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. 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.
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
This story revolves around
Spanish striker Quini and his ordeal that started in the beginning of that
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
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
Photo From: France Football, Issue 3128bis, March 24, 2006
Photo From: Onze, Issue 65,
Photo From: Onze, Issue 65,
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