There are games that are valuable regardless of whether you win on the pitch. There are matches who take their place in history for reasons other than the football that’s played. Inter played one, or rather three of these types of games in the early 70’s, against what was referred to as the “team of the century”.
It’s on this subject that this special episode in Italian of Euro Nights, the podcast that joins us on our journey in the lead up to European competition matches, begins. Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Inter is a match that lights a bulb in the mind of every fan. The clash between the two teams evokes memories of a special and historic encounter: the 7-1 match played on 20 October 1971. However, it was to be a match that was erased from the books of football history.
The story of the match is known to most people, but we retrace it step by step in the build up to the match in this season’s Champions League with the voices of the people that were there. There’s the son of the Prisco the lawyer, Ivano Bordon, Tarcisio Burgnich, Roberto Boninsegna and Gianfranco Bedin, who will take us on a journey back 50 years in time to that October, to the famous “Match of the tin can”, the appeal, the match’s replay, the victory at San Siro and the incredible legal battle fought by the Nerazzurri lawyer.Ascolta "EURO NIGHTS Ep. 03 | Borussia, Inter e le partite della lattina" su Spreaker.
On 20 October 1971, Inter took on the two-time German champions, Borussia, at the Bokelbergstadion in front of 27,000 fans, of which 5000 were Italian. The match marked the first leg of the round of 16 in the Champions Cup. After 21 minutes of play the Germans were ahead 2-1, after Boninsegna had found the net for Inter. In the 29th minute came the shocking occurrence of the match: Boninsegna, who was near the touchline, was hit on the head by a Coca-Cola can thrown from the stands. He ended up on the ground near to the Dutch referee Dorpmans. The atmosphere turned sour and hostile, with Boninsegna being carried off on a stretcher. Inter were shocked by what had happened. At the end of the first half, with Nerazzurri goalkeeper Lido Vieri still in disbelief, Borussia went ahead 5-1. Vieri went off for the young Ivano Bordon, however the second half was an ordeal. First, Jair picked up an injury after Inter had used all of their available substitutions, meaning the team went down to ten men. Corso then received a red card for an alleged lashing out at the referee. Inter went down to nine men and lost 7-1.
The Italian sports legal body had a clear standing with regard to cases of this kind, while UEFA’s jurisprudence had gaps and lacked a precedent in this sense. The lawyer Peppino Prisco relied on all of his experience and professionalism, with the disciplinary commission meeting in Geneva to analyse the case. The verdict was unprecedented: the match was annulled and was decided to be replayed at a neutral ground, with the result of the first leg at Borussia being erased. The German club also received a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs. At the same time, the second leg at San Siro was set in stone for 3 November.
At San Siro the atmosphere was fiery, with Inter winning 4-2 thanks to goals from Bellugi, Boninsegna, Jair and Ghio. It was a match that was epic, with Burgnich playing with a cut heel and with the Germans already thinking about appealing to the disciplinary committee. The only concession they received was that the return match was not to be played in Bern, but rather Berlin. So, at the Olympiastadion the third match between Borussia and Inter in a month was played.
There were 86,000 fans, a deployed police force, journalists and television stations; it seemed like a scene from a World Cup final. As if it was the clash between Italy and Germany in Mexico in 1970, all eyes were fixed on the match. It was during that match that young Bordon made himself a hero, putting in an amazing performance, ensuring the Nerazzurri qualified for the quarterfinals.
"I feel like I saved seven goals", said Peppino after the verdict. In reality, however, he did much more, leaving his mark on the history of international sports law.