Lets take a walk down memory lane for something worthy of remembrance. Anyone of us lucky enough to visit Camp Nou and stroll down the very large trophy room can appreciate this prized possession: the heritage of a European competition that was once held in high regard – The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. It sits there as a testament of Barcelona’s impressive qualities under Rinus Michels’ tutelage (1971-1975) at the club. This was his first trophy before he won the European Cup in 1971 and the league in 1974 with Johan Cruyff as a player.
FC Barcelona participated in several editions of the Fairs Cup and are the most successful club with regard to the competition, winning it 3 times (1958,1960,1966). Barcelona was also the runner-up in the year 1962. When UEFA took over administration of the trophy in 1971, they replaced it with the UEFA Cup. As the Fairs Cup ended, a play-off was held to decide on who gets to keep the actual trophy.
This Thursday (today) marks the 40th anniversary of the play-off match between Barcelona and Leeds United, which was held on September 22, 1971. Barcelona, the club with the most wins, was pitted against the last winner of the Fairs Cup, Leeds United and the Catalan side won the match 2-1 courtesy of Teófilo Dueñas who scored both the goals for Barcelona. People who watched the game remembered it fondly as a high-quality game between two high-calibre teams. The following is the quote from Barcelona’s official website to describe the game.
“Dutch manager Marinus Michels had just taken over at the club and fielded a team of Sadurní, Rifé, Gallego, Eladio, Torres, Costas, Rexach, Juan Carlos, Dueñas, Marcial and Asensi (Fusté, 79) against a fearsome Leeds United side graced by the likes of Jack Charlton, Bremner, Lorimer, Jordan, Giles and Hunter.
The game lived up to expectations. After a goalless first half, Teófilo Dueñas found the back of the English net in the 51st minute after a cross from Marcial had rebounded off the Leeds bar. The Yorkshiremen equalised just two minutes later through Jordan, who pounced on a Sadurní deflection after a Lorimer free kick. The game was anyone’s for the taking, but with extra time looming, Dueñas beat Leeds keeper Sparke from another Marcial assist to make it 2-1 and win the trophy outright for the Catalans.”
The Fairs Cup is the predecessor of the UEFA Cup (which now goes by the name of UEFA Europa League). It started in 1955 and was initiated by three gentlemen of the game - Ernst Thommen from Switzerland, Ottorino Barassi from Italy, and the Englishman Sir Stanley Rous. The cup was meant as a way for football to encourage trade fairs, true to its name. Clubs that took part in the competition had to have a trade fair in the city in that year. Another striking rule since the 1961-1962 season in this competition is the “one-city, one-team” rule due to which a lot of clubs such as Everton or Tottenham could not participate in the competition because their city-rival had already been granted participation. There wasn’t much cooperation between the European Cup and the Fairs Cup and in the 1960-1961 season, Barcelona was competing in both tournaments.
Barcelona was (and probably still is) a more popular and cultural city than Spain’s capital Madrid so they were the team from Spain who competed and won this trophy often. Valencia and Real Zaragoza were other clubs from Spain who took part. UEFA decided to discontinue the Fairs Cup at the end of the 1970/71 season and now refuse to acknowledge the competition as a UEFA competition. However, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup trophy remains a symbol of FC Barcelona’s excellence in those years.
Source: www.fcbarcelona.cat and www.uefa.com