Joining the losing side in San Marino | News | DW | 11.06.2017
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Joining the losing side in San Marino

A San Marino loss against Germany was nothing short of a foolproof guarantee. Nonetheless, as DW's Hecko Flores found out, wearing the national team’s colors remains a source of pride for Sammarinese players.

A crowd of more than 32,000 fans roared as the referee blew the final whistle. 7-0 was the scoreline after 90 minutes - a thrashing victory for the German team over San Marino.

Despite the one-sided result, the San Marino players took to the pitch to show their appreciation towards their fans. Only a few had made the 850-kilometer trip to Nuremberg from the tiny republic surrounded by Italy.

"It's nice to feel their support in any stadium where we go play because we are almost always the underdogs," Sammarinese striker Danilo Rinaldi told DW post-match.

Earlier in the week, German media had critically reported that the stadium would not be full for Saturday's match as more than 10,000 tickets were still available - and eventually went unsold.

Indeed, the total attendance of 32,467 in the soon-to-be-renamed "Max-Morlock-Stadion" is not far short of the total population of San Marino itself. All the nation's inhabitants would not be enough to fill Germany's eleventh largest stadium.

Fußball WM-Qualifikation Deutschland - San Marino Torjubel (Reuters/M. Rehle Livepic)

Germany celebrate

Pride and joy

Not that playing in large stadia something new for Rinaldi; the Sammarinese player was born and raised in Argentina and grew up as a River Plate fan, one of Argentina's biggest clubs. Rinaldi also played in the fourth-tier of professional football in his country of birth but in 2008 he decided to make the move to San Marino.

"Thanks to my mother I was able to obtain Sammarinese citizenship and today I'm able to enjoy every match I get to play with the national team," said Rinaldi. "I play as I would in Argentinian colors," said Rinaldi, who so far has scored one goal in 31 matches with his national team.

Danilo Rinaldi, Fußballspieler San Marino (DW/H. Flores)

Argentinian-born San Marino striker Danilo Rinaldi

While such a record would hardly turn any heads elsewhere in football, it stands out in the Sammarinese team - a team that has yet to score a goal in 2017 and its last and only victory happened in 2004 against Liechtenstein.

San Marino  suffered their worst-ever loss against Germany at home in 2006 - a whopping 13 goals to zero defeat.

Saturday's loss by seven goals may seem like an improvement from that game but it is still far from ideal and the players know that.

"These matches are really tough for us but we still work hard so whenever we are faced by difficult moments like these, we can always hold our heads up high," Rinaldi said.

Unique opportunity

Even though San Marino only has a semi-professional league - meaning a large majority of players cannot make a living from the sport, playing for San Marino has given Rinaldi a unique opportunity in football.

"We knew we would be facing the world champions so we tried to work out what we practiced throughout the week on the pitch. They have immense potential and quality but we were able to hold off some of their attacks," said Rinaldi with a smile.

After all, if we brush aside the results, these players are experiencing and living the wildest dreams of many: kicking a ball about with the best in the world.

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