UN ESTATE ITALIANA
Pairing: Matthaeus/Klinsmann, Klinsmann/Voeller
Rating: R, just to be sure
Time: WC 1990
Disclaimer: Not true
Summary: World Cup 1990. Knockout stage
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- Hey, Gullit, move! – Littbarski pats Jürgen on the shoulder. Jürgen takes the orange jersey off, laughing, throws it at the direction of the benches. Everyone is speaking at the same time, loudly, merrily, in the corner someone is dancing already, the opened bottle of water flies up, showering everyone with drops.
- Free time till , - Berti’s voice drowns in ovations. “Free time” means that they are allowed to go in town for the evening – for the first time at the tournament. The walk in night
- Wake up, Lothar! – Jürgen snaps the fingers before his face.
- Go to hell, - answers he with laughter.
No, Lothar was wrong not to come with us. Such a beautiful town our
And I see the light from under the door. Is he still not asleep? If he decided to wait till I return… Now he’ll kill me. It’s in the morning.
The door is not locked, the light is on. Lothar is lying face down on bed, still clothed fully. Did he fall asleep waiting for me? Well, then I’m dead.
Is he asleep or feeling unwell? I’m coming closer. He breathes evenly – sleeps then, and his hand is gripping the pillow tightly. Nightmares?
I should wake him probably. It won’t do – to be sleeping like that, and in clothes. And on the other side – maybe I should just let him rest.
I turn out the light and go to wash myself. The head is spinning, probably we’ve drunk too much beer. It’s good that the morning training session is cancelled, or Franz would’ve had a field day with us…
Lothar is lying as I’ve left him. No, it just won’t do. I touch him by the shoulder. No reaction. What’s on with him, is he really unwell? I call him by the name. He lifts his head, too slowly, and looks at me, not saying anything.
- You’d better go to sleep properly.
He’s still silent. I can’t see his face in the dark.
He shakes his head, as if trying to clear it from sleep, and stands up. A bit slowly, not like his usual sure quick movements at all.
- Are you well?
He walks past me, still not saying a word, and the bathroom door shuts after him. What happened? Everything seemed to be in order when I left.
I lie down but can’t fall asleep, the sound of shower disturbs.
- Lothar, are you alive there?
The water stops. He comes out, still slowly, as if not understanding where he is going, lies down on bed, again face down. Something is wrong here, definitely wrong…
- Goodnight, - I say quietly.
He doesn’t answer.
The game is tomorrow, and there is hell knows what going on in the team. And exactly only hell knows, because I, for example, don’t have a slightest idea about what is happening.
Ok. Here is Rudi who is understandably angry because of his disqualification. Here is Jürgen who promised me to look after Rudi. Here is Guido who tries to be as close as possible to the pair of forwards. And here is Lothar who tries to be as far as possible from them.
And Lothar is what concerns me the most.
And the main thing – nothing seems wrong at all. Yesterday they were sitting in big company again - and Lothar with them, and Jürgen, and Rudi. Judging only by the looks of it – everything is fine.
Oh, I guess I know what is disturbing me. Lothar doesn’t tell me anything, which is not like him at all. And not only this. When was it that Lothar Matthäus was unwilling to answer direct questions?
If they lose tomorrow, Lothar will have to answer anyway.
It is impossible to play sillier as we did at the end of this game (Franz Beckenbauer)
The game is his respite. Sounds of the Anthem, roaring of the filled “San Siro”, and the field again turns into a magnet board with white lines, and players are like dots moving over it, and he is directing their movements. Little red figures of opponents, white dots – German players, and there, in front – a golden dot in the spotlights that he is searching with his eyes again and again. But it’s the game, and everything that is going on on the field has no relation to his everyday life. Right now he can be sure and confident and at peace, as if the circle of tribunes is shielding him from his own feelings.
And it is so easy to place the ball, to make a run-up at the shrill of the whistle and raise hands in celebration without even looking at the goal – he knows that he didn’t miss. It’s easy to let Jürgen embrace him and to embrace him back, and to the continue game. It’s easy to forget about the one who isn’t on the field now. Nothing exists but these twenty-two dots on the imaginary board.
Nobody can say why Jürgen is the target of Franz’s wreath, they all are playing not so well. But the coach is yelling at Jürgen who is standing with the serious expression, maybe not even listening. Everyone knows that these words don’t deserve much attention. Franz himself will regret them in ten minutes.
