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Thread: World Cup diary - long

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    World Cup diary - long

    Below is my World Cup diary

    In September 2004 10 minutes from the end of a decent draw in Basle in our first meaningful qualifier for Germany 2006 the Irish fans started “Que sera sera whatever will be will be we’re going to Germany” much to the amusement of the Swiss hosts who bothered to fill over half the stadium. It wasn’t to be thanks to a manager who still made Sven look confident and in control but some of us decided to go anyway. In truth I was always going to go particularly with the World Cup so close by and in a country so accessible.

    Tickets were always going to be a huge problem and attempts to get Irish tickets in the first phase failed miserably due to huge demand but thankfully a backup strategy of picking teams that looked likely to qualify with lesser demand proved to be remarkably successful with my 4 chosen teams for family and friends all making it thus securing tickets for Saudi Arabia, Iran, Costa Rica and Ivory Coast. The latter two needing a bit of luck along the way. The plan was to have tickets for exchange if we made it and hopefully snaffle an Irish game as well. The irony of course was that we didn’t get a single game from France and Switzerland’s group but then nobody was too keen to watch them again anyway. My brother came up with 3 venue tickets in the lottery, which helped as well particularly as his last football match was back in 1981 and he isn’t planning on changing that anytime soon.

    Cheap flights and easy access thus made this a hugely attractive World Cup and I was able to plan and book 4 trips within an hour of the draw in December. This allowed for 9 games in 8 different stadiums and the possibility of a couple more if other tickets could be secured although this has subsequently proved to be incredibly difficult. I needn’t have rushed the flight bookings, as the cheap fares remained available in May and June. Despite bringing over 100,000 fans to Germany it appears that English fans did not realize or bother to take advantage of the cheap fares on offer from Dublin. Most I met paid a few hundred pounds for their flights and multiple trips was not an option. Although there have been expats from other countries living here on all flights the demand was not as high as I’d guessed. Hotels beside railways stations in the main cities were easy to secure from the standard online hotel booking sites although nothing was available on the FIFA site. So far all the hotels have had vacancies and none have been too expensive.

    In the end my brother, sister, father and a friend of my brother’s decided to travel with a few dropouts because Ireland didn’t make it or other reasons. My brother Karl will manage 12 games in total with his mate John and I both seeing 9. Tara will see 7 with my father coming out for 2. With single tickets in many cases it became a crisscross trip with all 5 of us attending Portugal v Iran in Frankfurt on June 17th. Frankfurt Airport has excellent direct rail links to much of central Europe and the German rail system is probably the best in Europe. An attractive World Cup pass offering unlimited rail travel for the month for €349 eliminated any thoughts of driving. As happens with so many major events many hotels end up half empty while people don’t travel because of lack of accommodation. I had little difficulty booking hotels in the main cities and indeed all had vacancies on the days of games. Frankfurt doubled their normal prices to standard Messe (Trade Fair) rates but Munich and Hamburg appeared to leave theirs unchanged.

    The first positive sign of the German efficiency was the distribution of tickets. At previous World Cups the tickets were always promised 6-8 weeks before the opening game. In practice the Japanese were the best arriving the week of the opening game and in all case some fans had already departed. Eight weeks before the tournament lo and behold tickets started to appear. This augured well for a successful tournament.

    My first trip began on the morning of June 8th heading to Munich for Germany v Costa Rica. An uneventful flight to Frankfurt and a direct train connection to Munich went like a dream and I shared a train with a large number of German fans travelling south and a few Costa Ricans. There was a clear buzz around Munich as it played host to a number of nationalities with large numbers of Mexicans and Australians already in town. The Hoffbrauhouse in central Munich is a bit of a kitsch attempt at a German beerhall but a must visit for tourists and a place to have a few beers on the eve of the opening match. It was rocking with Germans, Australians, Americans, Mexicans, Iranians and many other nationalities in evidence. And yes some of the Iranians were knocking back their beer with the best of us. More beer, a planned rendezvous with a couple of Irish journalists I know was curtailed much later than planned. The Opening Match was the first real test of all the planning and it appeared to go very smoothly. No problems getting to the stadium by rail and then on foot. There appeared to be very few touts and plenty of people looking for tickets. Security wasn’t as obvious as expected. The first check involved a bag and body search but was pretty quick and then a subsequent ticket check had everybody in the stadium quite quickly. I had some concerns re the name check but it never materialized. Although FIFA/UEFA say they will check names for every tournament the Germans did appear to mean it this time but sanity prevailed although I’ve subsequently heard of spot-checks. However even if checked you can just go to another gate or worse case go back to the stadium ticket office and pay €10 to change the name.

