Odense is famed as the home town of Hans Christian Andersen so it is appropriate that the local club are remembering their very own fairy tale this week.
On 6 December 1994, Odense BK travelled to Real Madrid CF trailing 3-2 in a UEFA Cup third-round tie. Few thought OB could turn it around against Danish favourite Michael Laudrup and his team-mates. But the visiting players did and their 2-0 victory can inspire their successors on Thursday.
Odense go to a Getafe CF side coached by a man who missed the so-called 'Miracle in Madrid' through injury, former Spain midfielder Míchel, for their first UEFA Europa League Group H match.
In their happy precedent of 16 years ago, Ulrik Pedersen opened the scoring past Santiago Cañizares with 16 minutes left in the Spanish capital. "Believe it or not," Pedersen told UEFA.com, "we actually believed in our chances when we entered the Santiago Bernabéu. We ran an awful lot of metres in vain but our goalkeeper did a fairly good job that night."
That is some understatement. Lars Høgh, now Denmark's national goalkeeping coach, had a brilliant evening, even contributing to Pedersen's coolly chipped winner. "A long kick from our goalkeeper was flicked on and fell to Jesper Hjorth, who crossed the ball to me," Pedersen continued. "Suddenly I found myself alone with their goalkeeper, but fortunately I did not have much time to think about it."
Even with that breakthrough, Kim Brink's team trailed on away goals until, in added time, Michael Schønberg's centre from the left was turned in by Morten Bisgaard. Thus Madrid were knocked out by opponents they had beaten 11-1 on aggregate in the European Champion Clubs' Cup four years before.
"After the match it was just a crazy feeling, and when we landed at the airport back home we were welcomed by thousands of people, even though it was late at night," Pedersen said. "Later it was the same in the city centre. Because it was the last match of the year for us, we could really celebrate."
OB's run was ended by Parma FC in the quarter-finals, but the victory endures. Pedersen – still playing for second-tier outfit Kolding FC aged 36 – said: "The win gave a lot of confidence to the team and to the club in general for a long time to come. What very few people know is that it also meant we were invited by Real Madrid to come and play a friendly against them during the winter break – with all expenses paid. However, we decided to turn down the invitation politely, because we did not want to ruin the everlasting memory of a fantastic achievement, which we could probably never have replicated."
It will not be easy for today's OB to repeat what remains the club's greatest European feat. Indeed their current slump of form meant that earlier this week Brink was dismissed as sporting director along with coach Lars Olsen. Odense's most famous son knew that all great stories have an unexpected twist.