the social networks

What do Spain’s Sevilla FC and Mark Zuckerberg have in common?

Facebook founder unwittingly rallies support in the United States for Spanish soccer team

Harvard student Chris Ulian has managed to promote Sevilla soccer club in a most unexpected way. The 21-year-old just happens to occupy the same room that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg did when he studied at Harvard. Warned that Zuckerberg would drop by to see where he once lived on a recent visit to the university, Ulian draped a Sevilla FC scarf across the mantelpiece.

Harvard student Chris Ulian at his digs, with Sevilla FC scarf.
Harvard student Chris Ulian at his digs, with Sevilla FC scarf.C. ULIAN

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In a bid to capture the nostalgia of the moment, Silicon Valley’s most famous entrepreneur made a video of his former residence and shared it on social media, with Ulian’s scarf featuring in the footage. “We didn't know for sure that he would come, but my two roommates and I left some things around so that he would know the room was occupied,” says Ulian. “Then before leaving, one of his assistants let us stay a while longer so we could meet him.”

With 85,000 hits, Zuckerberg’s post put Ulian and his scarf in the spotlight. “I got tons of messages from students on campus, including from people I don't know,” he says.

The President of Sevilla FC has invited my family and me to the VIP area of the ground Chris Ulian

Harvard itself posted a link on its official Facebook page with a 360° view of Zuckerberg’s old room. In the image, Zuckerberg is sitting on one of the chairs. But many were as intrigued by the scarf and its possible owner as by the room’s former inhabitant.

The link between Ulian and Sevilla was forged in 2014 before he started at Harvard. “I decided to visit Spain because I spoke a bit of the language and it seemed like the most sensible option,” he says.

Ulian stayed for a year with a local family and now considers their house to be his second home. “Pablo, my Spanish brother, was always talking about the team and its players and little by little I became a Seville fan,” he says.

A follower of the MLS ­– the the US soccer league – Ulian has fond memories of his time in Spain. He also recalls how soccer became as much a part of his experience as the culture and quirkiness of the city. “I went to see a few games,” he says. “At first I went with friends or with Pablo. The last few times, my brother Emmet also came along.”

Besides the scarf, Ulian has also kept Sevilla shirts and some of the gifts sent recently to him by the club. “The President of Sevilla FC has invited me and my family to VIP areas of the ground,” he says proudly. “My brother Aidan, who is just 12, has persuaded some of his friends to follow the team too!”

Ulian still remembers the excitement of some of the derbies between Sevilla and Betis – the club’s crosstown rivals – as well as the day Sevilla beat Real Madrid. “American friends asked me if I was there in the stadium,” he says. “So I showed them a photo taken from the stands.”

Now, thanks to Zuckerberg’s video, Harvard students know all about the club. “It’s been an honor to bring its name to so many people,” says Ulian.

In fact, many Sevilla fans have written to Ulian on Facebook as a consequence. Now, with his newfound fame, his third year at university promises to continue at fever pitch.

English version by Heather Galloway

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