Real Betis team at National Stadium in Chile. From left to right, standing: Dctor Ángel Formoso, Esnaola, Bizcocho, Biosca, Ortega, Peruena, Gordillo; below: Morán, Segundo, Cardeñosa, Parra and Alex.

HISTORY / The first time Betis travel across the Atlantic

In May of 1981, the Green and White team made a tour through South America and played five matches in Paraguay, Chile, Ecuador and Peru

By Manolo Rodríguez

The first time Real Betis travelled crossed the Atlantic Ocean was at the end of the 1980/81 season. That year, the Green and Whites finished the league in sixth position and were quite regular, achieving 40 points with 17 victories. That was the Club's first international experience outside Europe after the tours made in 1925 in Germany and 1964 in Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

This remembered trip took place at the end of May of 1981 after a long planification that took months. At first, it looked like the team would travel to New York to pay Cosmos a visit back (the American team had played in Heliópolis in November of 1980 to present the refurbishment the Stadium for the 1982 World Cup). Then, the plan was to travel to Argentina to play against the top teams from Buenos Aires.

However, the final proposal, made by agent Fernando Toral and approved by the directors at the Club, included just five matches in Paraguay, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

The expedition departed from San Pablo airport on Thursday the 30th of April, with 177 players; coach Luis Carriega; two directors; one physio; one kitman; and the team doctor. The main novelty was the inclusion of Academy player Prieto and the absences of López, injured, and Benítez, who was rumoured to leave the club.

Also, Carlos Diarte, the best Paraguayan player of that time, travelled with the team but to join his national team. He was welcomed like a hero. So much that the government of the country gave him as a present a quite expensive car.

After a flight that to make a stop at Rio de Janeiro (where the team visited the Corcovado Mountain), the Green and Whites landed in Paraguay, where they played the first match of the tour on the 3rd of May at Defensores del Chaco Stadium in Asunción. Diarte didn't play and the locals won 2-0 with goals from Aquino and Díaz. The first eleven for Betis was: Esnaola, Bizcocho, Alex, Peruena, Gordillo, Ortega, Parra, Cardeñosa, Casado, Morán (Tello), Segundo.  

On the 7th of May, Betis played at the National Stadium in Santiago against Chile national team. Another defeat, this time 2-1, with a goal from Parra for the Green and Whites. Biosca was sent off after a small row with a young player called Patricio Yáñez, who years later would play for Betis. In fact, Yáñez opened the score and Castec closed it.

Anyhow, the main news in Santiago those days was the detention in Chile of two Argentinian soldiers accused of being spies. The borders were closed, tension escalated quickly and again the dispute over the Beagle Channel between the countries started.

Frightened for these events, the Green and White expedition travelled to Ecuador, where they beat the Ecuadorian national team 3-1 at Guayaquil National Stadium on Thursday the 10th of May. The goals came from Segundo, Parra and Morán, and the line-up was: Esnaola, Bizcocho, Alex, Peruena (Francis), Gordillo (Gerardo), Ortega, Parra, Cardeñosa, Casado, Morán, Segundo (Tello).

The next match occurred in the same venue on the 13th of May, where the team lost 1-0 to Barcelona de Guayaquil in an abrupt match. So much that the Ecuadorian referee Donato González sent off Bizcocho, Tello, Alex and Biosca. The local police even threatened to arrest Bizcocho and Tello, and the Spanish consulate in Guayaquil had to mediate, as the team had everything ready to leave the city just after the match.

That day, Gordillo and Morán were not with his teammates, as they had left the expedition to join the national team, that had to play a match at Santiago Bernabéu. One month later, both returned to South America with the national team to make a tour to prepare the 1982 World Cup.

The best match that Real Betis played in America was the last one, on Sunday the 17th of May of 1981 at the National Stadium in Lima. The team beat Peru national team 3-1, a side that months later qualified for the World Cup.

The Peruvian spectators were impresses by the exceptional football that the Green and Whites displayed and praised, more precisely, the quality of the number 10, Cardeñosa, whom was nicknames by the press of the country as "the Spanish Maradona".

The line-ups were as follow:

Peru National Team: Acazuzo, Duarte, Díaz (Malasquez), Chumpitaz, Gutiérrez, Reyna, Olaechea, Caballero (Navarro), Seminario, Uribe, Correa.

Real Betis: Esnaola, Bizcocho, Alex, Peruena, Gerardo, Ortega, Parra, Cardeñosa, Casado (Pozo), Segundo, Tello.

The goals were scored by Segundo, Alex and Cardeñosa, while Uribe scored for the Peruvians.

It was the final episode, although Betis was offered to play more matches in Peru, but the players were exhausted. Finally, on Wednesday the 20th of May, the team returned to Seville. The Club earned a bit more than one million pesetas per match and, additionally, 100,000 pesetas for each player.

The first American tour was a success.