This World Cup in particular has left a deep imprint on my memory. The main reason is that for the first time, if you like, I approached it with a kind of “professional approach”. In retrospect, I would describe it as decidedly amateurish, but the basis had been created. In this case, a numerical basis. But here, too, let’s take it one step at a time:
Privately, I had entered the harbour of marriage under extremely curious circumstances – as usual, you can read about it in the corresponding women’s chapter, this one titled “Yüksel”, although that wasn’t even really my wife’s name when I met her shortly before my 30th birthday and then thought that 30 was the right time – and continued to work at SEL as a software developer. I had made a third version of my football programme during working hours and generously interpreted this activity to myself as a “teaching programme”. However, as my involvement in the economic and business world increased, I bought a PC privately and created the fourth version on it.
The parameters and their interrelationship were logical for me (chapter “My football programme”). Essentially, I needed a function that would calculate the goal expectations for the two teams from these parameters. From these goal expectations, the probability of each individual result could be calculated by simulation and thus, in total, the chance of winning/drawing/losing. When I explained the tournament rules to my computer, it could even calculate the odds for all possible long-term bets – such as who would reach the round of 16/quarter-finals/semi-finals/finals how often, who would win the title with what probability, even cross-comparisons with the question “who will advance in the tournament”. In short, my computer was able to determine the probability of occurrence of all the usual betting offers.
Why do I call this procedure “amateurish”? The reason is very simple: First of all, I had developed all kinds of algorithms on how to calculate the odds. However, there was also a basis for this. The basis was: the strength of the participating teams. For this, I just had my intuition and a few qualification results, which, however, did not provide any reasonable comparison values for the exotics. Even the maintenance of the playing strengths – i.e. the “update” after any new results come in, which I still consider one of the most important parameters – was not yet guaranteed, as I had to realise immediately after the opening match was recorded (with a frustrating outcome) and sat rather helplessly, as I well remember, in front of my computer.
However, the results of the European Championship in 1988 had strengthened my conviction that it should be possible to “attack” the betting market, which was still quite simple at the time, with a reasonable number base. And so at least the effort I put in was a fairly selfless one and, in my estimation, justified to this day. I still had my job, went to work every day and then spent the night in front of my home computer. Not that my wife begrudged me this particular form of leisure. But she was a little disconcerted. Especially since the computer had only one assigned place: the bedroom. And I can remember very well how the sparse hours of sleep, regularly during a new simulation run, which granted me a generous three hours for 1000 runs, given the state of hardware technology at that time, the necessary ventilation of the CPU impaired my hours of rest, these only irrelevantly because of exhaustion and euphoria, but those of my wife nevertheless sensitively. Perhaps she had realised a little too late what kind of lunatic she was dealing with?
The memories of both the pre-World Cup period and the tournament are extremely varied, so I would like to pick out just a few very special ones here. So, for all the events on which there were betting offers, I also had numbers that my computer spat out for me. The “numbers” are specifically probabilities, all of which were determined from a multitude of simulations by relative frequencies and whose reciprocal value resulted in what I called the “fair odds”. However, to this day I puzzle over how I could be competitive at all with this. Because, as I mentioned, my programme had done its job reliably so far, but the strength estimates, which had to be the basis, were anything but reliable.
So I held the betting slip from SSP in my hands again. I had already placed a long-term bet on Argentina as world champions the year before with the money still left in the account at SSP (I had also called most of the winnings), DM 100 at odds of 13.0. Apart from that, I now had the opportunity to make a comparison with my numbers. For example, I found eight matches on the group matches that my computer “recommended” me to bet on, so to speak. This meant – to be read in the chapters “My football programme” and “My system” — that the paid odds were higher than my fair odds. And I bet these eight games as a system bet 4 out of 8. That was 70 rows, each á one DM, a total stake of 70 DM. Ridiculous, of course, compared to other amounts that were in circulation. It’s just a memory.
I was quite busy with the further development of the programme, but then took my three weeks of remaining leave in May to be able to devote myself fully to this task. And during the preparation, I not only collected the football pictures as usual – for the purpose of refreshing my knowledge of the squad – but also picked out my idols, and these were not, as you can imagine, those who were to be forced on me by Hanuta, but rather such players as Emilio Butrageno, Spaniard, called “El buitre”, the vulture, for short, who impressed me, but also Michael Laudrup, Denmark, the very young Paolo Maldini, Italy, or Enzo Francescoli of Uruguay.
