On a warm, spring Saturday afternoon in southern Spain, Sevilla FC fans formed long queues at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, each eagerly awaiting the opportunity to have their photograph taken with the UEFA Europa League trophy.
The famous cup finally rested still inside the stadium's puerta de cristales following a frenetic few days when it was paraded through the streets of Seville and passed proudly through the hands of city dignitaries. The Avenida de la Constitución was awash with red and white on Thursday after Sevilla's successful return from Turin where they had beaten SL Benfica on penalties to claim the trophy for a third time in eight years.
"You went to Turin with a task: to bring home this cup, which we now believe to be ours," the city's mayor, Juan Ignacio Zoido, told Unai Emery's squad during the festivities. A Sevilla fan, Zoido added, "[We] are blessed and that blessing comes in the form of the 11 players who defend the team's colours. You have been ambassadors for our city. I am told that some 174 million people watched the final; you have carried the name of Seville across Europe."
The players offered the UEFA Europa League trophy to the fans, who were giddily offering thumbs-up gestures and smiling broadly alongside it this weekend. "Congratulations to all of you who supported us, because without you we could do nothing," captain Ivan Rakitić said. "All of my team-mates put in an incredible effort and I would also like to thank them along with the technical staff, [sporting director Ramón Rodríguez] 'Monchi' and our president."
Speaking at the Andalusia district council, club president José Castro was bursting with pride at his team's achievement. "We are delighted to have once again shown that Sevilla FC is a point of reference for all of Andalusia," he said. "Few other institutions have made such an international mark on our lands, with four European titles in the last nine years. We are most proud of having fulfilled the dreams of thousands of Andalusian people." Looking ahead to the club's next European date – the UEFA Super Cup – Castro said, "On 12 August in Cardiff, we will have another opportunity to represent Andalusia."
For his part, coach Emery spoke of the "energy and passion," of the supporters infecting his squad, who added the UEFA Europa League trophy to the 2006 UEFA Super Cup and the back-to-back UEFA Cup successes in 2006 and 2007. "There are the memories of how the fans felt in those moments of exaltation," the 42-year-old said. "Sevillistas felt that some years back and, following a period when those feelings were somewhat lost, they have now returned. Although we are all professionals, we too are also fans and these are moments that will stay with us forever."
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