Fifteen years ago today Liverpool beat a Barcelona star side of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Xavi 2-1 at Camp Nou in the Champions League thanks to goals from Craig Bellamy and John Arne Riise.
But before the first leg of the round of 16, Liverpool’s goalscoring heroes had been involved in an infamous training camp, which former ECHO journalist Neil Jones recounts here.
It’s one of the iconic goal celebrations in Liverpool’s history.
Camp Nou. Craig Bellamy. Golf Club.
It was on this day, 15 years ago, that the Reds beat Barcelona. The European champions, dethroned at home. A memorable night indeed.
You remember the night, of course. Liverpool trailed early seemed they would be swept under at one point, but recovered to record a famous victory.
And we all know who scored the goals.
It had to be Bellamy. It must have been John Arne Riise. The two players who had dominated the rise.
The reason? A warm weather mid-season training camp in the Algarve. The one who made more headlines off the pitch than on it.
Rafa Benitez’s side had traveled to Portugal to relax, refresh and rejuvenate but things were anything but relaxed on the final night when the players had a night off.
We’ll let Bellamy, writing in his 2013 autobiography “GoodFella,” pick up the story.
“Ginge was quite a nice boy,” he wrote.
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“He was a bit of a kid. He was incredibly competitive. If there was a competition to see who could hit a shot against the crossbar, he was always mad to win it.
“People used to make a joke out of it and say, ‘I bet Ginge could do that’.
“That night in Vale do Lobo, I was sitting with Steve Finnan, who was my roommate, Sami Hyypia and Ginge.
“I told Ginge he had to sing a song. I may have said it many times. He said he didn’t want to.
“I have said again and he cracked. He became **** s about it. He got up and started screaming. “Listen,” he shouted. ‘I do not sing and I’ve had enough you scream above.
“Sami told me to ignore it and Ginge left soon after. But as the night went on and I had more to drink, it started eating at me.
“At that time, as I was, I didn’t know how to control my emotions if someone disrespected me in front of the rest of the players.
“I’m one of the worst people who drink alcohol. It doesn’t sit well with me.
“After a while I told Finnan we were leaving. I told him I wanted to settle this with Ginge.
“‘I don’t have that,’ I told Finny. ‘What are you talking about?’ he said. “That fucking redhead, he doesn’t talk to me like that,” I said.
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“Finny told me to ignore it. He told me to forget about it and go to bed. “I don’t ignore it,” I said. “I’m going to go to his room.”
“Finny told me to calm down. “No, let’s go to our room,” he said. He was trying to please me, like a guard with a madman. We went back to our room but I still couldn’t let him go.
“We had a common living room with bedrooms upstairs. Our golf clubs were in the living room. I pulled one out while I simmered over what Ginge had done. It was an eight iron. I started doing some practice swings with it. “Let’s go see him now,” I said.
“I just wanted to lift Ginge up a bit. He had tried it with me once or twice in training. He nudged me on the back. I just looked at him and thought, ‘Fuck you, Ginge’.
“We had around his room and I knocked on the door. There was no answer. So I tried the door and it was open. I let myself in and turned on the light. Ginge was in bed
“He had his back to me and covered his eyes with his hands because the lights had been turned on.
“I just hit him in the back with the club. Couldn’t really call it a swing. It was just a blow, really. If I had taken a good swing, I would have hit the ceiling with my backlift. Finny, by the way, was hiding behind the door at the time.
“Ginge panicked. He curled up with a blanket. “You never talk to me like that in front of people again,” I told him, “I’m going to wrap that around your head.”
“’Look, I didn’t mean it like that,’ he said. ‘Yes, you fucking did,’ I barked at him. “No, no, I didn’t,” he insisted. ‘Yes, you did’, I repeated to him. “It’s been a few times since you did that fucking stunt to me and it won’t happen again.”
“I was warming up to my theme now, as people who have had too much to drink usually do. I threatened him several times. ‘And if you have a problem with any of this, come see me in my room tomorrow,’ I told him. “Don’t complain about that”.
“I think back to what I did now and I cringe. It was pathetic. It was stupidity at the highest level. It was drunken and intimidating behavior.
“Finally, I left. As Finny and I walked back to our room, the coach stopped outside and all the players poured out.
“They passed us in the hallway and, knowing nothing of what had just happened, piled into our living room.
“It was a big night. Nobody even noticed the golf club in my hand. Or if they did, they didn’t mention it. The evening therefore continued. The living room was basically destroyed.
“Sofas were turned down upside down, lamp shades got knocked off, someone even threw a plate at a step and it cracked someone’s head open. By the time I went to bed, this room was not a pretty view.
“Next thing I knew Finnan was knocking on my door. “The Gaffer and Pako are down there,” he said. ‘Oh shit,’ I thought. “There are a number of reasons why they could be here.”
“I went downstairs. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Rafa and his assistant, Pako Ayesteran, were sitting on a couch that they must have pulled up themselves.
“Rafa – the most orderly and controlling man I know – surrounded by utter chaos, a scene that screamed loss of control. There were plates and lampshades everywhere.
“Rafa looked at me and told me to put on shoes before he cut my feet on some debris. John Arne Riise just came to my room to say you attacked him with a golf club,” Rafa said. “I wouldn’t say I attacked him, exactly,” I said. I gave him my version. I was already remorseful.
“Rafa looked puzzled. Turns out he had had a good night himself.
“A little later, Dudek appeared with abrasions on the side of his face. ‘What happened to Jerzy?’ I asked.
“After I left the night before, things had gotten out of control. Jerzy refused to leave the bar and the police were called and he ended up in the cells. Rafa had to go bail him out.
“I actually felt relieved. “That’s a lot worse than mine,” I thought, looking at Jerzy. “It could save me.” This illusion did not last long…”
A version of this article was published in February 2007 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2-1 win at Camp Nou.