From other magazines that gave preliminary reports, I suddenly came across more and more other, Austrian betting providers, especially this year. My partner Micha was quickly reactivated and soon convinced of the quality of my programme. So we paid in higher amounts again with some providers, because this time we didn’t have the one hot tip, but the required number base, despite its considerable quality deficiencies. On the other hand, I give myself credit for the fact that the betting market had by no means been so thinned out and the providers sometimes published highly contradictory odds without any agreement among themselves – and also “held” them on demand, i.e. accepted money on them, so that I could assume profit advantages.
For example, we could bet with one provider that Austria would not reach the quarter-finals and with the other that they would at least reach the last 16. And we had already secured profit with the corresponding bet size, no matter how it turned out, but additionally the chance that Austria was eliminated exactly in the round of 16. In that case, we would even have won both sides. When I asked Micha who he thought would make the mistake there, he gave the absolutely correct answer: “Both make a mistake.”
So we had our hands full trying to place our money and to find out from all the providers the contradictory and promising odds offers. I was busy throughout anyway, but was so wound up from the constant adrenaline production that the lack of sleep just wouldn’t show. I had my mission, I had discovered my new dream job, and for that the phrase “make a few sacrifices” is not even appropriate; I was unstoppable in the development mania so typical of programming freaks. There was no better prospect for the future than to combine my (naturally exceptionally modest) skills in this ideal way: Mathematics, football and programming.
I realise, from a reader’s point of view, that it has to start sometime now. And so it was. How I came to rank the Cameroonians so low in the rankings is still a mystery to me today. After all, as a long-time World Cup watcher, I had already seen all the games of the Lions in 1982 and was convinced of their high quality when they were eliminated with three respectable draws only because my friends, the arithmetic artists from Italy, advanced with three draws but one more goal scored.
My computer had advised me to bet on Argentina to win against Cameroon in the opening match. The ridiculous odds that could be achieved were only 1.40. My win bet was already a consequence of the “misjudgement” of Cameroon. I watched this year’s opening match with a completely different tension and can also well remember the deep frustration that the 0:1 final result triggered.
The less relevant aspect was the money lost, because the amount was rather modest. I sat in front of my computer afterwards and pondered what this result would mean. Especially since the impression that it would not even have come about undeservedly left deep doubts about my basic assessment. I spontaneously wanted to put Cameroon up in the playing strength, but asked myself, to what value? Are they better than Argentina now? Throughout the development period, I had dealt with numerous problems but had not foreseen this simple case: How to react to the results? I decided to sleep on it for a night and changed, even the next day — nothing.
The newly arranged simulations naturally resulted in shifts in all the chances, especially of the teams concerned, because of this result. This was all new territory for me, especially the questions of what one would now receive or have to pay for the event “Argentina becomes world champion” or “Argentina reaches the round of 16” or the same events with Cameroon after this defeat. My computer provided information in its own way. A pleasant side effect: chances and probabilities everywhere and odds everywhere that were offered and on which one could bet. Why should they all be right? The conditions were simply this: paradise!
So I followed the next games with an anxious attention to where I could find errors in the original assessment. Long before the tournament began, we had placed numerous bets on “who will be world champion” or “who will win the group”, most of them on underdog events. There was only one team whose value was obviously recognised by the world and misjudged by the computer fed by me personally: As usual, the German team. From their first appearance, it was obvious that they were in gala form. The 4:1 with the two goals scored by the irresistible Lothar Matthäus, which gradually elevated him to legend status, should perhaps have elicited a little more from me than the usual shrug of the shoulders, “yes, typical Germans, they always win, no matter how well they play”. In retrospect, for this one tournament, the doubts about the qualification of this team should have been modified from “pure gambling team” to “veritable title contender”. I imagined that with the Italians, as hosts in a special favourite position anyway, the Brazilians or even the Argentinians, despite the disappointing opening game, could still throw stumbling blocks in the form of big lumps in the way.
The second match of the Germans basically manifested the world opinion that so far only one team, the most typical of all tournament teams, had really got into shape. However, the 5:1 against the United Arab Emirates was only remarkable for me in that the lucky scorer was rewarded with a luxury limousine, which was a particularly impressive illustration of the worldwide respect for the German team. “We don’t want to win and don’t even dream of it. We lose good and well, but, God (or Allah, in that case) willing, we can still tell our grandchildren that we scored against them.”
