Its the story that the whole football loving island of Ibiza is talking about and one that has caught the imagination of many in Spain. One of the worlds greatest teams, FC Barcelona, led by La Albiceleste magician, Lionel Messi, is to travel to the party island of Ibiza next Wednesday to play third division local team UD Ibiza in the last 32 of the Copa De Ray. Ibiza is split down the middle when it comes to its support of the two most popular football teams in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Culturally, Ibiza is a Catalan island but its not cut from the same Independista cloth as their fervent Republican cousins in the Nou Camp. Support of Real Madrid reflects the Castellano blood in Ibiza, led by the powerful Matutes family, who sponsor the Real Madrid Basketball Team and work with Cristiano Ronaldo in their restaurant business in Playa Den Bossa.
While ticket availability controversy and UD Ibiza’s links to Pacha nightclub has surrounded the build up to the game, the question on the lips of many neutral fans is whether or not Messi will grace UD Ibiza’s artificial surface, which is owned by the local town council. The Argentinian is a regular visitor to the island every summer and is the proud owner of the trendy Es Vive Hotel, located a few football kicks from the Can Misses stadium where the game will be played. After the Spanish Civil War, vanquished Republicans fled to South America and many Ibicenco refugees settled in Argentina forging strong cultural links that are present to this day, especially in the hospitality and service trades. This connection, along with Messi’s love of the island is why I feel he will make an appearance on Wednesday night.
Throw into the cultural mix, UD Ibiza’s lucky Valencian General, Amadeo Salvo, and you have a game with lots of spice, on and off the pitch. Barcelona’s new manager, Quique Setien, will want to tread carefully on what is a potential banana skin for Barcelona, so he will be expected to include a couple of high profile players on his squad most probably Messi and Griezmann. The manager of UD Ibiza, Pablo Alfaro, played under Setian at Racing Santander in 1993 and possesses a natural goalscorer in his squad with, Angel Rodado, who has scored 12 times in 19 league games last year. So can UD Ibiza deliver a David vs Goliath result? The Biblical account saw the mighty Goliath felled with a stone to the center of his forehead and on an island famous for its slingshot throwers, I feel UD Ibiza could get a result from this game – as many of us well know, anything can happen in Ibiza.
Ibiza: Parreño, Rubén González, Gonzalo, Morillas, Grima, Núñez, Lara, Javier Pérez, Ángel Rodado, Pep Caballé and Kike López.
Barcelona: Net, Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Junior; Rakitic, Busquets, De Jong / Riqui Puig, Ansu Fati, Carles Pérez and Griezmann / Messi