There are a lot of crazy stories surrounding Inter's history but the one I'm about to tell might be the craziest of them all.
Mönchengladbach. October 20, 1971.
Inter was facing Borussia at their home ground in the second round of the European Cup. The Germans had just won their second Bundesliga title while the Nerazzurri made a glorious comeback to bring home their eleventh Scudetto. The game was played in a small stadium with wooden tribunes, the Bökelbergstadion, which wasn't adequate for a two-times league champion.
The size of the stadium might have tricked Inter into thinking that their opponents weren't a fearsome enemy. In fact, just 7 minutes into the game, Borussia took the lead thanks to a goal by Heynckes. Roberto Boninsegna, who was crowned Capocannoniere the season before, scored the equalizer bringing his team back on the right track. However the Germans, with their fast-paced game, were too much for Inter and Le Fevre made it 2-1 in the 21st minute.
Then something incredible and unexpected happened.
Boninsegna was near the sideline when something hit him the head. Immediately Sandro Mazzola yelled something at him and he fell to the ground, seemingly unconscious.
The Italians started yelling at the confused referee Jef Dorpmans asking him to interrupt the match, while the furious Germans accused Bonimba of acting. Only two players were able to keep their cool: Netzer and Mazzola. The former tried to get rid of the evidence by tossing it off the pitch while the later noticed two Italian fans in the stands sipping from a can of coke and asked them to give it to him to bring it to the referee, telling him that Boninsegna was hit in the head by it. He later confirmed that his teammate was actually hit in the head by a can, but by a full one rather than the empty container he handed the referee.
Seven messy minutes later, the match resumed. Invernizzi, Inter's coach at the time was forced to pull out the dazed Boninsegna. The Nerazzurri were so sure they would be awarded the match that they didn't put any pressure on the opponents after the incident, allowing them to score at will. Sieloff scored the seventh - and last - goal for the Germans thanks to a questionable penalty. Mario Corso was so mad at the referee that the player kicked him. Corso was suspended for several games even though Inter tried to attribute the violent act to Gian Piero Ghio.
You would think that the weird things would have stopped there. You would be like most people, but you would also be wrong.
After the game, the Germans tried to bring Boninsegna out from the dressing room but he was nowhere to be found. The only person who came out was Inter's team doctor, who told them that the striker was in shock and had a big bruise on his head.
Everyone thought that Inter would have been awarded the match because of what happened. The only person who wasn't so sure about that was Franco Manni, sporting director of Inter, who rushed towards vice-president Peppino Prisco, who also was a well-known lawyer, telling him:
Lawyer, look here: the UEFA rules do not contemplate an event like this one..I browsed the volume ten times, in the French version but there is nothing!
Prisco didn't care about the UEFA rules and filed a complaint asking to assign the win to Inter. At the same time, the German federation tried to blame an Inter fan for the wrongdoing but the German police was, unwillingly, forced to divulge the identity of the criminal: a naturalized German, Dutch born, clearly a Borussia supporter.
Prisco, a law mastermind, was able to convince UEFA's disciplinary commission to discuss the case and he took part to the meeting held in Geneva. After an exhausting conference that lasted a day, Peppino got what he wanted: UEFA decided to re-play the match, though after the second leg was held.
Borussia Mönchengladbach and Inter Milan met again on November 3rd for the second leg in Milan. Inter won 4-2 this time in a spectacular match. The replay of the first leg was played in Berlin on the first of December, with both teams finishing scoreless, allowing Inter to proceed in the competition knocking out Borussia. The Italians advanced to the European Cup final that year, losing to Ajax.
To this day the reality of what happened that day is still a little unclear. There is just one, hopefully unbiased, testimony by an Italian journalist, Alfeo Biagi.
From Mönchengladbach, that day, I came home with coke stains on my raincoat. The most famous can in football history flew into Bobo Boninsegna's nape, hovering over my head. I still can see the dark splashes sparkle in the light. And I remember, like it was yesterday, the hard crash with Boninsegna's head. And I saw, just as clearly, Sandro Mazzola picking something up from the ground and handing it over to Dorpmans. I suddenly turned back: a blonde and chunky young guy, was trying to sneak off from his seat but he was immediately grabbed by two police offer who took him away. I had a light raincoat: the coke stains left a ring even after the efforts of the Lavasecco (dry cleaner), back in Italy.
This is the Büchsenwurfspiel, the Match of Can, la Partita della Lattina. This is what happens when Inter's craziness reaches its peak (at least so far). In honor of this truly Pazza Inter event, I feel like Coca-Cola should be Inter's shirt sponsors rather than Pirelli.