Saturday, June 21, 2008

Turkey triumphs in a tale of two neighbourhoods

Anyone who doubted Austria's credentials as a host nation should check out last night's pictures of Vienna's central FanZone.

Photos in this morning's Österreich Zeitung show a roaring sea of humanity, 100,000-strong, stretching from the gothic City Hall to the classical Museum Quarter, absorbing the thrilling last-gasp finish to yesterday's Croatia v Turkey match.

A small consolation for the unlucky Croats was that their support outnumbered that of the Turks, 63,000 of whom live in Vienna, twice the number of Croats.

Croatian media estimated 200,000 red and white checked fans were in town yesterday, 30,000 of whom made it to the stadium and 70,000 to the central FanZone alone.

12,000 cars drove across the border for the day, while a train from Zagreb was delayed an hour and a half by excessive partying on board.

30,000 Turks crammed into the fan mile while the sound of fading klaxons of cars stacked with people on 'Autotour', could be heard into the small hours.

As I trudged home around 2am, an odd tableau confronted me.

In front of the elegant Schloss Belvedere, built by Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1721 for an age of elegance, motor cars sped past with Turkish flags flailing behind them, horns beeping and shrill female cries of 'Türkiye! Türkiye!'

It was an emotional night which after two hours of sweaty frustration ended in unforeseeable and thrilling events.

Enough of the snobbish sniping - the Euros have earned their right to be staged here.

Next Wednesday there will be another Turkish evening in Vienna, an opportunity for a minority to feel they are the boss.

For Germany's huge expat and first generation Turkish population, there will be plenty of chance to fail their own version of Norman Tebbit's cricket test.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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