Spanish media reacted with outrage and disbelief on Monday after Real Madrid’s Primera Division match at Rayo Vallecano was abandoned because of alleged lighting sabotage at the Estadio de Vallecas stadium.
Several commentators said the farcical scenes of a handful of workmen trying to fix severed cables on the roof of Rayo’s ground as groups of officials waited below in the semi-darkness on Sunday made the Spanish league look like a “banana republic”.
With the Primera Division’s image already damaged by the financial woes of many of its clubs, half-empty stadiums and discontent over ticket prices and kickoff times, the incident could hardly have come at a worse time.
“Four or five guys working and 100 more standing watching.
Where have we seen this before? In Spain of course,” columnist Roberto Palomar wrote in the sports daily Marca.
“The image of the workman who, without taking the cigarette from his lips, was trying to fix the cables together with a bit of sticky tape is the metaphor for the banana republic of the game.“
Roberto Palomar writing in Spanish daily Marca
“The image of the workman who, without taking the cigarette from his lips, was trying to fix the cables together with a bit of sticky tape is the metaphor for the banana republic of the league.
“Crazy kickoff times, atrocious debts, falling attendance in the stadiums, sabotage at a game that was declared high risk, clubs that do not meet the most basic requirements to take part in a professional competition,” added Palomar.
“There are local leagues that are better organised.”
Real initially said they did not want to risk another lighting failure and would prefer to play the match on Monday at 1500 GMT before reluctantly agreeing a 1745 start.
The game was due to kick off at 1930 on Sunday but thousands of fans were still waiting outside the locked and darkened arena as workmen toiled to fix the lights.
Rayo president Raul Martin Presa told Spanish television unidentified persons had cut some of the cables and when it became clear they could not be repaired in time the game was abandoned.
Alfredo Relano, a columnist for the As sports daily, said the incident was yet another blow to the image of Spain, noting the match would have been televised in 150 countries.
“We are facing a new kind of crime: football terrorism,” Relano added. “The police must find the culprits and bring them to justice.”
Cristina Cifuentes, the central government’s representative in Madrid, told Spanish radio on Monday initial investigations appeared to confirm the lights had been sabotaged.
“Officers are attempting to recover fingerprints,” she said, adding they were also examining closed circuit television footage to try to identify those responsible.