Thursday, June 23, 2005

Greetings from Germany

German legend Paul Breitner is in the newspapers claiming Jurgen Klinsmann’s system of two defensive midfielders is stifling Germany’s creativity, the opposite of what most other pundits are claiming whilst comparing Michael Ballack to Franz Beckenbauer in 1974.
Last night in Cologne I actually came within a foot of Der Kaiser as he rushed up the stairs for another TV commitment. Does the man ever sleep? You really cannot avoid him on TV, in the papers, in magazines…I’ve been within touching distance of Pele & Bobby Charlton, now I just need to track down Maradona, installed today as a director of his beloved Boca Juniors.
The Argentinian team, or “Peker-Boys” as they are now called after coach Jose Pekerman (they were the “Gaucho Giants” the other day) apparently had a topless party (all men) on their bus after their 2:2 draw with Germany on Tuesday. Apparently Juan Riquelme and captain Juan Pablo Sorin were recognizable through the tinted windows but as ever, it was a team effort, including an Argentine version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”…
“Klinsi teaches us to laugh” blared the headline in today’s Express newspaper here in Cologne. Well better late than never for the Germans. But Jurgen is undoubtedly a positive thing all round. He is broad-minded from playing in four different countries and he makes friends wherever he goes, actually scrap that, he fell out with Lothar Matthaus at Bayern and Christian Gross at Spurs. But he did a lot of good for Anglo-German relations ever since he began his first press conference for Spurs by asking if there was a good diving school in London. Germans do have a sense of humour, it is just that is different from others.
German stereotypes
Klinsmann has taken on the biggest task of all - winning the World Cup on home soil and with a far from world-beating team to boot. He has attracted criticism for living in California with his American wife and children and flying back and forth for the big games but the American connection has also paid dividends for a football culture every bit as insular in its own way as England’s.
His time spent in the USA has seen Klinsmann exposed to the professionalism of big-money American sports and he has introduced sports psychology, fitness coaches and ‘special teams’ to the German set-up. This sounds very much like what Clive Woodward did to his England national rugby team having done his reconnaissance of American Football and then what happened? They won the World Cup…

I spent a most pleasant evening walking beside the Rhine here in
Cologne
.
This Western city may well be the arrival point in Germany for many an English fan next summer and they will love it here at once. It is compact and along the river are beer gardens by the dozen. People were strolling along the river here and drinking beer, as they were along the Main in Frankfurt , and the whole summer evening atmosphere was wonderful and bodes well for next summer. The Germans have a very outdoor culture in summer with eating and drinking establishments joyfully not so strictly separated as they are in the UK. Beer in Germany is drunk in large quantities and by everybody it seems but in a civilized manner I fear England fans will not adapt to. As in France in 1998, they will down the local brews, which are on average stronger than in England, swiftly and by the litre before starting to throw their glasses. And if anyone disagrees with me, I will gladly recount my day of terror spent in Marseille following England during France ’98.

The World Cup mascot is a lion, Goleo 06. Well the lion thing has been done before, World Cup Willy in 1966 beginning the whole mascot thing of course but there is a finite number of animals to choose from so that’s fine. It’s just that Goleo does not look that healthy, more like he has got a bad case of mange. Goliath the lion at Euro ‘96 looked full of beans whereas Goleo looks like he is off his food.
I must say I do look forward to seeing the official mascot unveiled and was extremely nonplussed at Ato, Nik and Kaz last time - remember them well? No? Exactly. Naranjito the obese orange in Spain ‘82 was world class and Footix the cockerel in France ‘98 was not far behind but what can you say about Mexico’s Cactus Man in 1986, the USA’s sub-Disney Striker the dog in 1994 or the surreal humanoid called ’Ciao’ selected by Italy in 1990. I never tire of retelling friends how the Italians had a national referendum to decide his name and rejected ’Amico’, ’Bimbo’ and ’Dribbly’.

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