Pic: Yaki Assaig
Argentina vs. Germany
Photo: Reuters
Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Me, myself and Maradona

Yair Lapid managed to get a ticket to the World Cup quarter-finals. Well, sort of

I went to the world soccer quarter-finals. It wasn’t easy to organize but I explained to my editors that politics are really the more interesting part of the world soccer championships - the new Germany under the leadership of the conservative Chancellor Merkel is rediscovering it’s national pride and inscribed on its flag is a particularly important principle: Make sure that my expenses are paid.


After the matter of who was footing the bill was settled I was sent on my way. In other words, they got so sick of my nagging that they sent me to buy my own ticket. It took two weeks of telephone calls but in the end I find Milman, who has lived in Germany for 20 years and makes his living by not shaving.


At first I was concerned but mutual friends assured me that the guy could be trusted. He has integrated into German society to the extent that if he is standing with a bottle of Lowenbrau in one hand and a frankfurter in the other, he hasn’t got a trace of a foreign accent. “We’ll meet two hours before the game,” he enthuses, “You won’t believe the tickets I got. Midfield, two seats away from Beckenbauer.”


On my way


Happy and carefree I got on the Friday flight to Beckenbauer, surrounded by Israeli soccer fans who are clearly unaware of Israel’s growing poverty. I learned two things during the flight: Most of them think Argentina will win and most of them bought their tickets from Milman.


We spent the four hours in flight gaily singing “Diego-Deagito-Maradona-oo-la-la." I may have been the only one who understood that it’s going to be first come first serve. Whoever gets to the Hotel “Steginberger” in Berlin first is going to get the best tickets for the game.


As we landed, I asked the nice fellow next to me holding photos of his grandchildren if he would let me out first since I am waiting for my heart transplant. His wrinkled face fell in concern and complied but once in the aisle he set his satchel on my back and stampeded me in his haste to get out. I ran after him and tripped him on the way to the passport line and he fell on his face.


I shot forward in the direction of the queue only to discover that two youngsters summoned the airport cops and told them I was a member of Al Qaeda. It took me an hour and a half to get to the hotel and I was pretty agitated when I did.


Turns out that Stegenberger is a charming hotel. Its all marble lobby was full of some 50 Israelis asking each other “Have you seen Milman?”


The standard reply was: “Calogalo can’t find him.” Calogalo, it turns out, is his local assistant, a short Turkish fellow with a moustache, two cell phones and an extensive vocabulary in English beginning and ending with “Milman no call, accident.”


A deeper inquiry into the guy’s carotid artery indicated that Milman did indeed have an accident and he’s sorry he can’t get to the hotel. However, the good news is that Calogalo had a one packet of tickets, which, for a small sum of money, equal to Chile’s GNP, he was willing to sell us. “But we paid already," we complained in unison into his scared face, “we pre-paid for the tickets in Israel.”


“Yes,” he said sadly, “Milman no call, accident.”


'Juden Raus!' (not really)


What could we do at this point? We bought. The game was starting in 40 minutes. I flagged down the closest taxi and flew to the international event. I kept staring at my newly purchased ticket and the enclosed map of the stadium. My seat was B-28-2-19 which translated from German is Gate 28, second level, 19th row. The ‘B’ is short for ‘Bullocks, they are the worse seats in the stadium.’


Huge embossed capital letters on the ticket state that I am a member of Ghana’s national football association. I looked in the taxi’s side mirror and saw I was rather pale but decided to explain that I am the offspring of white colonialists who ruled Ghana until recently. An interesting question by the way - who did rule Ghana before it gained its independence? And if we’re already talking about it, where the heck is Ghana and why was liberating it so urgent?


I arrived at the stadium ten minutes before kickoff. I give my ticket to the usher at the entrance and the police immediately detain me. My ticket, as my clever readers have probably figured out by now, was forged. Truthfully, it was an awkward and unpleasant moment for me. In front of everyone, two cops took me to a side booth where they used their clubs to beat the daylights out of me yelling "Juden Raus" the entire time.


No, not really. Actually they were quite considerate and after I showed them my Zionist passport, the German guilt trip kicked in and they released me but not before warning me about buying tickets from short Turks.


Maradona rules!!!


The game had already begun by the time I was released. I stood alone outside the high walls of the statement and I heard the resounding cheers of the crowds as the teams came onto the field. Hard to explain how I felt but it was really sad.


There wasn’t a taxi to be had, the frankfurter vendors had closed up shop, and the last usher remained at the entrance to make sure I didn’t try to sneak back in. Like any honest guy I wondered what makes a guy like Milman tick. How does he explain all of this to himself? How does he sleep at night? Is he really so unfeeling? What color will his new Ferrari be?


While I am pondering this, I see a small group of people coming closer. At first I ignore them but then I realize that the little guy in the middle looks familiar. I continued to stand there rooted to the sidewalk as Diego-Diegito-Maradona walks by.


The next day I read that he argued with the FIFA officials who would not let his friend enter the stadium. He got angry and decided not to see the game. At the time, it didn’t have any impact on me.


I finally found a taxi back to the hotel where I managed to watch on a 14-inch screen how Argentina lost to the Germans in penalty kicks. Even that didn’t affect my mood. I sat there quietly, drinking my beer and couldn’t stop smiling because I knew something that three billion Mondial viewers did not know - even Maradona buys his tickets from Milman.


פרסום ראשון: 07.09.06, 19:42
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