This coming Tuesday will see the inclusion of a special detail as Real Betis face off against Malaga in La Liga.
To celebrate the Day of Andalucia – the region of Spain where both teams call home – Betis will wear their traditional green and white colours but with a difference, swapping their striped jerseys for hoops.
Having worked in close conjunction with kit makers Adidas, the ‘verdiblancos’ have another dedication in mind than just that of their region, Celtic.
In what has already proved a popular seller in Spain the side, who currently sit 13th in La Liga, replicate the colours of the Andalucian flag, while, at the same time, tipping their hat off in the direction of Parkhead, the place that gave birth to their mainstay colour choice on their jerseys of green and white.
And to chart the beginnings of the side’s connection to Celtic, we have to go back to the late 19th century, and a young boy called Manuel Ramos Asensio.
Born in the then mining province of Huelva in the south of Spain, a passion for football would see the Spaniard mature into one of the country’s original flag bearers of the beautiful game, in what was back then a sport far removed from the one we love today.
Between the ages of 8 and 10 the young Manuel was sent to Scotland to learn English, thanks to his father José Ramos Oliva, a customs and excise inspector, who after a life full of travels (including time spent living in Cuba) and friendships made with British counterparts had become heavily instilled with a keen spirit of adventure.
Before he knew it, Manuel had soon swapped Seville for Dumfries, where he studied at St Josephs College boarding school – a school inexplicably linked to Celtic Football Club thanks to Brother Walfrid’s role in its foundation in 1875.
Not only that, but a school that would later see a young Jim Rogan study there, who would go on to start for Celtic in the 1970 European Cup final against Feyenoord, playing over 200 games for the Hoops under Jock Stein. A player who won consecutive league trophies from 1968 to 1974, Scottish Cups in 1969, 1971, 1972 and 1974, and the Scottish League Cup in 1968/69, 1969/70 and 1974/75.
Manuel spent around 4 years at the school, enough time to make friends with the local boys over a shared love of a novel sport to him, football.
A love that cemented itself on weekends, when he would often make the 70 mile trip with his schoolmates up to Glasgow to see Celtic at Parkhead.
Occasions that would change the young man’s life forever and leave a mark on his own club that to this day is still visible in green and white.
The hooped jerseys of the Celtic players captivated the young Spaniard, who was, day after day, fully immersed himself into the Celtic way be it in the classroom or in the stadium with the thousands of others there to cheer on their team.
An adaption so good that, when it came time to return to his own country, it would see him never break his bond with the club, the school or his colleagues and close friends.
Back in Seville, Manuel found himself pursuing his passion for the game by following in the footsteps of Brother Walfrid by setting up his own team Sevilla Balompié to compete against other sides in the region founded by English merchants.
At this early stage the team played in all blue jerseys and white shorts, for no other reason than the easy availability of such plain colours. But keen to take advantage of his ongoing relationships made in Scotland, Manuel – who quickly became captain – was able to make contact with Celtic and secure the same fabric used to make the famous hoops for his own club.
After successfully taking receipt of the necessary material, Manuel was keen to make a statement with the team’s new jerseys, by inverting the green and white lines into vertical ones to make the strips – something quite unheard of at the time in Spain. A move that ultimately gave birth to the Betis we see today.
9 years Manuel spent playing with the side between 1907 and 1916, at a time which saw his side merge with Real Betis Football Club to create the Real Betis Balompié team that has maintained its existence since then in the Spanish league set up.
And it was during this period he earned himself the nickname of ‘Cabecita de Oro’ (Little Gold Head) by rivals and fans due to his capacity as a header of the ball.
After retiring from the game, Manuel decided to move to the town of Cazalla de la Sierra to be closer to his father, who had installed himself there to take up a customs role. And it was here he married, started a family and spent the rest of his adult life before his passing in December 1954 at the age of 62 – not before gifting local side Cazalla Balompié with the same green and white fabric to make the same Celtic inspired jerseys.
Manuel Ramos Asensio.
A boy sent away from his native Spain who returned with a love for everything green and white and everything Celtic.
A player who helped kick start the popularity of the game in Spain that we all love and who, thanks to his initiative, made sure that the Celtic name – and ideals – would live on in the country long after his death through the colours of the Betis jersey.
And its apt that with his story coming to light, the ties that bind both clubs are being strengthened.