The others are silent. They all understand that they need to change something, and Franz is so angry only because he doesn’t know what to do. Assistant coaches are silent too. For the first time at the tournament there is a feeling of helplessness. They’ll be playing the second half the same way as they’ve played the first.
Franz finishes his tirade and storms out of the locker room. Jürgen is examining his reflection in the mirror.
- Yes, this looks nothing like Pele.
Laugh at yourself before others laugh at you – this is how Jürgen is dealing with every tough situation. Other players start smiling, the tension subsides a little. Rudi sits down next to Jürgen and starts telling him something in half-voice. Two heads are so close together, and he knows that he shouldn’t look at it, not now when there is still forty-five minutes left in the match they have no right to lose. But still he is looking at them, looking till these two stand up, Rudi squeezing Jürgen’s hand. They enter the field of “San Siro” again – for the last time at this World Cup.
The game is falling apart around him like a picture that was cut in hundreds of pieces. He’s not in control anymore, he’s unable to concentrate on the moving dots. Pass – mistake. Another one – wrong, Jürgen is moving in the other direction. One more pass – again failing to start a proper attack, Franz is gesturing wildly. They are playing eleven against ten and don’t have an advantage.
It’s just that there are too many white dots now.
With the corner of his eye, or maybe with some inner vision, he sees Rudi Völler sitting on the bench, and it doesn’t allow him to concentrate on what’s happening on the field. Another wrong pass, and now
And our dear Lothar meanwhile is eating me with his eyes again. The whole hour, since the training started. And it becomes annoying slowly, by the way. One would think I have some ornament painted all over me, this is how he is looking. And there’s no ornament for sure, I’ve checked just today in front of the mirror, everything is as it should be.
Sure, I can go ask him what he means by such behavior. But Jürgen asked me not to meddle with him, so I’m not saying anything so far. At least our captain stopped being rude, but didn’t even try to apologize. If it wasn’t a World Cup, I’d have told him everything I think about him already. But – the tournament, good relationships, peace and understanding in team, blah blah blah. So let’s leave it till more peaceful times.
And this time it’s a penalties training. And Lothar, instead of looking at me, would do better to concentrate on task at hand. Otherwise he won’t make it to the squad for the next match, nevermind the penalty shooters.
And I’m not gloating, not even thinking about it. But just to tell anyone that Matthäus missed four penalties in a row – nobody will believe that I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
At lunch coaches and players are eating at the same time, and it’s always crowded and noisy at this hour. Jürgen who is sitting in front of him is eating his fish with appetite, at the same time speaking with Rudi quietly.
- More than two speak aloud, ever heard about it? – He is speaking evenly and with a smile.
- Lothar, believe me, you don’t want to hear about this nonsense.
It looks like nothing has happened between them. They are still sitting in company at the table in restaurant, playing cards in the evenings and walking, joking with each other at trainings. He doesn’t know if anyone notices these little things that should have betrayed them.
Does anyone notice that Jürgen is never looking at him while speaking with him? The look of these blue eyes is always moving past him, as if not seeing. Does anyone remember that they two weren’t alone since that sunny morning after the
- Spill your secrets, - Berthold is cutting his vegetables so seriously as if making a scientific experiment.
- We don’t have secrets. It’s just that this one here, - Rudi points at Jürgen with his fork, - gave me yesterday a checkmate in three moves and now gloats.
Everyone laugh, and he laughs too though he is sure that they were talking about something different.
- You should have looked at the board instead of counting crows, - smiles Jürgen.
- I was looking!
- And where do you think I was looking?
Instead of answering Jürgen hides his face in his hands, his shoulders are shaking with laughter.
- Now you see with whom I am forced to live, - exclaims Rudi with pathos. – And you are expecting an adequate reaction from this man?
He doesn’t know how he is able to continue laughing. Maybe he is simply getting used to the fact that sometimes it becomes so hard to breathe.
Football is a simple game where twenty-two men chase a ball for ninety minutes, and at the end the Germans always win (Gary Lineker)
Klaus turns away from the mirror.
- Do I look anything like a crocodile?
There is a nervous laughter, the tension in hanging in the air.
- More like a frog, - attempts to joke Jürgen Kohler.
- Am I not too big for a frog?
- A good frog then. Big. Green.
He sighs and stands up.
- Cut the jokes, let’s go.
