Saturday, June 10, 2006

One man and his log Nottingham To Cologne

Thursday 8th June Nottingham. Köln.

Departed to Germany from my local airport, who very kindly arranged a low cost flight at a reasonable time of day. Security was evident as police were watching those at the check-in. A police officer approached and asked me where "we were going," I quickly told him I was on my own and left him to question the groups of football fans. I noted that he took their passports and to the best of my knowledge they were all returned.

Arriving at Köln/Bonn, it was all low key. Perhaps as it was now 9p.m. but there was no hype and the World Cup stalls there to help visitors were unmanned without any information left available.

I noticed that the train I was due to catch to Köln was delayed by 3 minutes, unusual I thought as in my experience the train timings in Germany are almost as good as in Japan.

Friday 9th June Köln. Münster. Gelsenkirchen. Münster.

Set off from Köln to my accomodation for the night which would be in Münster, an hour the other side of Gelsenkirchen. I tried to get accomodation in the host cities, but when I first started looking a year ago prices were three times higher than normal and this restricted my booking as I had no intenion of paying over the odds, especially at a time when I didn't have any tickets.

Gradually over the year I managed to secure tickets and checked train timetables to see if I could travel out of the main cities. This meant a lot of planning and I drew up a schedule which included train times and even directions to my accommodation.

Once again the train was a few minutes late. Arriving in Münster I was on auto pilot as I walked the 25 minutes to my accommodation. No problem. The reception was quiet and I had to ring the bell a few times to get attention, in the meantime I filled in a registration form I saw. A stout fraulein emerged and quickly glancing at my reservation form informed me that my booking was for yesterday! I had read that the Germans had spent a lot of time and money in training Hotel staff to ensure visitors were made to feel welcome, maybe they didn't get further than the World Cup venue cities!

So much for all that planning. I had already seen another problem looming as a sign as I came in highlighted a 1a.m curfew. Knowing my train timetable I knew I wouldn't make that. So I didn't get too upset by this as I began to think where to head next.

After abandoning me at reception, the woman came back and apologised, my booking was indeed for today. I seized this opportunity to explain the problem I had with the curfew and she agreed to leave a note for the night porter.

Met up with a friend in Gelsenkirchen who had not yet got a ticket, so thought it would be a good way of getting an understanding of how strictly FIFA were implementing the words that come with the issuing of the tickets regarding ID checks: only those with their name on the tickets would be admitted.

Arriving at the Veltins Arena transport stop we quickly came across some tickets for sale - €250 for Category 1 - the best seats which had a face value of €100. We left these and carried on to €200 for Cat 2, €100 for Cat 3.

I would have snapped the persons hand off for the €100 as by now I have been conditioned through the availability of tickets to accept that this was the going price, having had so little luck obtaining tickets at below this price. But we carried on to the stadium turnstiles to see what was happening. There was a steady flow and tickets and bags were being checked, but there was no sign of any people being asked to produce ID.

I had read a report the day before saying that at the England game on Saturday they would be checking ID and later in the same article the chief of police saying they could only possibly check around 10% of fans.

We continued round the stadium encountering a number of supporters with tickets to sell. Eventually we got talking to a knowledgeable German tout. He said that he had tickets for any match we wanted and that the ticket for today he had was supplied by the Ecuadorian FA.

It appears that he had been in touch with all the South American Football Associations as he said he had plenty of tickets for all the South American teams' games. We took the ticket from him and asked if he had a card so we could contact him if necessary. The reason he gave for not having a card was that the police already knew him and his colleagues and "they could no longer operate in that way! "

Further market research before kick off told me that people were asking for €200 up to 10 minutes before kick off, but when I didn't take up their offer they were asking how much I would pay.

Saturday 10th June Münster. Hamburg.

Noticed the World Cup mascots from 1974 at the train station in Münster. Is it Tipp and Tapp? I can't remember. The only thing I can remember is that only one team at that tourmanent remained unbeaten!

Once again the train leaving Münster was delayed by five minutes. What is happening to the trains?

Arrived in plenty of time for the day's football and headed out to a small Portugese cafe where I was informed that the lady that ran the establishment was named Portugese fan of the 2002 World Cup. I could see why, as her hair was dyed red and green and her nails were complete with the Portugese flag painted on each one.

Making your way to the ground from Stellingen you pass through a large park. People(!) were seen on bikes, with mobile phones and placards asking for tickets, they are now so brazen that they are asking for tickets for any match, enquiries again revealed a price of €200, but desperation was setting in as they would then ask how much are you willing to pay.

The game itself was enjoyable as the Ivory Coast team played with speed, stamina, flair that a lot of teams would find difficult to match. At the African Cup of Nations they had worked on containing sides and I thought that if they played in this way their games would be very tight as it was obvious that they could stop other teams. Now they had added flair and were regularly intercepting the ball and causing Argentina great problems. Unfortunately Argentina got the first goal and the Ivory Coast thought they had to reply immediately. The 4-4-2 that they started with went out the window and sure enough while they were pressing and creating more chances with players out of position they were caught on the counter attack.

The Ivory Coast team played so well, you even felt sorry for Drogba when he complained that an Argentinian had dived.

Later on that evening I declined an invitation to stay out on the Reeperbahn until the 5a.m train to Nürnberg as I had to meet a Mexican friend at the train station at noon. I figured this would be too much, and so I left to get a few hours sleep before my next journey.

Copyright (c) Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

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