The night the lights went out in Marseille

This day in football history

On 20 March 1991, defending champions Milan forfeited their European Cup quarterfinal against Marseille when they refused to play the last two minutes.

After drawing the first leg in Milan 1–1 two weeks earlier, they met at Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome for the second leg. It was a contentious match, with referee Bo Karlsson issuing five yellow cards, three to Milan and two to Marseille. It remained scoreless deep into the second half, when Marseille finally took the lead with a 75th-minute goal from winger Chris Waddle.

With two minutes of stoppage time remaining and the score still 1–0, half of the stadium’s floodlights went out, forcing Karlsson to halt the match. He intended it to be a temporary halt, but when the lights came back on 15 minutes later, Milan director Adriano Galliani refused to put his team back on the pitch, claiming that television crews had “disrupted the match” by going out onto the field, though some critics accused him of angling for a replay. In any event, UEFA declared it a forfeit, awarding the victory to Marseille.

Afterward, UEFA banned Milan from European competition for one year and also suspended Galliani from all official functions until July 1993.

Marseille made their way to the final, where they lost on penalties to Red Star Belgrade.