The Germans were through and anyone who wanted to interpret the 1-1 draw against Colombia as a “setback” – like the naïf, the little dreamer, the fatherland despiser, Paulilein – probably deserved a little brainwashing. The group victory could not be taken away from the Germans as a result. And the famous “aiming” or the permanent luck of the draw gave the Germans a true, but at that time not yet foreseeable, apparent “hammer lot”. The Oranjes, the permanent enemy, the neighbour to the west, the Netherlands have always had a powerful team over the years. So how did the pairing come about, and why didn’t Germany avoid it simply by losing, and what were the special concomitants of this clash?
First things first: Germany was predictably assigned a third-place finisher by virtue of winning the group, which at the time could already have the significance of “drawing” an easier lot. The Dutch were a possible opponent, but only possible (I still remember how much trouble I had trying to explain the complex pairing procedure to my computer; it was not even clear from which groups the third-placed teams would advance). The Dutch still had the final match against Ireland open – the very Irish who had almost blocked their way into the semi-finals back in 1988 and who had certainly lodged a few complaints with the justice officer — which they could not afford to lose under any circumstances. And certainly the entire punditry trusted them to at least draw. The Dutch really turned up the heat for the one game and were clearly on course for victory when the Irish did manage to equalise, which was fortunate in this case. The consequence, as I remember it because of the consequences for my computer programme, was that the two teams were level on points and goals. For the only time in the history of the World Championships, the draw had to be used. This only had a certain sporting significance in that it decided second and third place and in this way relegated the Dutch to third place, with the further consequence that the Germans became their opponents.
The consequences for my computer programme were equally remarkable. I had taught my computer everything. Even the lottery procedure, which was astonishing to me and which, of course, was constantly used in the thousands of simulations. However, it always drew lots again to determine whether Holland or Ireland came in third. When I noticed this little problem, I had to make a remarkable intervention in my software: I had to override the drawing of lots for this one case and hard-code the Irish into second place. Well, just a little tale from the world of computer freaks. One always encounters curious, unpredictable problems in the wondrous world of these really “dumb computers”. They always do what you tell them to do. And you are stupid yourself…
Furthermore, the Dutch had been rather disappointing in all the games. And the preliminary reports told us what our compatriots had known for a long time: the team was divided. A success like the one in ’88 is likely to create a few minor problems. The old warhorses defend their places with reference to this success, while the equally good newcomers gradually stake their claims… So one can confidently classify this draw as a lucky one for Germany under the given circumstances.
But in spite of everything, no matter how much I and the non-German world may have begrudged the team the victory (sure, I mainly for monetary reasons; well played is well played and then I am always ready to begrudge and acknowledge). This was a real tour de force from this team. A 2-1 victory that is truly worth remembering and was, in principle, too close to call. However, the Dutch only scored a penalty shortly before the end, so that the victory was not very seriously in danger. The outstanding forces and certainly one of the best international matches of the two: Jürgen Klinsmann and Guido Buchwald. That Guido Buchwald, of all people, who was anything but a “ball artist” in terms of appearance and movement, was given the nickname “Diego” in reference to the “redoubtable” Maradonna, was far more than just a cheap play on words. It was truly impressive how he slipped into the role of constantly cranking up the team’s play, “tackling” the entire pitch, including the opponent’s penalty area, but also the flanks, while impressing with precise crosses and accurate passes. Jürgen Klinsmann, who was often merely ridiculed because of his sometimes clumsy actions, also had every reason to rejoice in this match about his rise to national hero status, which he achieved with dignity. Again and again he tore himself away from the opponents and irresistibly strove towards the goal, which he repeatedly put in danger, not only with the one goal he scored. Simply class, without ifs and buts. If they always played like that, even I could go back to … well, we don’t want to go that far.
Remarkable, however, is the way in which the early double sending-off of Völler and Rijkaard was reported, which for me was not entirely objective. This may have been what made the particularly good game possible in the first place, as both played with their sights open and the larger space in the game of 10 against 10 suited them in this sense. I can still see this scene in front of me and despite my long admitted dislike – in terms of amount of luck and coverage – for the German successes, and especially in this game appearing as a pure Dutchman due to the ongoing betting, I always strive for the very highest objectivity. So here is the scene from my point of view, which has never been described in this way before, at least in this country.