On the field of “Delle Alpi” they are playing with
Jürgen is sitting on the grass, he remains standing. The roaring of tribunes is deafening, but he hears only the whistle. One, two, three.
- Go, Lothar.
Maybe it’s an illusion, but maybe he’s really heard Jürgen’s quiet voice in all this noise. Whistle, and he runs, not looking at the goalkeeper, not thinking, shoots like he always does. The ball is in the net.
Two more strikes from each side, and players in green jerseys start a celebration. German team never loses penalty series at World Cup.
Jürgen and Rudi are sitting in the corner of the room, talking. Or better to say chatting. Animatedly, like two boys – gesturing and laughing loudly and applauding each other, and he can’t stand looking at eat anymore.
- Will you two be quiet or not?
Jürgen stands up and turns to him. Their eyes meet, Jürgen’s eyes are like ice, he feels himself cold, so cold…
And Rudi touches his friend by the hand gently. Jürgen nods.
- Let’s go.
And they leave the room, and he is looking at them, unable to move.
He sees Jürgen no matter where he is. Hears his voice even if he is talking quietly. Feels when Jürgen is entering the room, senses his presence. This man is in the center of his world, and he is unable to notice anything else. Maybe he is simply going mad.
One to null! Goycoechea knew everything! But could do nothing (from the commentary on German TV)
Half time. In the locker room there is an absolute silence. Everyone is sitting with their heads lowered, almost unmoving. It’s a strange match where one team has a complete advantage – in class, in moments, in everything, but it still stands null to null. Argentinean attack that was so feared before the match is nowhere in sight, and their shy attempts to create some danger bring nothing – Guido Buchwald is playing the match of his life. But they are defending excellently, and nobody knows what to do with this defense.
Franz is standing in the doorway for a long time, looking at them, before entering.
- Rudi, Jürgen.
Forwards lift their heads, almost in synch, looking at the coach.
Franz is silent for some more seconds.
Both nod slightly and continue looking at the floor. Franz waits some more moments and leaves. They all go after him.
The waiting is unbearable. It seems as if the whole hour has passed instead of twelve minutes, but the arbiter knows better.
He is looking at those who are standing around him. Argentineans are talking quietly. German players are mostly silent, some are straightening their jerseys. His sight catches the two forwards standing a little farther. And again he knows that he shouldn’t look there, and again he is unable to take his eyes from them.
They are speaking about something. Jürgen’s right hand is on Rudi’s shoulder, Rudi’s hand is lying on Jürgen’s hip. Two friends discussing something secret, coach’s order probably. But he sees that they are standing too close to each other, notices Jürgen’s distracted smile. He knows that these two are lovers, and in this moment he’d give much for not knowing it.
- Fall, jut don’t get sent off, - murmurs Osiek, going past them.
- We know, - answers Rudi and turns to Jürgen again. They look each other in the eyes, and he is standing just two steps away and seeing it all…
Anger overcomes him as a wave – at Jürgen, at Rudi, at himself, he doesn’t know and it doesn’t matter. Anger makes him sober, and he is able to control the game again, without paying attention to his own feelings.
Attack after attack brings nothing. Jürgen falls executing a fine acrobatic trick, red card for Monzon, everything is a bit easier now. Forwards try to provoke defenders but the opponents are careful – so far. Rudi falls without anybody touching him. A whistle.
And again he orders himself: “Don’t look”, and again it is useless. Jürgen and Rudi, their hands touch briefly, soft smiles. He is unable to draw enough breath. He is ill probably. He can’t see anything but Jürgen’s face and this smile directed at Rudi, not at him…
He doesn’t know how he manages to take a step back to the place where Andy is standing. Andy looks at him, surprised.
- I’ve changed boots in the half-time, not sure if everything will be well, - it’s strange, but his voice is absolutely normal. – Will you take this shot?
- Easily, - Andy takes the ball. He notices briefly Franz’s face, surprise and anger written on it. Doesn’t matter. He knows that he won’t be able to score, he doesn’t see anything as if blinded by spotlights. Andy freezes before the run-up, he is standing next to him and is unable to make out the goal. Only the wild roar from the tribunes tells him that Andy scored. They lead one to null.
Night sky over the Olympic stadium in
He lifts the Cup above his head. Behind his back Jürgen and Rudi smile at each other, raising their hands to the sky.
In your eyes there is a desire for victory.
Summer, our great adventure.
(Gianna Nannini & Edoardo Bennato, “Un Estate Italiana”)