    I was expecting the Costa Rica end to be made up of others who booked tickets for a country with poor support but I got this one badly wrong. We were clearly lucky to get Costa Rica tickets as they had 5,000 fans in the stadium. They were much more passionate than the hosts too although it was a bigger match for the visitors. I don’t do opening ceremonies as such but I enjoyed this one in the flesh as opposed to the ones on tv. The quality of the game was surprisingly good. Both Costa Rican goals were celebrated with sheer unadulterated joy. Food and beers went everywhere and people ended up 4 rows back or forward of their seats. It reminded me of Houghton in Stuttgart or O’Leary in Genoa but this time I was an interloper and just watching the celebrations. Enjoyable as world cups are it is not the same without your country being there. No doubt the better side won but it was a brave display from the visitors.

    On Saturday morning I’d a 6-hour train journey to Hamburg to watch Argentina v Ivory Coast. On arrival just after the kickoff of England v Paraguay the plan was to check in quickly and head for a bar to watch the game. Hotel Mercedes near the main train station should more aptly be named Hotel Trabant if it is going to be called after a German car. However it is clean and cheap. The receptionist was simply the most incompetent idiot that has ever worked in a hotel though and took 20 minutes to check us in. He also informed us that England were 3 up on Paraguay. He had the game on a small portable tv. Eventually in frustration at his dithering over a confirmed reservation I walked around the desk and started watching the game on his tv to discover England were only 1 up. The stadium in Hamburg is quite a distance from the nearest station but shuttle buses were provided. On the bus I met a couple of Israeli fans and one tried very hard to persuade me to sell my ticket and was offering €500 by the time we reached the stadium. I politely refused, as there is no way I’d ever sell over face value and was not missing any of my planned games. Access to the stadium was again straightforward and no name checks. This was one of the games of the tournament and I hope the Israeli guy managed to make it in. Afterwards we did fall victim to the organization bureaucracy. The colour coding of each side of the ground is obviously to split the fans arriving and leaving the stadium and not for the convenience of the fans. On leaving the stadium we were forced out a route with temporary fencing on each side away from the shuttle buses and despite asking for the buses were told to continue straight on clearly away from them. It had clearly been decided that our section was to walk back to the station and not even to the nearest one but another one. Some of the stewards tried to direct us to the original station but a policeman then said no we had to go a different route.

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    A 7am train to Leipzig for the afternoon kickoff meant another early start. We had about 4 minutes to change trains in Berlin but no problems, as the trains are very reliable. The Berlin to Leipzig train was more crowded than a 3rd class carriage on Indian railways but the joy of German organization meant we had seat reservations and our seats were there. Leipzig is actually a beautiful city although I suspect very few fans stayed there as it had stupid rules in the hotels that you must stay at least 3 nights. There was time for a stroll around the town, to sit and watch the world go by in a sidewalk café before heading out to the stadium. Lo and behold there were plenty of tickets outside and while many Dutch traveled without tickets there seemed to be plenty and for the first time lots of empty seats. The stadium is impressive inside although there is a lot of walking and climbing involved in getting there. A quick dash afterwards back to the station and a pleasant surprise to discover there was a train to Frankfurt South over half an hour before our one to Frankfurt Main station. Well it must be easy to get to the main station from Frankfurt South so off we go. Big mistake. We ended up on a local train that stopped at every village and farmhouse along the way and arrived in Frankfurt south well after our original train arrived in the main station. Thankfully it was easy to get a train to the main station afterwards. Still time for a beer or six in O’Reillys Irish bar near our hotel and the main station.

