Adrian Rutherford meets local supporters who have made trip to Spanish city for the big match
Up to 100,000 Rangers fans are turning Seville into a sea of blue ahead of tonight’s Europa League final.
Supporters have gathered in the city in huge numbers for the match — Rangers’ biggest since the 2008 Uefa Cup final, which they lost to Zenit St Petersburg.
They face German side Eintracht Frankfurt, aiming for a first European trophy in 50 years.
Fans have spent a fortune to travel, involving multiple journeys by plane and train, even though most have been unable to secure tickets for the game.
In every street and corner, blue jerseys can be seen as fans from across the globe descend on the beautiful Spanish city where the welcome is warm — it has been hitting the mid-30Cs this week.
Among them are Lee Brown from Portstewart and Stuart Aiken from Coleraine, who both live in Glasgow.
They arrived yesterday and were taking in the sights close to the city’s famous cathedral on a hot afternoon.
Stuart explained: “We drove down to Liverpool, flew from there to Barcelona, stayed there overnight, and then got a flight to Jerez, then from there to Seville by train.
“It has been a story of trains, planes and automobiles.
“We don’t have tickets, but we’re still hopeful of getting them.”
Lee added: “We couldn’t miss it; the ones who are left at home are regretting it now.
“There was a fan who chartered their own flight from Glasgow to Seville because all the flights were booked up; my boss is coming out on that one later.
“The atmosphere will be amazing. Already you see all the blue tops coming out of the train stations, with fans around all the wee side streets.”
The Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium holds 42,700, with Rangers allocated just under 10,000 tickets.
Fans have been packing out bars in the centre of Seville, Spain’s fourth largest city, set in the Andalusian region, turning its historic centre blue with flags and banners.
Jonny Gill from Ballygowan arrived on Monday via Dublin Airport in his Rangers kit.
He said: “We flew from Dublin — I had all the gear on coming through the airport.
“Six of us came over, only one of us has a ticket, but we are here for the atmosphere, and why not?
“It is 50 years since Rangers won a trophy abroad — Barcelona in 1972.
“We had Manchester in 2008, so in 50 years we have had two European finals. A lot of clubs don’t have to wait as long.
“There are 100,000 fans coming. It is going to be something special.”
Eintracht finished 11th in the Bundesliga, well below Dortmund and Leipzig, who Rangers beat en route to the final.
Yet most bookies have the Germans as favourites to claim their first European trophy since 1980.
Not that Rangers fans care, with most confidently predicting victory for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.
Nathan Rodney from Belfast revealed he had made plans to be in Seville even before the semi-final win.
He explained: “We booked the trip after the Braga game in the quarter-finals. Before we even kicked a ball against Leipzig, we were coming.
“We knew Rangers fans would come in their tens of thousands, so we are here for the experience.
“We’re on the lookout for tickets.
“If we can’t get them then being here is the next best thing.”
For Gers fans without tickets, the match is being shown on a big screen in the 57,000-capacity Estadio La Cartuja Stadium in the north of the city, the venue for Celtic’s 2003 Uefa Cup final defeat against Porto.
Tyran Edgar, Craig Jackson and Jordan Goligher from Artigarvan, Co Tyrone, are planning to watch the match there.
Craig said: “We flew from Dublin straight into Seville. It has been simple enough compared to some fans’ journeys.
“We have tickets for the fan viewing, we couldn’t get tickets for the game.
“There was no way we were going to miss this — 100% we wanted to be here for the party.”
Aside from the 100,000 Rangers fans, police predict around 50,000 Frankfurt fans will be here, with many also travelling without tickets.
Yesterday afternoon a huge security operation was under way in Seville.
Some streets were closed, barriers erected around monuments and a heightened police presence around subway stations and at the city’s main squares.
Last night van Bronckhorst urged the fans to enjoy the occasion — but not leave any negativity behind.
“I think it’s not about the numbers. You can bring 50 people and they can bring chaos,” he said.
“I know we have a lot of people travelling with us and enjoying the final.
“We have to enjoy this occasion. We as managers, players, staff and fans inside and outside the stadium, it’s not often you get to reach a European final.
“It’s not just for Rangers, it’s also for Frankfurt, and we have to enjoy it and make sure we are not causing any problems.
“Let the game decide who wins this game.
“One half of the people will go home really happy and the other half will go home angry, but we should respect the whole city and all the people who have worked so hard to accommodate us.
“Enjoy it and don’t leave anything negative behind.”
David Graham, the former Belfast DUP councillor who is now director of communications at Rangers, said: “It’s worth saying that we are grateful for the engagement with the Spanish police, with the police back in the UK, as well as the Government in the UK.
“We are confident we have done a significant amount of engagement. We had a security team, a football operations team, out here last week.
“We know our fans will get out and make a noise and we know they will behave themselves and represent the club well.”
Seville’s commissioner for citizen security said its police service was prepared for large numbers of fans.
Juan Carlos Castro Estevez said: “I am not worried at all. I believe our teams will be able to counteract any kind of problem that emerges, and obviously there could be some.
“Even if 150,000 fans don’t come — if it’s half that number or less — we will have substantial issues.”
The mayor of Seville told BBC Scotland the city was “completely ready” to welcome the fans.
Antonio Muñoz said he hoped the supporters would enjoy their time in Seville.
He said there would be two “massive screens” for those without match tickets.