district to becoming the seventh best team in the all-time La Liga standings.

Early days
Football arrived in Spain aboard British ships. It reached Seville by the same method of transportation, given that the Guadalquivir river is navigable right up to the city. Both local and foreign employees of the MacAndrews shipping company formed a team in 1890. It was first created as a private cultural and sporting association, and was officially registered according to the regulations in force on 14 October 1905.

However, despite winning several Andalusian championships, the red and whites of Sevilla were not among the teams in the top division when the Spanish league was founded. In fact, they did not gain promotion until 1934/35, the league’s seventh season and the same year that local rivals Betis - in the top flight for two years at that point - were crowned league champions. Nonetheless, Sevilla's victory in the Spanish Cup provided a large measure of consolation.

Passionate support
Sevilla enjoyed a successful spell after the Civil War, winning the league title once and triumphing twice more in the cup. Their run of form continued into the 1950s, when they qualified for the European Cup for the first time. Unfortunately, the club’s most beloved president, Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, did not live to see the achievement after passing away in 1956. Two years later, the stadium in the Nervion district took his name in his honour.

That first international excursion came to an end in the quarter-finals against an Alfredo Di Stefano-inspired Real Madrid, who were later crowned champions. Domestically, things did not run so smoothly and their efforts in Europe almost led to them being relegated.

The 1960s were plagued by economic problems caused by the construction of the stadium, which consequently forced the club to sell key players. Inevitably, performances on the pitch suffered too and after 31 years in the top flight, Sevilla dropped down a division. Nevertheless, they bounced back the following year and celebrated their return by deservedly finishing third in 1970.

Three years later, Alhaji Momodo Njie became the club's first ever black player and went on to become a cult figure. Able to score the most spectacular goals as well as spurn seemingly simple opportunities, the Gambian was adored by the fans, who dubbed him Biri Biri, contributing to his place as one of the most famous names on the club's roll of honours.

Sevilla's fans are renowned for their passion, commitment and vigour and are without doubt among the most charismatic in the country. Yet they have an afflicted history, created by the premature deaths of several of the club's most beloved players over the years.

The first case was Enrique Gomez Munoz, commonly known as Spencer, who died aged 28 following complications after a routine appendicitis operation in 1926. Years later, Pedro Berruezo died after suffering a heart attack during a match against Pontevedra in 1973.

More recently, the same ailment robbed the club of one of its most promising youngsters in Antonio Puerta in 2007. During a league fixture, cardio-respiratory failures caused the 23-year-old to pass out several times on the pitch at the Sanchez Pizjuan. He died days later in hospital, his passing having such a profound effect on the supporters that they pay homage to him in the 16th minute of every game, in memory of the shirt number he wore.

Present day
The turn of the millennium brought with it a new golden era for the club. Under the guidance of coach Juande Ramos and with figures such as Luis Fabiano and Frederic Kanoute in the line-up, success was never far away. Domestic triumphs in the Spanish Supercup and Copa del Rey were consolidated on the international scene with two UEFA Cup titles as well as victory in the European Supercup.

Furthermore, economic improvements were made thanks in large part to the recruitment policy of former goalkeeper-turned sporting director Monchi. His premise was simple: buy cheaply or promote from the youth team, develop players well and then sell them on at high price. Sergio Ramos and the Brazilians Adriano, Julio Baptista and Dani Alves, among others, are the most notable examples of the success of his strategy.

However, in football nothing is eternal and in the last years, the club has suffered a sportive and economical crisis which they are trying to beat in order to come back to the success.

The stadium
The 45,000 capacity Sanchez Pizjuan arena has more character than most. What is more, it hosted several games during the 1982 FIFA World Cup™, the most memorable of which was the semi-final between the former West Germany and France.

If that dramatic exit left the French with a sour taste, Barcelona's memories of playing there are equally bitter after dramatically losing their first European Cup final to Steaua Bucharest on penalties in 1986.

Yet the stadium houses plenty of happy recollections for the Spanish national side, with the dedicated, noisy and passionate Seville crowd urging La Roja to victory in crucial encounters. Chief among them was the tie against Denmark in 1993, where Spain ended a nervy qualifying campaign by reaching the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA. Of the 22 matches the Iberians have contested on Sevilla's turf, they have recorded 19 victories and no defeats.