For this Blog Presentation with an interview, I look back at the kidnapping of FC Barcelona striker Enrique Castro Gonzalez ‘Quini’ in 1981.
The Interview will be as a video link companion, while the Blog will be a presentation of the events.
The Interviewee is:
Mr. Carles Lozano.
Mr. Lozano is a Spanish economist and former Catalan City Councilor. He is also a member of CIHEFE (El Centro de Investigaciones de Historia y Estadística del Fútbol Español), Spanish Center of Investigation Of Futbol History.
Mr. Lozano’s contact info:
My contact information:
on twitter @sp1873 and on facebook under Soccernostalgia.
The kidnapping of FC Barcelona’s Enrique Castro Gonzalez ‘Quini’ in 1981
On March 25th, 1981, England hosted Spain in a friendly International at Wembley.
Spain won this match (2-1); however, it was events at home in Spain as the match was taking place that were more significant.
This story revolves around Spanish striker Quini and his ordeal that started in the beginning of that month.
Enrique Castro Gonzalez ‘Quini’ was the premier Spanish striker of the 70s and early 80s.
The Oviedo-born Footballer made his name at Sporting Gijon and did not take long to be selected by the Spanish National Team (1970). He was one of the most consistent goalscorers in the Spanish League and was ‘Pichichi’ in 1974, 1976 and 1980.
In 1980, he made the jump to the more glamorous FC Barcelona. He picked up where he left off and continued to score regularly for the Catalan giants.
Photo From: AS Color, Issue 253, March 23, 1976
Photo From: AS Color, Issue 327, August 23, 1977
The nightmare started on March 1st, 1981. Barcelona had defeated Hercules Alicante (6-0) with Quini scoring twice. Barcelona were at this point just behind Atletico Madrid in the League title race and Quini was at this point the top goalscorer headed for yet another ‘Pichichi’ title.
After the match he went home, and he was expected to go to the airport to pick up his wife and children who were returning from a trip back home from Gijon.
When he went to his garage, he was held hostage at gunpoint by three men, who kidnapped him and eventually placed him in a cellar in Zaragoza.
Quini’s wife Maria Nieves suspected foul play as her husband had not picked her up as expected. She contacted Barcelona player Jose Ramon Alexanko, who alerted the authorities. By the next day, the news was released and shortly thereafter the kidnappers demanded a ransom for Quini’s release.
The club did want to pay the fee, but Government authorities were opposed to set such a precedent. At first, there were concerns that this may have been a political kidnapping. In time, it would be confirmed that there were no political incentive and the culprits’ motive was Financial.
There were also growing concerns that this act would damage Spanish authorities’ reputation and credibility just a year ahead of the World Cup that they were to host.
Quini’s absence in such circumstances, naturally, influenced the rest of the team.
FC Barcelona lost three and tied one of their next four matches to fall behind in the title race.
All this ended on March 25th, 1981. One of the kidnappers was arrested in Geneva when he went to pick up the ransom deposited by Barcelona Vice-President Nicolau Casaus. He quickly gave up the location. The kidnappers had provided Quini with a Television and he was watching the match (England-Spain) when suddenly the Police busted in and freed him.
Quini had lost weight during his ordeal and needed some time to regain his shape. When he was back it was too late for the League and Barcelona finished in the fifth place (four points behind Champions Real Sociedad).
His time away did not affect his hunt for the ‘Pichichi’ and he won his fourth one at the end of the season.
He celebrated his return with his goals in the Copa Del Rey and Barcelona were triumphant in the Final vs. Quini’s former team Sporting Gijon (3-1 win, Quini scoring twice). In this late run in the Cup competition, he scored nine goals.
It is open to conjecture whether with him Barcelona would have won the title, we will never know. But the situation did clearly have a bearing on the team’s morale and winning matches was s secondary matter at this point.
He would later minimize his torment and say that his wife dealt with the worst. He did not demand financial damages, nor did he press charges against the perpetrators. He felt that was for the Judicial system to deal with.
Quini would remain at Barcelona and help win the Cup Winners Cup in 1982, as well as another ‘Pichichi’ in 1982. He would leave Barcelona in 1984 and return to Sporting Gijon and see out his career until 1987.
Enrique Castro Gonzalez ‘Quini’ passed away on February 27, 2018, aged 68.
Photo From: World Cup 78, by Phil Soar
Photo From: France Football, Issue 3128bis, March 24, 2006
Photo From: Onze, Issue 65, May 1981
Photo From: Onze, Issue 65, May 1981
Photo From: Foot Magazine, Issue 14, June 1982
(Eric Gerets and Quini May 12, Cup Winners Cup, Barcelona 2-Standard Liege 1)
Photo From: Panini World Cup 1982