The scene started with a very clear swallow by Völler when the ball was already lost. Völler “fell” over a virtual foot. I can still see Rijkaard, a very experienced and outstanding player – the best player in the 1988 European Championship – who was well aware of what had happened on the pitch, leaning over Völler, who was still lying on the ground, and threatening him with his index finger after the free kick awarded to Germany. Admittedly a provocation. But justified in the sense that he simply knew it was a swallow, as the TV pictures later proved. Rudi Völler — and at this point my associations carry me away yet again, but it should be mentioned that there really is only “one Rudi Völler, there is only one Rudi Völler” – then jumped towards Rijkaard in a rather angry manner, apparently indicating that he had really been fouled. Völler was quite angry, and, excuse me Mr. Völler, unjustifiably so. The action continued immediately, the German free kick was hit out of reach towards the Dutch goal, but Völler went after this ball anyway. So it happened that the Dutch goalkeeper, Hans von Breukelen, was just able to avoid this attack and did not come to any harm. However, it was noticeable that Rudi Völler literally “saw red”. The referee also recognised this and showed him the card afterwards. However, Frank Rijkaard had previously had the kindness to draw Rudi Völler’s attention to his really unrestrained attack by twirling the ear of the German, who was already lying on the ground again. “Boy, stop shooting,” was my interpretation, and with some justification, too. The fact that he really spat at Völler immediately afterwards had, in my estimation, no influence whatsoever on the double-red decision, but was also for me a really unethical and -aesthetic action. No doubt, on the football pitch this is somewhat comparable to the position of child molesters in prison.
The referee had obviously sensed that Völler had gone off the deep end. Rijkaard also deserved his red card, even if I may say as a fan of justice and football that Frank Rijkaard was also an aesthete as a footballer and was partly the victim of a provocation here. I’m just fighting for understanding for the other side, because the whole game scene has been portrayed so one-sidedly over and over again.
In the course of the tournament, during which of course people around him soon only talked about football on a daily basis, even in my daily work at SEL for example, it turned out that a great many people had gone betting mad. Colleagues were also all doing their little betting games, all with money stakes, but, as usual, only for apples and eggs, yet an avalanche had been started. This probably had something to do with the proliferation of betting providers from abroad, which was just beginning at that time. Everyone knew someone, had already held a betting slip in their hands or was otherwise eager to discuss the matter. At least for the duration of the final tournament, all the laws of “you shouldn’t gamble” or “that’s illegal” seemed to be suspended. There were already heaps of “gamblers” in my non-work company anyway, although anyone would probably be incensed by this designation, since they would naturally all call themselves “cool calculators”. The word “gambler” retains this unpleasant connotation until a binding definition is given and a clarification campaign is carried out on my part. In any case, there was betting for all it was worth, especially at the time of the World Cup.
So Micha and I came up with the idea of issuing a betting slip ourselves. We created betting offers in absolute analogy to the foreign providers. Odds on the matches, result bets and half-time final score bets, as well as long-term bets, especially with the questions of who will get how far. I put down a receipt pad, packed a few copies of the betting offer and just went out among the people. And I can really say that almost everyone took part. It didn’t matter to me whether it was 10 DM or 100 DM. It was, you could call it that, a kind of experiment. I had the idea that in the course of the EU legislation, betting and gambling would soon be legalised all over Europe, as partly suggested by the legislators, because it was already legal in some countries. So at that time I had the idea in the back of my mind to open a betting office. That was the trial run. Are the numbers good? What are people playing and how high? What else would or could you have to offer? And in the end, of course: Can one win?
Logically, there was gradually an accumulation of bets supporting all possible successes of the German teams. So there were the concrete victory bets for every German appearance, but also perspective bets “Germany will be world champion” or “Germany will make it to the final”. and so on. Gradually, we began to feel a little queasy about what was waiting for us as payouts in the event of the SuperGAU, Germany becoming world champion. Needless to say, the tension in this country was high as long as the team was in the tournament. The other games were also followed with growing enthusiasm. People certainly compared their own team with the other participants, but to “tide them over” until the next Germany game, other games were also welcome. And little by little, bets were eagerly placed on these as well.
