Klasnic hopes to play

BAD TATZMANNSDORF (Austria): Ivan Klasnic, the first player ever to take part at the European Championship after a kidney transplant, hopes to start Croatia’s game against Germany on Thursday.

“I’m here to play and I’m 100 per cent ready,” the 28-year-old forward said on Tuesday. “I didn’t come here to be a fan, I came here to play.”

In January 2007, the German-born Klasnic suffered a kidney failure. Shortly afterward, he received a transplant, but his body rejected the kidney donated by his mother. A couple of months later, he underwent another surgery to replace the rejected kidney; this time receiving a kidney from his father.

Only nine months later, Klasnic had an emotional return to action in the Bundesliga with his club Werder Bremen.

“I never thought I would be at the Euro,” Klasnic said. “My first concerns were my health and return to playing football. Playing at the Euro is just a bonus.”

Now, Klasnic said he hoped to win the confidence of coach Slaven Bilic and start in the match against Germany, especially as Croatia starting forward Mladen Petric had a poor game in Croatia’s 1-0 win over co-host Austria.

But, Bilic remained noncommittal. “It is great to have such a good striker in the team,” Bilic said. “He is one of our five forwards in the squad, and we are counting on him at the championships.” — AP