It’s the 13th of March, 2011, and the thick humidity of a Queensland evening hangs unevenly in the air, as the sun slowly sets over the Brisbane suburb of Milton.
Brisbane Roar is losing 2-0 in their first ever A-League grand final. For 96 minutes they had titanically battled the Central Coast Mariners in front of a rapturous sea of orange, but in just seven minutes a mixture of nerves and Adam Kwasnik brilliance had seemingly put the game beyond hope.
At least, this is what many watching on television thought. But the largest crowd to ever attend a football match in Queensland knew better. All season they had been treated to a magician, a miracle worker hailing from the footballing mecca of Munich.
Thomas Broich was unlike any other player the A-League had ever seen. Nicknamed Mozart by those who knew him best, he was the thinking man’s footballer. His six goals and 12 assists in his debut season was unprecedented.
It’s still a tally unmatched by any player since. The Roar fans knew that they just needed one run, one promising position, one sliver of attacking threat and Broich would find it.
Three minutes from time and that’s exactly what he did. Jean Carlos Solarzano cut back, Broich had one touch to control, he spun, gliding with the ball attached to his foot like a skate upon ice. His next move was to caress a perfect layoff to Henrique.
And just like that, Broich had his 13th assist of the season, and the club with the lion on their crest had bravely clawed one back.
Two minutes of titanic struggle followed. Graham Arnold’s Mariners had the best defence in the competition, and they weren’t about to let a two-goal lead slip without a fight.
In the end, it all came down to a corner.
Thirty seconds through the 119th minute and the only man with the ball was the 30-year-old Bundesliga reject, with the Beatles-esque mop of black hair, who spent his spare time reading classical German literature and who later that year would, against all the odds, be inspiration for a German feature documentary on the one that got away.
But for now, Broich only had one thought. Earlier in the match, he’s devilishly curving corners had seen a Mitch Nichols header cannon off the post. Broich knew what he had to do, and he executed impeccably.
The ball twisted venemously through the air like the flick of a Scorpions tail, leaving Alex Wilkinson and Patrick Zwaanswijk – two of the greatest central defenders in A-League history – motionless. With the sort of pinpoint accuracy that would leave a military sniper gawking, Broich found the 193 centimetre tall Erik Paartalu directly in front of goal.
The rest, as they say, is history.
From that moment on, Brisbane Roar fans would always regard Broich with the sort of aura usually reserved for deities and natural wonders.
Over the next six seasons, he would go on to become the A-League’s highest assister by an obscene margin, while winning every honour the A-League had to offer, most of them twice.
He would lead the Roar to the longest unbeaten streak in Australian sporting history, forever revolutionise the role of a marquee, and play an unmistakable role in the rise of intelligent, possession-based football in this country.
Now, his time at the club is unceremoniously waning to an end, and tonight, the Roar has one last chance to bid Auf Wiedersehen to Broich, surrounded by the unforgettable, forever-indebted pandemonium he deserves.
This writer’s hoping that they get that chance.
Brisbane Roar play Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium in the A-League elimination final tonight, 7:50 pm AEST.