Our own long-term bets made abroad gradually lost importance. If I remember correctly, they were not bad and resulted in a small profit. But the only thing that became important for us was that Germany would be knocked out at some point. This time it was no longer just an emotional wish that it shouldn’t be “football simple game – 22 men – one ball – and in the end Germany wins”, it was a directly pecuniary one. Well, as indicated above, this German team, of all teams, had the potential to captivate even passionate Germany detractors. Slowly, I also realised what an unpleasant situation a bookmaker can find himself in. You can no longer be in favour of what you would like. You end up in a real outsider role, because you are always supposed to be against what others want. Now this had a longer history with me. Please, please, anything but Germany again and again and again!
In the quarter-finals, the team met the Czechs. And in view of the numerous name changes, I’ll ignore for a moment the politically correct name of the well-known country. We watched this game with little hope that the Germans would fail. But the odds were really small on the victory itself, so there was no big payout on our part. Still, I can readily express the counter-effect, should the miracle happen, as “Open the window. Money is raining in.” Well, for such events, however, dreams had to continue to serve me. The Germans won the game. Only, if one were to use the term “easy” for this game, it would not apply to this.
It was the game where a Czech was sent off quite early in the game and the Germans became too confident of victory just then and even came closer to the miracle with 11 against 10 than they would have liked. It was also the game after which Franz Beckenbauer, the team’s coach, scolded the Germans quite violently despite the 1-0 victory, comparable to some kind of bird, uh the …? The Germans had played a rather undisciplined forward line in their attempt to decide the game early on and had allowed the Czechs a number of great chances. But it’s wonderful to rant after victories, isn’t it? Once again, we were a loser. No windows open and all that. The trembling continued.
1) Quarter-final England - Cameroon
The initial problem of adjusting the strength of play for Cameroon, or for that matter, for all teams, continued. For example, my computer had advised me to pay a completely wrong rate of 1.40 on England. This resulted in a 6.75 on the other side, i.e. on Cameroon to win (in 90 minutes; without extra time). At the time, in boundless naivety, I left these odds unchanged. Although everyone had seen what Cameroon could do. And I had not yet consulted the bookmaker odds comparison. It would certainly have shown me how a reasonable bookmaker would have assessed the game. Cameroon had already beaten Argentina in the opening game. In any case, the mistake was the 6.75.
As a consequence of the misjudgement of the game, there was another, completely absurd odds: For the final score at half-time, the event England leads at the break but Cameroon wins at the end (after 90 minutes), my computer spat out the fabulous odds of 70.0! And if I remember correctly, a total of 110 DM was bet on that. So that alone would have cost 7700 DM.
So there was a lot of money on Cameroon winning, Cameroon advancing, Cameroon finishing at half-time, Cameroon, always Cameroon, so to speak. My England passion got another unexpected “boost”.When England took the lead in the first half, we couldn’t complain straight away, what could we have wished for? Goals, goals, goals, always for England. But then, in the second half: while the face colour of the player leading the ball most of the time became darker and darker, (Klammerauf Klamauf Klamauk Kalau Komma Kamau Kamü Komma Kame, Cameroon took command) our face colour became lighter and lighter in parallel. Cameroon turned the game around, 1:1 and then even 2:1, to our horror completely deserved. They seemed to be aiming for an easy victory in their euphoria, but also arrogance, triggered by this, which made the English run helplessly after them and virtually fooled them.
We became pure racists, compounded by the colour of our faces, and desperately needed help. This indeed came in the dual form of the green black man and the white black man. The green black man (jersey green – skin black; will the book now be banned? I refer you to “pun”) had the infinite goodness, at 2-1 to Cameroon, in recognisable arrogance, to miss the absolute monster chance to make it 3-1 and hammer the ball over the bar, whereas the white black man, i.e. the whistle man, used his equally great goodness and the instrument responsible for his name to award a penalty to England shortly before the end. Gary Lineker, I love you, 2:2, extra time, money saved, surely 10000 DM. There another penalty, Lineker again, England was further, even more money saved. Even today, at least every Englishman remembers this extremely fortunate victory. And I believe that even Germany, the winner’s upcoming semi-final opponent, wiped off a few beads of sweat. England, after all, they knew. Cameroon could have done anything in that condition.
Anyway, you just have to be honest, I guarantee I didn’t make particularly good odds. You can see that in this example. It was pure luck, and definitely not the luck of the fittest. So that also taught me that it is not so pleasant to offer bets. You make mistakes, people are there, betting on it. And in this case I needed the portion of luck. And the help from above?!
