Organizer: Odense Boldklub
Tuesday the 6th of December, 1994. It’s just after dinnertime. One of the biggest upsets in the history of modern soccer is about to take place – and nobody knows it.
My 10-year-old boy brain is more occupied with exploring the strange corners of the ferry across Storebælt than soccer. Maybe it’s the cafeteria’s promises of sinfully processed and preserved food that captures my imagination. I don’t remember.
But I do remember seeing a little group of people chewing their fingernails with fixed stares in that semi-circle formation that promises something important is happening. On the ferry’s skid-free rubber flooring. A few sitting, the rest standing. Gathered around the 20-inch tube television over the stairs leading to the parking deck.
Maybe they were just there because we were approaching Knudshoved, but I remember later thinking about how mismatched that place was to the events being played out. A perfect final image in a montage of moments from Danish December 94’s, which must appear in the inevitable future film version of OB’s night in Madrid.
On the screen, the irresistible force in white dances in rhythmic pulses – clean and unsoiled from the mud that suits a working class sport in December. The king’s chosen – Laudrup, Enrique, Redondo, Amavisca. Names as elegant as their talents. The world’s best soccer team and 50.000 expectant Spaniards set the stage at Santiago Bernabeu.
It’s basically a walkover. Against a team without polish, from the North, who has to win 2-0, after having lost their first home-game. It’s never happened before or (with the notable exception of last year) since. The team is OB, wearing strange black and yellow Puma uniforms bought off the rack, chests emblazoned with an advertisement for a photocopy machine company. They’re trained by Kim Brink, who has a tendency towards hard physical training and maybe a touch of megalomania. They’re primarily comprised of workhorses. Dethlefsen, Schjönberg, Hemmingsen, Thorup. Even the announcer confuses the names throughout the match.
Four years earlier, the two clubs met in Europe with a 10-1 victory to Real Madrid. The contrast couldn’t be greater.
As a child of parents from out of town, growing up in the working class neighborhood of Skibhuskvarteret, I didn’t have a natural connection to OB in ´94. That came a few years later. Which is probably why I can’t remember exactly at which point in the game I joined the semicircle. But what happens afterwards is as follows:
OB is on their way out of the tournament, despite a 1-0 lead. It was a surprise in the Lineup that got them this far – 20-year-old Ulrik Pedersen scored on an elegant lob after 72 minutes. Lars Høgh, the veteran and Odense native, has been under fire from all angles throughout the match, but for just this night the one-time carpenter with the smart mouth and good natured attitude is an expert craftsman. His saves, made with the prescience and accuracy of a true artist, still stand as the most beautiful creations on that evening, in my mind’s eye.
The loyal Madrilenians are on the hunt for one – perhaps even two – goals, to shake off a loss that would besmirch their honor, however inconsequential it might be in reality. The even younger Bisgaard, who was the expected starter in Ulrik Pedersens spot, has just entered the pitch.
91 minutes have gone. The towering, thickset country boy, Schönberg, with his clumsy movements and unwavering determination, is about to lose the ball over the sideline after a bad trap, but suddenly ditches the man marking him to the left. The defender overcommits, thinking forward, instead of backward. Schjönberg lays the ball flat across the middle of the box. Another fresh substitute, Jesper Hjort, is clear in front of the goal but kicks right past the ball, a confused Spanish player just watches it roll by – and the world stops for a second. Bisgaard confidently boots the ball past Canizares, who lacks Høghens prescience, right into the far corner of the goal.
Madrid is in shock. OB tears around like headless chickens. The substitutes storm the pitch. OB’s doctor, Christen Villberg, and masseuse Allan Poulsen, sit on their knees across from one another in their blue track suits with their hands balled into fists above their heads. 30 seconds later, the whistle blows.
The next day, Niels Abildtrup calls it “The Miracle in Madrid” on the front page of Fyens Stifstidende. The match still bears that title to this day when, 25 years later, on Friday the 6th of December, OB will celebrate the anniversary with an event at Kick Off, where there will be a stream of TV2’s re-broadcast of the game, a miracle-quizz, and visits from the legends themselves. The match will also be shown at Arcaden on the same night.
Monday the 9th of December, OB will play a home game against AaB in a certain black and yellow uniform. The same outfit will figure again the next week in a tough away game at Parken. But, then again, those colors have carried the team to victory against tougher odds, before now.
They say the Miracle could never be repeated today. With the titanic monetary inequalities between clubs, the differences in quality between teams have become insurmountable. I buy the explanation, but not the conclusion. Maybe I have a little touch of Brink’s megalomania.
Link to the event