May
26
2008
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Beer, Zoo And Defeat

Germany’s first international match, against Switzerland in Basle on 5 April 1908, was something of an adventure for eleven young German men who had to pay for their own travel to Switzerland after the German football association only gave them 20 marks towards the trip. There was no manager to speak of, which meant that captain Hiller II had to give a team talk shortly before kick-off, which cannot have been easy for him because he hardly knew his team-mates, never mind their strengths or weaknesses. His rather unusual name, Hiller II, is easily explained, however, because he played with his brother and his nephew for FC Pforzheim, which meant that the three Hillers were simply given numbers. Hiller III also played international football, winning three caps for Germany and also featuring for Argentina after emigrating to South America.
Anybody who saw the team before kick-off at 15.00h could have been forgiven for assuming that the Germans were simply a group of tourists. The official German football association report states that: “The Swiss gentlemen turned up about 10 o’clock to take us on a pleasant tour of the city. They then took us to the zoo before we discussed the afternoon match over a glass of beer.”
The “Swiss gentlemen” had obviously drunk a little more than they had intended as Becker gave Germany an early lead. But after a heavy storm around the 20-minute mark, the hosts stepped up a gear and goals from Kampfer, Hug and Pfeiffer gave them a 3-1 half-time lead, paving the way for their eventual 5-3 victory. The atmosphere at the evening banquet was cordial, to say the least. Switzerland goalkeeper Dreyfuss decided to demonstrate a save and in doing so sent bottles of mustard and sauce flying from the table and over Becker’s dinner jacket, which he had hired for 12 marks. Becker apparently had to pay 48 marks to have the suit cleaned. Germany’s first international match was certainly a costly affair for the 18-year-old student who never played for Germany again, despite having the honour of scoring his country’s first-ever goal.