Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Spanish football never ceases to amaze me. This answer was in response to a question sent to the Guardian football team, about the earliest kick-off in a top-flight football game.

During the 2003-04 season, Barca were scheduled to play a midweek game against Sevilla prior to an international weekend. Since Fifa rules stipulate players summoned for international duty must be released by their clubs 4 days before the match, Barca hoped to host Sevilla on the Tuesday, September 3, rather than the next day when their internationals would have been missing. However, sensing a chance to take on a below-strength opponent, Sevilla refused, pointing out a club cannot play 2 matches within 48 hours (after the Sunday fixture programme), unless both teams were agreed.

Quick-thinking suits at the Catalan giants then hit upon a novel idea: play the game as early on Wednesday morning as possible and hope their international stars would still be allowed to play. Thus, the game kicked off at 12.05am - alas, the only national association to accept Barca's ploy was the Portuguese one, who allowed winger Ricardo Quaresma to take part.

Incredibly, 80,000 fans turned up ... though it's not actually incredible at all when you consider that the club laid on free gazpacho and 100,000 complimentary Kit Kats. Also, stand-up comics entertained the crowd before live telephone link-ups with Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov worked them into a frenzy. The players ran out to the Village People's YMCA [no, we're not sure either], but it clearly worked, as the supporters only hushed once during the match, when Jose Antonio Reyes's penalty gave the visitors the lead. Ronaldinho's first - spectacular, naturally - goal for the club salvaged a 1-1 draw, the roar greeting his strike reportedly registering on the city's earthquake monitors.


Post a Comment

<< Home