Rolf Bantle, 71, returned to Switzerland earlier this year after he slipped on the sidewalk and broke his femur, prompting the Swiss consulate to arrange for his transport back to Basel, Schweiz am Sonntag said on Sunday.
Bantle was reported missing after he failed to return to the bus that had transported him and his colleagues to the football game between Basel and Inter Milan on August 24th 2004, Schweiz am Sonntag reported online.
Bantle, who had since survived as a homeless person in Milan, was without health insurance, which apparently led Italian authorities to contact the consulate.
He was treated at the Basel University Hospital and is now living in a Basel retirement centre, where his astonishing story has come to light.
He was among the residents of a group home in Läufelfingen in the canton of Basel-Country, who were on a day outing to see a Champions League qualifying game, the weekly said.
After going to the toilet in the San Siro stadium, Bantle became disoriented and could not find his colleagues, the newspaper said.
“I was suddenly in a different sector,” he is quoted as saying in an interview from the retirement home where he is now living.
With just €20 and 15 Swiss francs (€13) in his back pocket, and without a mobile phone and without a telephone number for his group home, he ended up staying in Milan, living on the streets.
A search was launched for Bantle but he could not be traced.
Bantle explained that he survived by living rough and depending on the generosity of residents in the Baggio district of Milan, including students who gave him food and cigarettes.
One student “gave me a sleeping bag” so he could sleep outside without catching cold, while a woman offered to wash his clothes.
He took showers once a week in a public restroom and frequently visited the local library.
“There was for me no longer any reason to go home,” he told Schweiz am Sonntag, saying that he liked the freedom he lacked at the group home, where he had to follow rules and was placed under guardianship.
Bantle said he speaks some Italian because he had worked in construction jobs with Italian immigrants.
He grew up with his mother without knowing who his father was and was handed to a foster family at an early age.
The newspaper reported that he was currently without relatives and did not want to talk about his foster parents.
With limited education, he worked as a labourer but Bantle suffered from a drinking problem, which led him to being put in the group home.
“It’s nice here,” he told Schweiz am Sonntag of the retirement home where has been living since the summer.
He has a room in the home with expenses covered by the city of Basel, which includes 100 francs’ (€91) pocket money per month.
“In the afternoon I go to the Denner (supermarket) and buy two cans of beer, which is allowed.”
Bantle said he doesn’t miss life in Milan now that he is in the Basel retirement home.
“Ten years is enough and here I feel very good now.”
By Malcolm Curtis