Champions League groups draws have coupled again Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach, after 41 years since the last meet up, happened to be in UEFA CUP 1979/80. Though both clubs have attended European cups regularly during their long and victorious history, they only had a clash between each others twice, in both occasions in a double leg match, bringing the balance to four total games before tonight’s one. However, the reason why we talk about this fixture on Ultras Bible hides in the first match between Italians and Germans, in 1971. The most passionate and informed about old school football could already know this topic, La Partita della Lattina, or Büchsenwurspiel (=The Match of the soda can), to all the others, sit back and enjoy this incredible story!

Champions League 1971/72, an Inter full of international stars and holder of the previous Scudetto (Italian Serie A), travels in the small city of Monchengladbach for the last of sixteen fixture. Borussia, a new face in European football, won the previous Bundesliga edition, but still has the typical “provincial team” look; waiting to rise completely from the average level of German football system, and still little used to the international stages during these years. These reasons, as we can read from newspapers articles from those days, give Inter very good chances of easily pass the round; the team appeared particularly relaxed in the few days before the first leg, in the old Bökelbergstadion.

Bökelbergstadion, former Borussia stadium, theater of the night

The very start of the match though, took the Neroazzurri out of place, and put them down twice, with the score being 2-1 before the 20th minute. Ten minutes later, around the 30th minute, we find the main episode that gives title to this match, and this article. Roberto Boninsegna, striker able to score 300 goals during his career, is hit on his head by a Coca Cola can during a throw in. Fallen to the ground and brought away on a stretcher, the Italian striker will eventually suffer from a parietal contusion to the delicate areas of the head, for demonstration of the legitness of the injury. In the meantime, on the pitch of the Bökelbergstadion the situation has become crazy and wild. The Germans managed to hide the blunt object, but without noticing Sandro Mazzola, legendary Inter winger, picking up an empty one from the away sector through the help of some fans, and explaining the truth to the Dutch referee Jef Dorpmans in a wavering English. After more than ten minutes the match starts over, with Inter refusing to play, and conceding seven goals in total, making the final result a blistering 7-1 for the Germans. In the last spell of the match, two more key Inter players find their way out of the pitch: Jair picks up a muscular injury, while Mario Corso is sent off after fighting with the ref, still thinking about the first half episode.

Inter players trying to convince the referee so suspend the match. We can spot an old Giacinto Facchetti walking away from the group, at his last year in Inter after 17 years

Right at the end of the match, the whole Inter board in Germany for the match was positive about winning the match at the table through the referee relationship, the main reason why the players refused to equally face BMG. Various and long complications needed the participation of Giuseppe Prisco, lawyer and vice-president of Inter during the ‘70s; nowadays he still his name in the lyrics of the club’s official anthem, twenty years after his death. His ability convinced the UEFA court to cancel the first leg, setting the new match to be played in Bern, after a few weeks, and adding a hefty fine to Borussia. This decision unleashed the public opinion on both sides, with a sport news reaching for the first time ever the radio news in the newly reborned Germany, which was only used to politics news. In Italy various journalists wrote about a “diplomatic masterpiece”, while waiting for the San Siro game, where then Inter was called to win.

“Inter-Borussia, we start back from zero”: a famous Italian newspaper widely talks about the match and its legal consequences

So it was: the Neroazzurri won 4-2, with Bellugi, Ghio and the recovered Boninsegna and Jair on the scoresheet; Le Fevre and Wittkamp for die Fohlen. The second discussed match didn’t take place in Bern, but at the Olimpic Stadium in Berlin, through a UEFA concession to still play in West Germany, after various Borussia’s board bigger appeals. The choice wasn’t appreciated by the club, which saw it as an offence and accused UEFA, already based in Switzerland at that time, to be xenophobic against Germans. To the records, the match was still repeated, deleting first leg’s 7-1, and giving Inter the overall victory, ending in a goalless draw. German newspapers and medias weren’t able to deny the accuses with real proofs. Various Italian witnesses, with many big journalist of that time, instead confirmed the Italian version, also bringing to the judges few stained coats, apparently ruined by the famous Coca Cola. Besides, German police confirmed to have blocked a fan at the stadium during that night, without revealing his identity, but in a way confirming the truth behind the infamous match.

Giuseppe Prisco, the key lawyer for the Inter appeal to the UEFA court

Net of the chronicles and aftermaths that this clash brings with itself after fifty years, let’s quickly analyze what happened under a ultras point of view; with both Italian and German fan scene being at their very start at the beginning of the ‘70s, football still wasn’t followed by organized tifo. Instead, it used to have a more free and various audience. This is probably the reason why we don’t report big rivalries between Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach ultras groups, after what we can easily call a cold war between the two clubs’ boards, and general fans opinion during the days. Both scenes can now vaunt an influent presence in recent European football scene, but having different area of interest and action. Time indeed, stole this strange episode from the memory of a large part of the support of both clubs. La Partita della Lattina would have had a completely different effect if played only ten years later, and would have consequences still nowadays, with fierce rivarly between the Italian and German sides.

La Partita della Lattina, Büchsenwurspiel, The Match of the Can, or if you’d rather, the night when an ancient drunk ultras ancestor gave life to an international episode of legislative justice!

Curva Nord of Inter with a dedicated choreo to their former vice-presidente Giuseppe Prisco

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