    We finally got to meet some England fans and to hear the song of the 2006 World Cup. This is of course “10 German Bombers”. To the tune of se’ll be coming down the mountain it tells of the RAF from England shooting down the bombers one by one. Given the excellent English spoken by most of the hosts it must be annoying and embarrassing for them. There is also a T-shirt that accompanies the song. There were much better ones such as “5-1 even Heskey scored 5-1 even Heskey scored” and surely it would have been better to have stuck to the football chants. Thankfully all was peaceful and no problems with our Irish shirts. We did have a rather bizarre chat with Eamon from Tralee who was there in his England shirt and Kerry accent. He grew up in London of Irish parentage, started following England and still does despite having moved back to Tralee many years ago. It descended into the bizarre though when he mentioned he has a cousin in the IRA who served 8 years in jail and when speaking to him just before heading out to Germany he said why didn’t you tell me earlier and I’d have come with you? Eamon is in Germany as long as England are there and has no tickets. You’d think M16 could have swung a couple of extra seats for the games for him and his cousin beside Freddie Scappatici and Martin McGuinness.

    I had my first example of “The Rules” on my trip home. Despite my cabin bag being regulation size and never having a problem before on Aer Lingus the check in lady insisted that no bag even half a kilo over the 6 kilo limit could be allowed as carryon and must go in the hold. This was “THE RULES”. Once a German says that it means they are being totally and completely illogical but they will not change their mind no matter what. It went in the hold. Yet German businessmen on the flight had bigger and heavier bags. After a couple of days at home it was back out again for trip number 2, 4 friends who travel regularly with me to Irish away games had planned a 2 match trip without tickets expecting to pick up tickets in Frankfurt for Korea v Togo and then off to Leipzig for Spain v Ukraine. The Togo FA sold them 4 tickets for the game in Frankfurt at almost 4 times face value but one ticket turned out to be a re-issued ticket and Jim couldn’t get in. Although the Togo FA official was subsequently found no refund or satisfaction was gained. Jim was so disgusted he didn’t bother driving to Leipzig the next day and watched the game on tv.

    It was off to Nuremberg then for game number 4 – England v Trinidad and Tobago. This was to be yet another bizarre and very enjoyable day. I decided to wear my Irish shirt to the game, which went fine apart from some good-humoured banter. The English fans were impeccably behaved and Nuremberg is another beautiful old city with a very nice beer garden right beside the stadium too. Credit must go to the genuine English fans who have recaptured their national team from the yobs who disgraced their country for amny years. There was the strange sight of a Japanese fan with his Japanese hat and “10 German bombers” T Shirt. There was the guy in the England shirt wrapped in an Irish tricolour. Apparently somebody (presumably the same guy) was spotted on tv at the Frankfurt fanfest for the Paraguay game. On the way in I had my 2nd case of “THE RULES”. For all games in Nuremberg a free programme like newspaper is handed out in the main station. I was not allowed to bring it into the stadium. I pleaded asked why only to be told it was “THE RULES” I might apparently throw it at a player. I pointed out that for €10 I could buy the official programme and that would do a lot more damage to Goldenballs if I could hit him. My mood was not helped by an English guy going in wearing the “10 German Bombers” T Shirt and carrying an inflatable Spitfire. I actually pointed this out to the idiot of a steward that this was allowed and my 8-page tabloid size German newspaper was being confiscated. Little did I know the experience the Dutch fans were to have the following day. Then there was the American who came in beside me just before kickoff announcing he thought he’d get €1,000 for his ticket but the best he was offered was €250 so he decided to watch the game. I think I’d have been justified in beating him up. I was in a neutral section and the Germans all appeared to be supporting England. When the England fans sang God Save the Queen during the 2nd half 2 Germans behind us were singing along and shouting at the rest of us to stand up and sing too. Two Scottish guys in front and I didn’t know what to make of this and still can’t. When Peter Crouch scored a wild celebration followed from the Germans and included the guy behind me depositing a quarter of his beer over me and the other 3 quarters over the Scotsman sitting in front of me. The support hasn’t gone as far yet as the Germans donning the “10 German bombers” T-shirt but there is still time and I wouldn’t rule it out. I subsequently ended up chatting to a German fan en route to Kaiserslautern who also was at this match and had Germans near him cheering for England too. He couldn’t understand it either and said no regular German football fan would have been cheering on England unless they were playing the Dutch. A bizarre day had one final twist a few minutes after arriving back at my Frankfurt hotel when I overheard some Dublin accents chatting to the receptionist. I turned to say hello only to stare open mouthed at 3 Irish guys wearing England kit. Unlike Eamon from Tralee they were totally embarrassed by my Irish shirt and didn’t stay to chat. Still why was this such a surprise with an estimated 4,000 Irish people travelling over to Old Trafford for every home game. Anfield would have a significant number also and Celtic Park quite a few too. If you can give such loyal support to a British club side then why not a British national team. This explains too why despite being by far the most popular sport in the country in playing numbers and tv viewing figures football in Ireland loses out in the attendance stakes to GAA and rugby.