2) The semi-final match England - Germany
Micha and I usually watched the games in the Belmont, the chess café. This evening, however, everything was somehow different. I can best describe my own feelings like this: Germany should be eliminated, kicked out, preferably dismantled. Always this luck. Even if they might have been the best team in the tournament (my doubts were based on the following: Brazil was already eliminated in the round of 16 against Argentina, but was clearly the better team for the entire match and only Maradonna’s flash of brilliance followed by Caniggia’s storming run shortly before the end secured Argentina the undeserved victory and they later even made it to the final). Even the best still need that little bit of luck. The chances of becoming world champions may have been 20% before the tournament. Then, to really become world champion, you have to muster the remaining 80% of luck. That is mathematics and philosophy at the same time.
But the gigantic luck alone would not turn me against them. It is the perception of it, as the inclined reader can hopefully understand by now. But the better word would be “non-perception”. Germans know nothing about it and would be overly sensitive if they were to attest it to themselves. It is a standard behaviour in all people who are lucky: In the time of happiness, it is not perceived. Only when it has passed and changed. And then it is simply called bad luck. It’s like a tailwind when you’re riding your bike (“it’s nice today, there’s no wind”), compared to a headwind (“this f… f… headwind”).
But now I was English in body and soul. It was before I was made redundant from SEL. I had a total of four English work colleagues. I spoke almost only English in the office. I liked them anyway, hasn’t changed to this day. But the financial swing that day would have made even a financially potent reader forget his roots. Surely he wouldn’t have got involved in such bets, though, that’s for sure.
The Belmont was overflowing. It was all black, red and gold. Another celebration was in the offing. The whole of Germany was in World Cup fever. “We’re going to win, for sure. As always.” was the motto everywhere. Somehow I always seem out of place in this world. It was simply unbearable, unbearable.
I left the pub. At least I still had a small hope: one of my colleagues, Neville Hughes, lived nearby. I rang his doorbell, anxiously, pleading, please, please, a fellow countryman, have mercy! But he did not open. I hadn’t thought about it before, how unbearable it would be that very day, even against England. And all Germans, since 1966, despite all the “revenges” that followed, are still convinced that the title was stolen from them. I had to go back to the Belmont after all. At last, I was able to experience in the flesh how the saying of the “lion’s den” came about, It was practically a whole country big, there was no escape. A whole country in national colours!
Then the deflected free kick, Brehme, 1:0, an explosion, the pub shook, oh, not only the pub. What was I doing in this world? And then in this place? It was a really great game, England started to press. It was just that no goal was going to be scored. The tension was mounting, but it could happen once, just this once. I have hope that Gary Lineker sensed my pre-tournament adoration – after all, he never received a single yellow card in his career before the tournament. Because we still had that one arrow in the quiver, Lineker again, sets up against Jürgen Kohler, a completely honest goal, great job, the 1:1! This time the explosion took place in my body alone, because all around me there was only paralysing horror. At the most, I could express my joy with a lightened expression that could not be suppressed.
There was extra time. It was such an incredible game. How I wished I could have heard the game with English commentary. Chances on both sides. Chris Waddle, the great chance — post. It can’t be… Brehme knocks Gascoigne down from behind. That’s got to be red, hasn’t it? What does Gascoigne do? He gets up, without complaining … and helps Brehme, who is still lying on the ground, to his feet, smiling. That’s what I call fair play! Is there any justice in the world? That the “good guys” win is probably an invention from the film.
It comes to a penalty shoot-out. Everyone in the pub was carried away. So was I. I had spent the last few minutes standing on a table, and that’s the truth, it didn’t even have anything to do with the improved view from up there. The penalty shoot-out too. There must be one time … I even had an enquiry from a bettor who wanted to claim that Illgner wouldn’t hold a penalty kick in the tournament. At least it expressed what he thought of Illgner. And then: Stuart Pierce runs on, , he shoots —Illgner on! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Illgner was already on his way to the corner, but didn’t get his feet away fast enough, the ball bounced against it. He just didn’t manage to avoid the shot. Then the last penalty, Waddle, into the night sky. I guess the English already knew it was an inevitable fate too…. Unforgettable also how Sir Bobby Robson, England’s coach, went up to Beckenbauer straight afterwards, with an honest shrug of the shoulders, friendly smile, and congratulated him.
