The Cordoba Miracle

Actor Massimo Furlan Reenacted Hans Krankl’s Heroic 1978 Winning Goal for Austria to Live Commentary By Eddy Finger Jr.

All of Vienna is currently infected with soccer fever, as the opening of the European Championship is lurking just around the corner. Soccer balls and Austrian flags are everywhere — on subways, cars, or on food packaging, and on billboards all over this city that is the proud co-host of the European Championship 2008.

So it was not surprising that EURO 2008 made it into this year’s Wiener Festwochen (Vienna International Festival), which, each year between May and June presents theatre, music and dance productions by famous artists from around the world.

On May 16 then, just one month short of the first official European Championship encounter between Austria and arch rival Germany, Gerhard-Hannapi stadium (home of Rapid Wien) re-staged one of Austrian soccer’s most poignant moments: the 1978 World Championship finale in Cordoba, Argentina, where Austria won a 3-2 victory over Germany.

This time, however, there was no ball and no referee, and only one man on the field, 42-year-old actor Massimo Furlan, playing football hero Hans Krankl, key forward of the 1978 Austrian national team. As Massimo retraced each of Hans Krankl’s heroic footsteps, one could “see” the ball rolling about the pitch, mesmerized by his movements and mimicry, eavesdropping on the quarrels with referees. Massimo zig-zagged across the field, each step carefully studied. Come goal time, he sprinted toward the opponent’s goal and swung his leg out with great force. With no ball to hit that would serve as resistance, it is a challenge not to trip and fall. Massimo however mastered this skill, and one could almost “hear” the thud of the ball hitting his cleats.

The animated audience of about 2,500 was mostly Austrians along with a few brave German fans, occupying the stadium’s north end stands. It quickly became apparent that the audience would be a deciding factor of the play’s success and thus became an active part of the performance. Holding a tight clutch on to a yellow radio in the shape of an Ottakringer beer can (sponsored for the occasion) the crowd listened intently to live commentator Edi Finger Jr., son of the glorious commentator Edi Finger, who became famous in Cordoba, as he shouted the gripping words “Toor, Toooor, Tooooooor, Tooooooor…” (Gooal, gooal goooal!) following Hans Krankl’s deciding point making the Austrian’s world champion in 1978.

As it turned out, these yellow beer cans were an essential part to the play, perhaps even the highlight, as they spurred on the crowd. Without Edi Finger Jr.’s watchful eye and stirring narration, whipping up the part-cheering and part-laughing crowd, the play would have been much less fun.

Therefore, it seems a bit odd that the audience was not fully coached about the necessity of the yellow beer can. In fact, several audience members, who had come in empty-handed, ran back up the stands to retrieve one – slowing things down. Moreover, the radios were not preset to the frequency of the live commentator, which led to yet another delay. After a few turns of the dial, zapping past Kronehit and Radio Energy, a nuisance and an anachronism under the circumstances, the live commentator’s voice was spotted.

At last, the triangle between the crowd, Hans Krankl alias Massimo Furlan, and the commentator via the radio, played their parts in unison. Massimo perfected each of Hans Krankl’s goal attempts and actual goals. A massive screen situated in the corner of the stadium replayed the original scenes from the 1978 match after Massimo had demonstrated his single-player version.

Edi Finger Jr. entertained the crowd with his cheerful comments (“Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is getting on my nerves”), which sent waves of laughter through each of the North stand rows.

One unexpected highlight: three brave male members of the crowd stripped down to the all together and stormed the field, their private parts on display. Edi Finger Jr. picked up on this cue and slipped an improvised comment about the three nudes. Upon returning to his seat, one of the three retrieved a 50 Euro bill, celebrating what appeared to be the follow through on a bet.

Toward the end of the game, in the 87th minute, actor Massimo Furlan reclaimed everyone’s attention as he flawlessly mimicked the 3 – 2 victory goal over Germany. Edi Finger Jr.’s voice was swapped for the original footage of his father’s recorded cry of joy as he shouted the words “Toor, Toooor, Tooooooor, Tooooooor…” repeatedly and endlessly and uttered “I wer’ narrisch!” (I’m going crazy). The crowd roared, screaming their hearts out. Austrian flags were held up high. Even the few Germans present at this revived, historical moment of certain humiliation were caught clapping.

On Jun. 16, Germany will meet Austria once again. Whether this play will have a symbolic meaning is without a doubt. But it remains to be seen, whether Austria will have another opportunity to “go crazy”.

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