Atletico Tucuman faced a journey for the ages as they attempted to meet their Copa Libertadores date with Ecuadorian side El Nacional.
The fixture was an important second qualifying round second-leg clash, with the previous game between the sides having finished 2-2 six days previous.
Two hours from the match’s start time, the Argentine team found themselves grounded in Guayaquil, 450 kilometres from their scheduled destination as the flight they were on did not have authorisation.
Only 30 minutes before the planned kick off, the squad hopped on a different plane, although in doing so they had to leave some members of their committee and all of their kit behind.
While this was going on, El Nacional announced that they were prepared to wait only 45 minutes after the match’s proposed start time, in line with the regulations leaid out by world governing body FIFA.
In a strange twist, a countdown clock was put on television, going from 45 minutes downwards as Tucuman raced to meet their deadline.
With only 20 minutes of that clock remaining, the Ecuadorian side landed in Quito, where Argentine ambassador Luis Juez joined the players. Speaking to the press, he made his feelings clear as he blasted: “Let the team play, f*** regulations!”
The team bus carried the squad towards the stadium at breakneck speed, like something from a movie.
Despite the best efforts of all involved, though, Atletico only reached the stadium at 22:17 local time – one hour and seven minutes after the scheduled kick off, and 17 minutes after the second deadline.
Nevertheless, there was an agreement that the game would be played, only the hosts had the option to complain to FIFA if they found the result to be unfair.
With Tucuman’s jersey’s still several hundred kilometres away, they borrowed some tops from the Argentine Under-20 side, who happened to be playing a World Cup qualifier in the city, and also needed to loan boots from the youngsters, too.
Nearly one-and-a-half hours late, the match kicked off.
Incredibly, despite all the drama, Tucuman claimed a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from striker Fernando Zampedri in what must go down as one of the unlikeliest victories of all time.