Ronaldinho has always been special, but no one could have predicted that his debut at the Camp Nou was in such peculiar circumstances as unrepeatable. The Brazilian star made his debut in front of his home fans on Wednesday 3 September 2003 against Sevilla, in a match that would go down in history both as his first goal in the Azulgrana shirt and also as the match that later ended in the Spanish league. That bizarre match that ended at around 2 a.m. became known as “the gazpacho match”.
Ronaldinho had landed at Camp Barça that summer of 2003 from PSG for about 32 million euros. Ronnie debuted with Barcelona in an official way in the first day of league in Bilbao against Athletic in a match where the azulgranas won by 0-1 but all the culés were eager to see the Brazilian star in the Camp Nou, at home, for the first time. The date was marked in red on the calendar: Day 2 of the league. Wednesday, September 3rd. A day that had a lot of history behind it.
At that time, FIFA windows could coincide with official league and cup matches in domestic tournaments, meaning that if players were called up for their national team, the club could not count on them to play in the league match. That’s what happened that day. Brazil had called Ronaldinho and Ronnie had to fly to his country that same Wednesday so he could not play the game that everyone was looking forward to and it was something that Joan Laporta, who has just won the Barcelona elections, would not allow.
Laporta proposed, first, to advance the game to Tuesday but Sevilla and La Liga did not allow it because by law Sevilla had the right to rest 48 hours between games and the match and Sevilla led by Joaquín Caparrós had played the first game of the season on Sunday. So was the desire of Barcelona and Laporta that Ronnie debut that day that they came up with a brilliant idea: the match would be played that Wednesday in the only way that by law Sevilla could play and Ronaldinho also: the match was played at 00:05 on Wednesday, September 3, 2003. The first game played in the early hours of the morning in league history.
The match started in the early hours of the morning and finished around two o’clock. In the Camp Nou marked an outstanding entry with more than 80,000 people. Barcelona devised a schedule of pre-match events at the stadium for the public to go to see the debut. There were concerts, events and free food and drink for the attendees, among that food the main dish was gazpacho and hence the name of the debut match of Ronaldihno in the Camp Nou: the match of gazpacho.
Inside already of the merely sporting thing, the debut of Ronaldinho is remembered by its first work of art with the azulgrana t-shirt. The first samba at Camp Nou. The match by its circumstances was special but who put it in history and marked it as a legendary date, which will remember all attendees, and all those who lived that game was Ronaldinho.
It ran the 59th minute of the match, was the 1:15 in the morning and Ronaldinho picked up Victor Valdes sent in the middle of the field. Everything that happened after that is history. That breakaway from the left flank in midfield leaving behind the two Sevilla midfielders, a very young Casquero and the legendary Marti who would later make a career in Mallorca, to shoot from 25 meters to the goal defended by Notario. A violent and lethal shot that hit the crossbar in a very abrupt way to then enter the goal before the eyes of everyone. As Roonie ran to celebrate, the images focused on Rijkaard, then Barcelona coach, who was holding his hands up to his head. Such was the jubilant reaction of the Culés to that goal that at 1:15 on that Wednesday, January 3, the seismic meters of the Observatori Fabra, on the Tibidabo mountain in Barcelona, registered a punctual but unusual disturbance in Barcelona. The earthquake Ronaldinho had just landed and knocked down the door of the culé history.