It was way back in 1983 that John Bonello infamously conceded 12 goals in Malta’s historic drubbing against Spain, a game that saw the Spanish qualify to the Euros on goal difference.
Now, as fate would have it, his son Henry Bonello will be in the sticks for Malta as they take on Spain at the Ta’ Qali stadium tonight.
The Spanish press has picked up on this father-son connection in a nostalgic reminiscence of a game that has been imprinted in the collective memory of Spanish football fans.
Spain needed to beat Malta by 11 goals to qualify to Euro 1984 on goal difference at the expense of the Netherlands. They were only 3-1 up at half-time, but managed to score nine goals in the second half, a complete capitulation that some Maltese players later blamed on alleged doping of their players via lemon wedging in the dressing room.
John Bonello’s comment before the game that Spain couldn’t even score 11 goals against a team of children came back to haunt him big time and he would come to be known in Spain for that performance.
Indeed, he had featured in an advert for the Dutch-Spanish beer Amstel in 2006, which parodied his performance in Malta’s 12-1 defeat.
Henry Bonello was born five years after that fateful day but hasn’t been able to fully shrug off the ghosts of his father and was asked about it during an interview with Spanish news agency EFE two years ago.
“Over 30 years have passed since that game,” he commented back then. “Can you get over it? He’s had enough already.”
Spain will field a star-studded squad tonight, with players such as Sergio Ramos, Dani Ceballos, Alvaro Morata and Marco Aesnsio all expected to take to the field. However, Henry Bonello will be boosted by his stellar performance in Malta’s victory over the Faroe Islands last week, during which he saved a penalty and made some crucial saves.
Malta coach Ray Farrugia will also have flashes of that 1983 game, having been in Malta’s midfield that lost to Spain that day. However, he told a press conference that the game is a distant memory for him and vendetta is not on his mind.