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Five unorthodox sporting venues

Real Madrid are set to play a cup-tie in continental Africa.

Tottenham have been playing ‘home’ matches at Wembley (Nick Potts/PA)
Tottenham have been playing ‘home’ matches at Wembley (Nick Potts/PA)

Real Madrid are set to travel to a different continent for their next match in the Copa del Rey, when they take on third-tier side Melilla on Wednesday.

The home side play their matches in a Spanish city on the north coast of Africa, one of two autonomous settlements in the territory which shares a border with Morocco.

Melilla have only qualified for the last 32 of the competition once before in 2012-13 when they played, and won, their home tie against Levante.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at other instances of unusual ties or games played in unlikely places.

The Scottish Challenge Cup

This season, the Scottish Challenge Cup was extended to include English Vanarama National League sides Sutton and Boreham Wood in a competition which already includes Irish, Northern Irish and Welsh sides alongside Scottish teams.

The competition was expanded to involve teams from outside Scotland for the first time in 2016-17, adding two teams from both Northern Ireland and Wales as well as youth sides from Ladbrokes Premiership clubs. Two League of Ireland teams were added the following year before the English clubs joined this year.

Teams from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England arrive at the second-round stage and were kept apart in the previous draw before progressing where they could play Scottish Football League sides, youth teams, or teams from the Highland League.

International matches played on ‘home’ grounds overseas

Gibraltar and Scotland players line up in European qualifying (Martin Rickett/PA)

When North Korea and South Korea were drawn against each other in the qualifying rounds for the 2010 World Cup, the North refused to play the South’s national anthem or display their flag, so the games due to be played in the North were instead played in the neutral city of Shanghai, China.

Gibraltar were allowed to participate in UEFA qualifying rounds for the first time ahead of the 2016 European Championship, but their stadium was not at the required standard, so instead the British Overseas Territory had to play their home games at the Estadio Algarve in Portugal.

The small country of Andorra has also hosted both France and England at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona, while Greenland have played Tibet in a friendly in Denmark.

Wembley’s multiple uses

NFL signage on the pitch at Wembley before Tottenham played Manchester City (Nick Potts/PA)

Tottenham look set to play a season-and-a-half’s worth of matches at England’s national stadium Wembley and even had to play one of their cup matches at MK Dons’ stadium, while their own home is rebuilt.

This has proved controversial after a series of NFL matches were played at Wembley, with the last taking place just one day before Spurs hosted Manchester City on the same pitch.

In contrast, the English FA Cup final was held in Wales, at the national stadium in Cardiff between 2001 and 2006, while Wembley was being rebuilt.

Alternative sporting venues (and surfaces)

New York’s Grand Central Station (John Stillwell/PA)

Every year, squash’s Tournament of Champions is played in the unlikely setting of New York’s Grand Central Station.

The tournament is the oldest annual competition for professional squash players in the world and has taken place at the station every year since 1999, including a women’s competition since 2001.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer faced each other in an exhibition match on a court that was half grass and half clay in Mallorca. Local hero Nadal won following a three-set thriller.

Girona v Barcelona in the United States

Philippe Coutinho in action for Barcelona (Nick Potts/PA)

Teams in the Spanish top flight were set to take the competition to a global stage when it was reported there was an agreement for a scheduled domestic match between Girona and Barcelona in January to be played in Miami.

Girona were set to offer their season-ticket holders a number of options to compensate for the missed tie, including a certain number of free flights for some supporters to attend the match in the United States.

FIFA has since spoken out against the idea, as has the Spanish FA, which has opposed the proposal since its inception – but the move has not yet been banned completely by football’s world governing body.



From Belfast Telegraph