Thursday, June 22, 2006

Football Comes Home To Berlin

What could be a more authentic World Cup experience than watching the host nation strut its stuff in its capital city? Germany’s clash with Ecuador on Tuesday afternoon in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium may have lacked some of the traditional tension that one expects on the final game of the group, with both teams already having moved into the second round with a minimum of fuss, but there was a great deal of excitement in the 66,000 crowd.

The German fans were in party mood and sang their national anthem lustily, just as they had a few minutes earlier when FIFA played their, now traditional, pre-match songs. ‘Football’s coming home’ and ‘All Together Now’ make their appearance just before the players make theirs on the pitch. The English (Liverpool) pop music has been entertaining the fans much more than the English national team have managed so far (or Liverpool for the past few years).

There were a good number of Ecuador fans on Berlin's wonderful S-Bahn and in the stadium, their yellow-shirts too bright on a sunny afternoon. One such clad middle-aged South American women asked a German fan on the train to the stadium: “Who is your number nine?”

It proved to be a difficult question and newspapers had to be consulted. Eventually, the answer came. “Mike Hanke.”

“He’s terrible!” Said the woman of the Wolfsburg striker. “He’ll never score.”

“He hasn’t played yet,” replied the non-plussed white-shirted fan.

“ As I told you, he’s terrible.”

The strikers that did play, Lucas Podolski and especially Miroslav Klose, enjoyed themselves against a hole-ridden Ecuadorian defence and midfield. To be fair to the South Americans, who had comfortably seen off Poland and Costa Rica to go top of Group A, Colombian Coach Luis Suarez rested five players in preparation of the second round clash, later confirmed to be against England.


It was easy for the Germans and when Klose put the team ahead with a fine finish from inside the area in the fourth minute, the result was never in doubt. The reported bad feeling between the strike pair, brought about when Klose told the press that his fellow Polish-born striker needs to be “less tense” and “move more”, looked to be absent when the two hugged happily after Podolski’s second half-goal.

For some reason, FIFA had made a mistake with my press pass and instead of being in the printed press section, I was lumped in with the television boys. Being surrounded on all sides by Ecuadorian commentators speaking so fast that sweat was pouring down their faces was an interesting experience, more so that the procession that the game turned into.


Talking to a couple of these guys after the game, none were too concerned about whether they faced England or Sweden. “England haven’t showed their power yet,” said the commentator for RCO TV, “and I don’t think they will. They are a strong but limited team. I am confident that we can beat England or Sweden.”

Perhaps the fans were the same as none seemed remotely concerned about losing the game and were singing and dancing outside the stadium after the game in much the same way as they done before.

Will they be dancing on the streets of Quito on Sunday?

Copyright © John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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