The strangest game in history

When Manuel Fraga's Ministry of Information and Tourism began using the tourist slogan 'Spain is different' six decades ago, no one had a clue what was going to happen in Vallecas on June 10, 2020. 'Different' falls short. . On May 16, the planet stopped to see how German football was returning in the midst of a pandemic, two Ruhr giants and also intimate enemies, returned to German football two months later in a classic clash full of tradition (although empty of public). In Spain, more innovative and disruptive than ever, we will return on June 10 with a Rayo Vallecano-Albacete Balompié. Surely, the weirdest game we will ever see in our lives.

It will not be a whole game, it will be only half. As if it were one of the tapers your mother gives you after eating on a Sunday, the kind you end up freezing and having a hangover lunch weeks later. That clash began on December 15 and was suspended at half time due to chants and insults against Roman Zozulia, Albacete forward. If everything goes normal, which is a lot to suppose in this story, the match will end on June 10 with a temperature increase of about 20 degrees from the start. Nor will they be 45 minutes to use, because in the first part Albacete was sent off their player Eddy Silvestre, so they will play 11 against 10.

The most extravagant detail of the match will be on the visiting bench. We have not found any similar precedent in which a team has different coaches in the first and the second half. Luis Miguel Ramis was managing Albacete that day, but he was dismissed on February 3. His substitute is Lucas Alcaraz, who will have to face something never seen before in football. “It is a rather unique situation, it will be special, it will be the first time in my career that I will give an initial ten,” explains the Granada-based Albacete coach, with reasons superior to those of any politician to pull that “inheritance received”.

Lightning Shield / Flag

On the other bench, twenty meters away, will be Paco Jémez, who faces the remaining 45 minutes as a real possibility of bringing his team closer to the playoff zone. “This game has different connotations to any other. Playing only 45 minutes, after what we have been through these months, makes it different from everything,” says the Andalusian coach, aware that his team cannot rush or anxiety in a scenario that a priori favors them. We say a priori why Rayo Vallecano has gone through these months of institutional turmoil, including certain internal rebellions against the management of ERTE by the board.

Albacete Shield / Flag

And the players? Well here comes the main regulatory mess. The situations that can occur are so surreal that it is difficult to explain them. “All the players who were registered the day before the start of the match can play,” recalls former referee Eduardo Iturralde González, which prevents the match from being played by all the winter signings of both teams (three in Rayo and six in the Sunrise). By removing these, Jémez and Alcáraz can make the alignment they want, something that could lead to scenes that are difficult to imagine.

On the one hand, players who were starters in the first half, substitutes in the second, and end up being participants in both. On the other, footballers who were injured in the first half of the game and who are starters in the second half. And, also, beware of this, players who come off the bench and do not remember that they have a yellow card because they saw it six months ago. The only normal thing about this game is that it will be played without an audience, something already planned before the health crisis, but even there we find curious details. As if it were a divine providence, the Vallecas stadium is the only one in Spain with a virtual audience. It is printed on the huge wall behind the goal at the north end. After all, perhaps Spain is even more different than we think.