Remember The Only Real Star That Got A Standing Ovation From Barca Fans
Remember The Only Real Madrid Star That Got A Standing Ovation From FC Barcelona Fans
Many fans still remember how Ronaldinho received a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu by Real Madrid fans, but hardly anyone knows the only Los Blancos star to have received a standing ovation by FC Barcelona fans after running riot at the Camp Nou.
On 10 February 1980, a certain Laurie Cunningham dazzled the Catalan’s defense so much that he received a standing ovation by the astonished home crowd.
Cunningham, a son of a Jamaican racehorse jockey and born in London, is widely regarded as England’s first ever black international player as well as the first Englishman to have played for Spanish giants Real Madrid.
He was reportedly rejected by Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and made his senior debut for Leyton Orient before West Brom linked him up with their two other black stars, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson. The trio were booed by many opposition fans, in a time where racism in football stadiums was more dominant than today.
His performances at West Brom caught the eye of Real Madrid, who paid a whopping £950 000 – at the time a massive fee – for his services in 1979. Cunningham scored a brace on his debut and won the domestic double in his first seson at Los Blancos, but that night at the Camp Nou lifted him to stardom in Spain.
"I don't think his qualities were any less than Cristiano Ronaldo," former Real player and coach Vincente Del Bosque told the Independent in 2013.
The new Los Blancos star ran riot in El Clasico against bitter rivals FC Barcelona that season, helping his side to beat their bitter rivals 2-0 at the Camp Nou.
"It was like seeing (Johan) Cruyff but with black skin. That kid could do anything with a football," a Barca fan told Spanish publication AS in a special feature to mark the 25-year anniversary of that particular El Clasico.
However, Cunningham’s rise in Spain was disrupted by serious injuries and he eventually joined Manchester United on loan, becoming the first player to have played for both European giants.
He never regained his form from before his injuries, but lifted his third trophy after coming on as a substitute in the 1988 FA Cup final, helping Wimbledon to beat favourites Liverpool.
Cunningham returned to Spain and joined Rayo Vallecano – the club he had already helped to gain its first promotion to LaLiga in 1985/86 – where his goal on the final day of the 1988/89 campaign ensured the club’s second promotion to Spain’s top flight.
But unfortunately, the tale of Laurie Cunningham, who would have celebrated his 62nd birthday today, ended in a tragedy as he passed away in car accident on 15 July 1989 at the tender age of just 33 years.
Note: This story was inspired by a similar article published on RealTotal.