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The Secret Hero Of La Séptima: Agustín Herrerín & The Semifinal Match Against Borussia Dortmund on April 1, 1998.

Something very sweet happened when Cristiano Ronaldo was showing his Ballon d'Or to the crowd this past January, surrounded by his teammates. He and Sergio Ramos and Marcelo began shouting and gesturing at someone standing near the tunnel. They wanted "Grandpa" to join them. The old gentleman, Real Madrid's field delegate, approached shyly and was given the award to hold for a final picture.

Denis Doyle

It was Agustín Herrerín, Real Madrid's greatly loved (by the players especially) field delegate. He was so chuffed, he bought every newspaper the next day to cut out all the articles and pictures of himself with Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the team and told COPE: "They're such nice boys!" He told them his hands had been shaking and he'd never thought something so nice could happen to him.

Well he may be a field delegate, and the boys may love him as much as he loves them, but did you know that Agustín Herrerín (now 79 years old) is the real hero of the first time Real Madrid met Borussia Dortmund at The Santiago Bernabéu in the semifinals of the Champions League in 1998?

And did you know that his quick-thinking actions and initiative rescued our quest for the long-awaited La Séptima?

Wonder no more! We shall tell the tale!

A Walk Down Memory Lane

It was April 1st 1998, precisely 16 years ago today, and defending Champions League winners Borussia Dortmund visited The Santiago Bernabéu for the semifinal of the Champions League against Real Madrid.

Agustín Herrerín wasn't yet the field delegate, but he was the assistant to the man who was, Julio Casabella.

At the time, the goalposts were attached to a chain-link fence to prevent the Ultras from throwing things at the players. In the excitement just before the game kicked off, the Ultras began climbing and shaking it. The goalposts collapsed.

This video, on German television, shows what happened.

There were no spare goalposts on the grounds, even though that was a UEFA regulation. So rushed attempts were made to try to repair the damage. Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund reportedly asked the referee to suspend the match. It's unclear what that might have meant, but there was a danger that UEFA might award Dortmund a 3-0 victory.

"Cometh the hour, cometh the man!"

But the hero of this tale, Agustín Herrerín, had an idea. The old Ciudad Deportiva was only about two kilometres from the stadium. He and Madrid goalkeeper Miguel Ángel hurried off to get there to bring back a goal in a small van. When they arrived, the gates were shut and Agustín Herrerín (63 years of age at the time) climbed the fence and ended up ripping his trousers to get over.

They were under time-pressure.

The vehicle they were travelling in wasn't large enough to transport much, but fortune favours the brave! They happily ran into Cándido Gómez, a truck-driver just finishing up his dinner and asked to use his truck.

There was a final complication. When they found the room the goal was kept in, no one could find the key. So Cándido Gómez remembers using the truck as a battering ram to break in the door and get at the goal. It was safely loaded into the truck and arrived at the stadium in the nick of time with a police escort enabling it to run every single red light and drive at perilous speeds down La Castellana to save the game!

In a charming interview given last year, Cándido Gómez related these incidents and his chance run-in with Agustín Herrerín ("Who if he didn't have a heart-attack that night, will never have one!") and ended cheerfully with how pleased he had been to help and how exciting it was. "And I'm Madridista too!" The club sent him gifts, a letter from Lorenzo Sanz, a match ball signed by all the players, and a cash award.

Madrid won the match 2-0. After a 0-0 draw at Dortmund in the second leg, they were in the final. Madrid's first final in 17 years.

Six weeks after Agustín Herrerín's adventure, Real Madrid won La Séptima under coach Jupp Heynckes in Amsterdam on the 20th of May, 1998. It was the first of our Champions Leagues "in colour" and it was long-awaited; coming 32 years after the 1966 team's "Ye-Ye" triumph.

A sweetly modest Agustín Herrerín was interviewed last year on RTVE about the incident. For those of you who understand Spanish, it's a lovely visual trip into the past.

Good luck to the lads tomorrow against Dortmund. And remember, if you should falter, ask yourselves: "What would Agustín Herrerín do?"

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