Tottenham Hotspur won their Europa League third qualification round match today, 3-1 over KF Shkendija in North Macedonia. The match itself was arguably a routine win. What happened before wasn’t.
As revealed in the post-match press conference, Tottenham demanded that the home side replace both sets of goals on the pitch before the match, as the keepers determined that something was wrong with the dimensions during warm-up. It turns out, they were right — officials measured the goals and found they were five centimeters too low, and new goals were brought out before the start of the game.
“Before the game was a funny situation because my goalkeepers told me that the goal was small. I went by myself and of course the goal was small. The goalkeepers, they spend hours and hours and hours in the goal so they know when the goal is not the right dimension.
“I am not a goalkeeper but I know football since I was a kid and I know when I stand there and I spread my arms and I know the distance so I felt immediately that something was going wrong.
“We got the UEFA delegate to confirm and yes it was 5cm smaller (too low), which of course we demanded for the goals to be replaced for goals of the right dimension.”
I’m not sure how it’s possible to have goals in the Macedonian national stadium that are 5 cm. too short, but apparently they managed to do it. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but at the peak of the sport 5 cm can make all the difference. (For a more extreme example of how 5 cm can make a big difference in sport, read this incredible story by Dvora Meyers in The Defector about the all-around gymnastics finals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when a pommel horse was set 5 cm too low.)
Would it have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe that incredible goal scored by Shkendija in the second half pings off the bar and not in the corner of the net. Or maybe Joe Hart is just thrown completely off balance by having to defend a slightly smaller goal.
In the end, it doesn’t matter, because it was caught and replaced. I also don’t know if this suggests any purposeful shenanigans or not. Just a weird footnote to an otherwise routine European football match.