I just watched the video again on YouTube. Gascoigne’s “honest tears” also made me cry. I also ask the real Germany fan to watch this tragedy once, then he would understand. Then the final comment of the English TV presenter: “You think it is forever? It is now!” I have now made up for the tears I had laboriously suppressed at the time…
It was no longer about the money.
If only a German would finally say: “Yes, we had huge soup.” There is no inevitability behind the fact that there is always the same winner. This semi-final match was completely even. Germany was not bad. It was dramatic, a fantastic game of football. In terms of fair play, I see the English in front. There is no deserved or undeserved. It’s just that the lucky one won. And he wore black, red and gold.
To get an idea of the financial dimensions: The difference in this match alone was about DM 7,000 for me.
3) Semi-final Italy - Argentina
It is also worth saying a few words about this match. It is mainly about the reactions to such tragic events abroad.
Italy hosted this tournament. And Italy has a gigantic tradition in football. That they have perfected tactics is more than just a rumour. I heard from Danish acquaintances about a player who played in Serie B in Italy. He told me that as a flanker he didn’t play a single ball for months. It was all about running routes and tactical understanding. And when I once sat in a stand in Italy, I could also testify that the spectators judged the game scenes by their quality and not by the result of the action. Everyone seemed to know what was right and what was wrong. In Germany, for better or worse, you are taught that it’s all about the result. Goal was good, no goal bad. In this respect, I’m no longer surprised that the spectators in Italy go home satisfied after a 0:0, while in Germany the whistle blows at half-time when the score is 0:0. Consequently, it also means that the competition is shown the necessary and appropriate respect, which is also lacking in Germany, which is used to winning. In this respect, too, I rather begrudge the modest – and that’s pretty much everyone except the Germans – success.
Italy, as hosts, were pushed into the role of favourites by their own fans even more than they would have liked. And they had a great team together. The discovery at that time: Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci. They also played an outstanding tournament, the fans just had to love this team and they did. The final was basically the minimum they had to achieve.
The Argentines, for their part, have actually always had a strong team, one of the very great nations, and have already won the title in 1978 and 1986. However, Maradonna was not in the mood this year. And the team also played strangely colourless in this tournament. The victory against Brazil was exceedingly fortunate. The colourful Cannigia with the long blond mane scored the winning goal shortly before the end of the game from what was pretty much the only chance after the Brazilians had missed several good opportunities.
The semi-final was also a fierce battle, but there was only one team whose victory could have been called deserved: Italy. They were simply better, and not insignificantly so. Nevertheless, at 1-1, the game went into extra time. This remained goalless, so that the penalty shoot-out had to decide. Argentina won.
The whole country of Italy was stunned. But there was unrestrained crying. I can still see the cover photos even in our press that captured the crying fans. There was no hiding it in television reports either. A country in tears. You can’t help but cry with them. It’s not a question of blaming someone or making tactical mistakes – as would probably have been the case in Germany. There was simply mourning.
It’s worth mentioning that the Germans’ luck didn’t run out even in the parallel matches. After all, it is obvious that Italy would have been the clearly stronger opponent in the final?!
3) The final Germany - Argentina
Everything was set for the Germans’ great triumphal march. They had really played a good tournament, even I can say that. Nevertheless, there were a few pitfalls here and there, like the one for Brazil. Personally, I followed the game in agony. I was at the Belmont, as usual, but I couldn’t muster that strength to press or hope against the Germans. It is an irresistible (luck) force that keeps pushing this team forward, unstoppable, unopposed. Perhaps it is the same agony that the Argentines fell into in that game? In 1986, with the greatest of effort, they did indeed force the luck and defeat the beast. But twice in a row? It couldn’t be done, they felt that from the start.
I took the justifiable penalty, which was only awarded in the 81st minute with the score at 0-0, as a matter of course. I didn’t even have serious hopes of winning the game with just a few minutes to go. Brehme converted, who was even born on a historic date: 9.11, the day the Berlin Wall fell.
I got into my car and had to drive through the city centre to get home and tie the knot. Having to endure these scenes of jubilation, too, was simply going too far. Nevertheless, I managed to get through unharmed and without a German flag. I just made a quick check of the cash register before completing my plan. And what did I discover? Despite the absolute SuperGAU, we had still made a profit, about DM 2000 each.
I took down the virtually tied rope again, got down to paying out all the winners, went to work the next day and – handed in my notice. I had found a new profession.