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RETURN OF MARCO

What happened when Inter Milan took on a team from England’s eighth tier?

In November 2007 Inter took on Sheffield FC, of the Northern Premier League, in a very special game

On 9 November 2007 Marco Materazzi and Marco Balotelli lined up for Inter Milan on a typically brisk English winter night.

Pele was in attendance. The crowd was up around the 19,000 mark and Howard Webb was officiating, years before he’d be forced to sit in a dark BT Sport studio somewhere in Watford.

But this was no Champions League epic. The opposition were the oldest club in football- Sheffield FC.

Resist the urge to headbut him Harvey

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Resist the urge to headbut him Harvey

Sheffield were founded in 1857, 45 years before Real Madrid and 51 years before Inter.

In 2004 they were given a FIFA Order of Merit, only the second club in the world to carry the honour after Madrid, and in 2007 they celebrated their 150th anniversary.

So who better to play than Inter?

Roberto Mancini’s side were on their way to a third consecutive Serie A title and boasted a squad containing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira and Hernan Crespo.

Can he do it on a cold, wet night in Sheffield?

Reuters
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Can he do it on a cold, wet night in Sheffield?

Unfortunately, due to a Champions League clash against CSKA Moscow two days earlier, Inter left most of their first-team players at home.

But that didn’t stop I Nerazzurri bringing Materazzi, who’d lifted the World Cup a year prior, and Balotelli, who’d make his first-team debut a month later.

Sheffield’s side was a collection of non-league footballers who worked for a living, coached by Dave McCarthy.

Sheffield FC’s striker shows off his impressive collection of trophies

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Sheffield FC’s striker shows off his impressive collection of trophies

After Sheffield had been given signed Ibrahimovic, Materazzi and Pele shirts, the game got underway.

Predictably, it didn’t take long for Inter to score, with Balotelli converting at the second chance ten minutes into the game.

After another ten minutes Sheffield found themselves 2-0 down, with Pele, a Portugal Under-21 midfielder rather than the ageing Brazilian legend, scoring from 30-yards out.

They weren’t able to stem the flow of goals heading into half-time as Goran Slavkovski, nicknamed Ibrahimovic II thanks to being born in the same Swedish town as Zlatan, made it 3-0.

The ‘new Zlatan’ is now playing in the sixth tier of Swedish football

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The ‘new Zlatan’ is now playing in the sixth tier of Swedish football

It was never going to be easy. But Inter weren’t letting up.

Seven minutes after half-time Balotelli scored his second goal of the game, sending a message to Mancini that he was ready for first-team football.

At 4-0 things could have got very messy. But Sheffield composed themselves and struck back through an Ivan Fatic own goal and a strike by Rob Ward.

Fatic had the honour of playing in the Emirates Cup for Inter

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Fatic had the honour of playing in the Emirates Cup for Inter

The comeback was on.

Unfortunately it was Inter who scored next, with Gianluca Litteri, who now plays in Serie B for Cittadella, scoring two minutes from time.

The game ended 5-2 to Inter, but Sheffield could hold their heads high.

In the words of manager Ward: “We’ve never been in this situation before and never will again.”

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