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Schröder receives piece of football history

Schroeder was given a bit of Wankdorf turf by the Swiss ambassador, Thomas Borer (right), and the former football player, Horst Eckel Keystone

The German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, has received an unusual Christmas gift from Switzerland - a memento from Bern's former football stadium.

The Swiss ambassador, Thomas Borer, presented Schröder with a piece of turf and a clothes hook taken from the now destroyed Wankdorf stadium.

The items are a present from the outgoing Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, and are of great significance to the German football team.

It was at Wankdorf in 1954 that West Germany unexpectedly defeated Hungary 3-2 to win the World Cup even though Hungary had been leading 2-0 for most of the match.

The mementos were accompanied by a letter from Leuenberger, congratulating Germany for qualifying for next year’s World Cup in South Korea.

In the letter, Leuenberger told Schröder he cannot guarantee that the football-sized piece of turf contains any seeds from 1954, but he says it exudes the same spirit and could be a mascot for the German football team for the upcoming competition in South Korea.

The clothes hook was supposedly used by the 1954 German football coach, Fritz Walter.

Good relationship

Leuenberger wrote that he also considered the piece of turf to be a symbol of the good relationship between the two countries and said he was pleased to return a piece of German glory.

He added that Schröder might want to plant the piece of Wankdorf lawn in the garden of the new German parliament, and that Ambassador Borer would certainly be willing to water it in times of drought.

The decaying Wankdorf stadium was blown up on August 3, after 47 years of staging international football matches.

The stadium, built by the Italian architect Virgilio Muzzulini in 1954, was destroyed to make way for a new 36,000-seat stadium, which is due to open in 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR