LA LIGA

Lights out at Rayo means Real clash postponed until Monday night

“Sabotage” at Vallecano’s stadium keeps Mourinho’s Madrid waiting for must-win game

Real Madrid players warming up in the semi-darkness of Ray Vallecano's stadium on Sunday night.
Real Madrid players warming up in the semi-darkness of Ray Vallecano's stadium on Sunday night.BALLESTEROS (EFE)

Real Madrid have reluctantly agreed to play their La Liga match at Rayo Vallecano at 7.45pm on Monday, a day after the game was abandoned because of alleged lighting sabotage at Rayo's Estadio de Vallecas stadium.

The game was due to kick off at 930pm on Sunday but the stadium was in semi-darkness and fans were still waiting outside the locked arena as workmen toiled to fix the lights.

Rayo president Raúl Martín Presa said unidentified persons had cut the cables on some of the lights and when it became clear they could not be repaired in time the game was abandoned.

Real initially said they did not want to risk another lighting failure and wanted to play the match on Monday at 5pm while Rayo insisted it should kick off later to allow more local fans to attend.

"After the deplorable events that took place yesterday [...] Real Madrid C.F. asked the Professional Football League (LFP) to schedule the game today, Monday, during the day in order to avoid any potential problems that might again put it at risk," Real said in a statement on its website (www.realmadrid.com).

"The president of the LFP has decided, however, that the match will be played at 19:45 and has accepted personal responsibility for it to take place without incident," the statement added.

Four or five guys working and 100 more standing watching. Where have we seen this before? In Spain of course"

Real Madrid has another fixture lined up for Wednesday night, with Colombia’s Millonarios visiting the Spanish capital to play for the Bernabéu Cup.

With just four points from four Liga matches -- while arch-rival Barcelona has a perfect 15 from five -- José Mourinho’s team is under pressure to win all three points in Vallecas.

Rayo said tickets for Sunday's match would be valid on Monday and fans who could not attend could return them.

The Spanish media reacted with outrage and disbelief on Monday over the problems at 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 La Liga'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 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.

Alfredo Relaño, 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.

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