Joaquin Q&A: The Seville derby is special, it's contagious and you can feel it

The National spoke to the legendary Real Betis and former Spain winger, 37, ahead of Sunday’s Seville derby

epa06209090 Real Betis' midfielder Joaquin Sanchez (L) celebrates with Sergio Leon (R) after scoring his second goal against Deportivo Coruna during the Spanish Liga Primera Division soccer match played at Benito Villamarin stadium, in Sevilla, southern Spain, 16 September 2017.  EPA/Jose Manuel Vidal
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How does last season’s 5-3 win at Sevilla rank among your career highlights?

I’ve had marvellous memories, winning the cup [in 2005] was a beautiful one, but the best recent game was beating Sevilla because it was in their place and how it was celebrated [Joaquin told his teammates they had to stay out celebrating until at least 5am, one hour for each goal]. That came after so many years without winning it.

Why is the Seville derby so intense?

It’s not just because two teams play from same city, it’s the way the fans have lived the rivalry, the way the fans identify with the clubs. You go on the street and see everyone talking about it, it's contagious and you can feel it.

The Seville people are the main reason for this. Weeks before the game people start talking to you about it on the street, saying the derby is coming soon, how excited they are and you have to win.

For the people of Seville it's one of the most important events of the year. We always say ‘Well it’s three points, it’s another game,’ but if you win it can launch you.

You’re seen as a joker. Describe your character.

I’ve always been the same way but now with social media people can see your personality much more. My attitude off the pitch has helped me a lot, it doesn’t mean I am any less professional but it means I enjoy myself as much as possible, even if I may have said something people don’t like.

What are your hopes for the future for Betis? They have risen from finishing 15th two years ago to sixth last season?

Last season was a turning point. We had an important change in the philosophy [under attack minded new manager Quique Setien] and the year as a whole was great. We started just wanting to have a great year, but we never thought about getting into Europe.

The team was always tight, but we became more united as the year went on and we enjoyed playing this way more. Finishing the season in the European places was a great thing. The secret is to come to work every day try to grow every day. When individuals grow, the collective grows.

Betis were the fourth best-supported team in Spain last year with an average crowd of 47,000. Why?

That is how Betis demonstrate how important Betis is. There have been so many years without winning the league, but they are still the best supporters in Spain. Every year they prove that.

Fortunately in the last few years we are improving and starting to compete for trophies and I hope we can make that a reality soon.


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What does Betis mean to you?

Betis is my life. My first time with them [2000-2005] was the best time of my life for what I achieved and how much I enjoyed it. When I left I always had the intention to come back. But when I left [for Valencia, Malaga and Fiorentina] I didn’t stop being Joaquin of Betis, that’s how everyone knew me.

It’s where I grew up. I feel I identify in every sense with this club and I hope I can keep enjoying myself on the pitch. I don’t have much time left, but Betis will always be in my heart whether I'm playing or not.

At 37 you're one of the team's elder statesmen. Ryan Giggs did yoga to extend his career. What’s your secret?

It's true that yoga can help. In the last few years I've been doing hot yoga at 40 degrees. It helps because at the age of 37 the electricity you have is not the same at 20. You lose flexibility and yoga helps. Genes help me too - I never had important injuries and I’ve always tried to improve each year, not miss games when I didn’t need to, staying fit, working, working, working.

It’s important to maintain your excitement, keep improving, stay as mentally and physically as fit as possible. I still get up every day knowing the next game could be the last so you have to make the most of it.