Some columns are written drunk, this one is being written while drinking, Emmet Ryan is in a bar in Kreuzberg and he looks a lot healthier than Germany’s hero right now
The end was the three. Marco Belinelli scored from deep and Germany’s hopes of beating Italy went with it. Moments beforehand, Germany’s best hope to bring them to a shock victory over Spain took a big fall. Schroeder, while committing the turnover that led to the three, fell badly. Normally the Atlanta Hawks man raced through the mixed zone, he’s not big on interviews, he still avoided questions but wasn’t going so fast this time. Schroeder was hurt, favouring his leg badly as he hobbled back to the dressing room. It was a sad sight after such an incredible performance. The 6 turnovers were easy to forget after watching his influence on this game. Schroeder made the fans in the arena believe in a way they thought only Dirk Nowitzki could. The player German coaches had found uncoachable was doing it his own way and it almost brought Germany over the line while others floundered.
Before the game a German observer spoke with me about his issues with the Bundesliga, how it wasn’t giving German players enough opportunities. He was upset with the whole development system here and thought fondly of what he saw in his 7 years in Israel. Shortly before Spain took on Iceland I ran into him again. He was crazy for Schroeder, how he defied his coaches here. “There is a ball and a basket” he feigned lunging at me “and let’s see who is the better man.” It’s Schroeder’s fearlessness that makes him so easy to root for. Here’s a man who plays like he thinks no-one can stop him.
Several hours on, I’m now seated in the candlelight of Voegelchen in Kreuzberg. A few Germany fans are here, the first sign of the tournament in this part of town save for my press ID. They don’t look despondent but they aren’t exactly full of conversation. After the mixed zone spell was done, I walked behind Simone Piangiani and Danilo Gallinari. The former in her perfectly fitted suited had a strut but slowed down for Gallow who had ice on his ankle and knee. Gallo had come big, again. Save for the Iceland game he has been electric for Italy in this tournament. While not enjoying the moments of Belo in the last two games, he’s been their guy. Sarah, the barmaid, is an artist from Australia who switches between forms depending on the message she is trying to tell. Gallo switches depending on what his team needs. It’s all about the commitment. Doing what’s needed to get to the next level. Italy got their today, a shot at top spot in their pocket and a winnable game in the next round secured.
On the way out of the arena I heard a call “BallinEurope” it was Jannes Schaefer, a German journalist who has been a most reliable source in my crash course in the Bundesliga. This site can’t have a rooting interest but it has to have a heart, whether it was him or Paolo from last night, I was going to feel sympathy for him. He had been through the ringer in one of the best playoff series Europe enjoyed last summer as Alba came out on the wrong end against Bayern, now he was philosophical about what could happen tomorrow. He described the idea of Germany potentially eliminating Spain as absurd. It is but look how Spain got in this position or even how they played once they got here.
After last night’s loss to Italy I was expecting Spain to take Iceland to the woodshed. Instead they reeked for 20 minutes. All the pressure was on Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic in this one, they carried their lacklustre team mates into a comfortable position. Spain eventually ran out easy winners but this Iceland team keeps winning friends. Here they were with Ragnar, the last man on the bench, leading them in applauding their fans at full time. It’s happened after every game. Jon Stefansson and several other eventually went into the stands to hug fans. There are roughly 2,000 Iceland fans here, that’s about 0.66 per cent of their population. These guys are staying for the full week. It’s been a hell of a journey for them. While the rest fight it out to get to Lille, they are just happy to be in Berlin.
The night turned to discussions of permutations tomorrow but the joy of those North Atlantic fans is what this is really about. The only player, outside the Iceland roster, as relaxed as them faces them tomorrow. Ali Muhammed, the baller formerly known as Bobby Dixon. He was the MVP of swag in the TBL Playoffs long before he was the actual MVP. Here he is, in Berlin, enjoying being part of something. He wants to win it all but he won’t let the moment pass.