HISTORY | The year we were champions

Stats and details of the league that Betis won in 1935, a deed that is still today the biggest achievement in the Green and White history

 By Alfonso del Castillo

Today marks exactly 85 years since the most epic victory in Real Betis Balompié history. In the Campos de Sport of El Sardinero, in Santander, Betis beat Racing 0-5 and got the two points, even if the team just needed one, to engrave their name in the list of winners of the First Division National League Championship.


It was the seventh edition of the league tournament. Only three teams had won the title previously: Athletic, three times (1930, 1931 and 1934); Madrid, twice (1932 and 1933); and Barcelona, once (1929). The competition was played by 10 teams in its six first editions, expanding to 12 in the 1934/35 season. This meant there were no relegations but two promotions: Sevilla and Athletic de Madrid.


Betis Balompié had been promoted in 1932, which means that was their third season in the top division. Their debut season, in 1933, Betis finished in 5th place, and 4th in 1934, apart for reaching the Cup semi-finals.


Betis was a team in clear sporting, social and economic progression in the first half of the 30s. This growth began in the second half of the 20s, especially when Ignacio Sánchez Mejías became the president in May of 1928.


The season 1934-35 began for Betis on the 27th of August of 1934 with a training session at Patronato Field on a Monday. Back then, teams usually trained and played on the same ground. It was August in Seville, so the training sessions usually took place early in the morning.


Six days later after the start of the preseason, the first game was played at home. It was a friendly match against a selection of players of Sevilla and Betis and that was a tribute to two Green and White veterans: goalkeeper Jesús Bernáldez, nicknamed "Hard Hands", and striker Enrique Garrido. The players wore a black bracelet for the passing of Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. Apart from being the president, Sánchez Mejías was a bullfighter and had been deadly gored in mid-august in Madrid.


Another friendly was Schedule for the following Sunday, in Malaga this time against Malacitano. In these two matches, O'Connell used the same core of the team of the previous year, with some adjustments due to the departure to Oviedo of Enrique Soladrero. Rufino Larrinoa took his place, while youth player Aurelio Navarro and Simón Lecue were tested on the left wing.


On the 16th of September, the first official competition began: The Campeonato Mancomunado. In this tournament, teams from the southern and the Valencia federations faced each other, and it decided which teams would participate in the Cup tournament.


The performance from Betis in this trophy was disappointing: fifth in a group of six teams, with 4 wins, 1 draw and 5 losses. The team finished behind Levante, Sevilla, Hercules and Valencia, only ahead of Murcia. In the 10 games played, the team conceded 14 goals, an average of 1.4 goals per game, a surprising data if we take a look to what happened afterwards.

This bad performance had consequences: the first is that once the league finished and the Cup started, Betis would have to play to previous rounds to qualify.


The second is that the team had not found yet a substitute for Soladrero. Different combinations were tried in the midfield, with known players on trial such as Baragaño, Aranaz or Arocha; youngsters like Aurelio or veterans like Adolfito, but none of the options were good enough for the gaffer.


In the week before the beginning of LaLiga, Betis get the opportunity to sign Francisco Gómez, a 26 year old footballer who had outstood at Castellón but had failed in the two teams from Madrid. He had no team. It was a controversial move, as a few days after signing for Betis, Gómez is selected in the eleven to play against Madrid. A match in which all the odds were against the Green and Whites.


That is the third consequence of the poor performance in the Campeonato Mancomunado. For the specialised press, the contenders for the title were Madrid, Athletic and Barcelona. The mid-table teams are Oviedo, Valencia, Español, Athletic de Madrid and Sevilla. And the ones who would fight to avoid the two relegation spots are Arenas, Betis, Donostia and Racing.


The key to success


The rest is LaLiga history: Betis surprisingly won at Chamartín; they beat Barcelona a week later in Patronato Field; and in the third match the won at Ibaiondo against Arenas. They reached this way the first position of the table on the 16th of December, a place the team did not leave for the rest of the season on the 28th of April of 1935.


They key to that astonishing performance is, without a doubt, the Green and White defence. The keeper Urquiaga and the centre-backs Areso and Aedo, with the help of defensive midfielder Gómez, only conceded 19 goals in 22 league games. 0.86 goals per game, one of the lowest in the history of the competition. And all of it in a time when the goal-average was pretty high: 4.10 goals per game was the average for that season. Joaquín Urquiaga is the goalkeeper with fewer goals conceded, but there was no trophy yet for this kind of achievements.


Patrick O´Connell used a quite short squad: 15 players, but 12 played 95 of the games: Aedo and Peral played the 22 matches; Lecue, Saro, Unamuno and Urquiaga, 21; Areso and Gómez, 20; Adolfo, 18; Timimi, 17; Larrinoa, 14; Caballero, 13; Rancel, 9; Valera, 2; and Espinosa, 1.


Victorio Unamuno, with 13 goals, was the Green and White top scorer. Then Lecue, with 10, Timimi 7, Adolfo and Rancel 5, and Caballero 3. The top scorer of that league was the Oviedo player Isidro Lángara, probably the best Spanish striker of all time, with 27 goals.


Betis played all the games with their regular kit: green and white shirt, white trunks and black socks. Except one, the one against Donostia at home on the 30th of December of 1934. Due to the similitude between both kits, Betis played with green shirt and trunks, as back then the home was the one that used to change colours when the kits were similar.


Of all the playing grounds of that season, only one still lives: Mestalla in Valencia. All the rest have disappeared: Patronato and Nervión in Seville; Chamartín and Metropolitano in Madrid; Las Corts and Sarriá in Barcelona; San Mamés in Bilbao; Ibaiondo in Getxo; Atocha in San Sebastian; and El Sardinero in Santander.


All the trips that Betis made that year were in The Green Arrow, the iconic coach that belonged to the club. Usually, the team used to begin the trip on a Friday if they had to play in fields from the north or Catalonia and on Saturday if they had to play in Madrid or Valencia. In the first case, the trips used to be made in two days, with a night stop in a town halfway. Betis had to play two consecutive matches away, Match 15 and 16, in Valencia and San Sebastian. The team went from one city to the other, staying in Ordizia, the hometown of Pedro Areso.


As an anecdote, defenders Pedro Areso and Serafín Aedo used the plane once to return from Madrid after a friendly game played by the Spanish national team against France on the 24th of January. The returned to Seville in the courier plane that used to link both cities.



And this is the summary of the 1934/1035 season for Betis Balompié. The most glorious in the Club's history.