Posted: 6/21/2008


    Bastian Sweinsteiger, sub one game, banned the next, and hero when it mattered most, started the winnning way for Germany in the first EURO 2008 quarter-final,with his nuclear powered shot in the 20th minute in Basel to sink the Portuguese, who got into the game but never seemed in control, and lift his team into the semi-final. Schweini-Cool they call him now.

    They will face Turkey in Basel in one semi-final in mid week after the incredible penalty kick finale Friday night at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna. Twelve years ago I was there at the City Ground, Nottingham at EURO 1996 when only 22.000 fans showed up and Croatia won 1-0. Present coach Slavan Bilic played for the Croatians and the Turks were coached by Fatih Terim who was in charge last night.

   I have got to tell you about the MOST fantastic fan venue for the MOST fantastic of finishes.  After a day in Innsbruck we took the train to the gem of an Austrian town on the German border KUFSTEIN  where there is a museum to the inventer of the sewing machine and 24 historic markers in this wonderful old town. The fairy tale venue of Festung Kufstein was at  the castle high on the hill above the River Inn and only a few hundred yards from the train station. First a visit to a very beautiful stadium, home of Austrian 3rd Division club FCK  There was a famous Siege of Kufstein in 1504 when the forces of Maximillian I of Hapsburg finally took the city after bringing in more guns by river from Innsbruck. The local leaders were led away and beheaded.

   In the town square we sat by the Marienbrunnen Fountain and drank the cold, clear water along with a 5 Euro pizza from a Turkish pizzeria, Pizza Paradies and listened to THE TWINS pop group play some music. Then it was up the winding path up to the Festung (fortress) as we joined about 2,000 fans, about 80% Turkish, drapped in national flags and with painted faces. They and the Croatian families had come from miles around and so you probably couldn't buy a pizza or kebab anywhere close. In fact our pizza guy Enrico and his buddy showed up with his season ticket for the giant TV gathering-all matches are shown there at the ARENA on top.  Modern toilets (no Turkish squat ones here) and bier stalls selling Auer Brau from the famous Rosenheim Brewery 25 km away  Auer Brau is Your Brau, is their motto.

   There was lots of tight security as if the organizers were expecting a Balkan blood bath. I had just bought a 'replica' brown fake leather football  at half price 4.95 Euros, with Rome 1934 WC(when Austria almost won something) and Vienna 2008 (when they were no where near winning anything) printed on it, and couldn't bring it in. I told the security guys that I didn't trust the Croatian or Turkish fans to leave it near the entrance. Well, the Turks aren't in Europe yet and not even Christians)!! so I hid it in the bushes to retrieve later.

     The match started out boring. It could have been Austria's best XI (if there is such a thing) versus Austria's bench!!!  EVERYONE was smoking in the small arena. On the ramparts the local police chief and his cronies, a dozen of them, had a fine view as I took a flash photo of them puffing away, and the first aid medics were doing the same. As Turkey equalized dramatically in minute 120 a very old peasant looking tiny Turk who I had seen puffing away throughout, collapsed, and the medics threw away their cancer sticks and went to work, on him.

     The only surviving player from the 1996 contest was Turkish reserve goalie  Rustu Recber-117 caps-a record, playing since the No 1 had been suspended for 2 matches.  It looked to be all over when Ivan Klasic shot past him as he ran the wrong way and the Turks made their way down from the ramparts, only to rush back after Sennih made it 1-1. What a dramatic penalty kick decider, with Croatia missing 2 and one shot saved.  The Turks went crazy and wild as we jogged down the winding path to the town center for a giant celebration, surely taking place simultaneously all over Germany and in Taxim Square in Istanbul and elsewhere.

    Well, back at the modern train station we found that the 23.48 special to Rosenheim, our home base, was not running. However, luckily on Friday and Saturday nights there is a 1.00 am Nacht bus, for party revellers, and on the way to Rosenheim we passed by Schweinsteiger's fathers sports shop in his small home village of Oberaudorf, where we had experienced the thrill of the sommer rodelbahn 10 days ago. The show goes on !!!!!