    My father arrived in that night for 2 games and we headed off to Stuttgart to watch Holland play the Ivory Coast. The game kicked off 18 years 4 days 2 hours and twenty four minutes after Ray Houghton scored the greatest goal in history but who’s counting. A chance encounter with Roman Abramovich on the street in Stuttgart did lead to a photo although I think he declined my offer to invest in Limerick. We managed to get free Dutch hats from Heineken in an ambush marketing exercise but even though the hats were in green/gold and only said Holland they were banned from the stadium. Also banned were orange lederhosen with Bavaria beer on them, which meant hundreds of Dutch fans watching the game in their underwear. Thankfully my Limerick FC shirt was allowed in even though Charlotte Quay Pharmacy did not get accepted as an official World Cup Sponsor. Can I risk Danny Drew’s Asian Foods at a quarter final? Unlike Costa Rica my Ivory Coast TST had me sitting beside people who’d never been to the Ivory coast in their life and probably couldn’t find it on a map. The fans however did don the orange shirts of the Ivory Coast and did cheer for them. That was fine but midway through the 2nd half it was back to supporting Germany and a chant in German which translates as “Without Holland we are going to Berlin” I couldn’t bring myself to support any country other than Ireland but I appreciate there is a significant group at this world cup supporting a country other than their own. 2 German guys in front of me had Ivory Coast TST5s that has now ended up as a quarterfinal ticket for Germany v Argentina.

    We had 5 tickets for Portugal v Iran in Frankfurt that was the only game we all managed to attend. My tickets for this world cup are an Iran TST6 that is a single ticket right to the semi final. At my 6th game of this tournament I finally had my own name on a ticket but it wasn’t checked. We played Iran in the playoff for the last world Cup The Persian people are the warmest and most welcoming people in the world. Great support including Iranian women in full Hijab and others in sleeveless tops. Again great support although Portugal were clearly a better side.

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    I had no ticket for June 18th and despite my best efforts couldn’t get one in advance. I did make the 2-hour trip to Nuremberg and tried to get into Japan v Croatia without success. It is depressing being outside without a ticket. The touts are disgusting parasites but interesting to watch. 3 Japanese tried to swap 1 Category 1 ticket for 1 in the “blue” section (either cat 2, 3 or 4 I wasn’t sure) and even though the straight swap on the face of it was a good deal for the tout he said “Everybody wants to be in the Blue section” and wanted €100 to do the deal. 5 minutes later a guy trying to sell him a cat 3 ticket was told it was no real good to him and was only offered €100 as the Japanese all wanted category 1. He sounded so convincing each time. I did try and get the ticket but the guy wanted €300 although this was the cheapest ticket I was offered it was a lot more than I was willing to pay. Had I waited until kickoff I would probably have done better but decided to get a train back to Frankfurt and watch the games on tv.

    As Iran were now out I did try and pick up my later tickets at the Frankfurt ticket office on Monday morning. Quite a queue had built up before opening and it was split into 2 lines and after 20 minutes of only one line being apparently served we queried a steward who said one line was supposed to be for pickups and one for name changes. It would have been nice if they had a sign or had people there to tell us. It became apparent that many people were in the wrong line and the steward quickly decided he didn’t speak English and tried to do a runner. A German guy shouted at him in German but apparently having lost his excellent English he also lost his native tongue in the rush to get away. We sorted the queue out amongst ourselves and everybody was happy. In the end after over an hour of queuing my tickets weren’t in the system. In fairness they had said pickups were possible only 2 days before a game. Then it was off to the airport for my flight home.

    My 3rd trip was for one match in Kaiserslautern Spain v Saudi Arabia. My main purpose was to pick up my later round tickets. I didn’t want to take any chances with my brother going in as me. In the end he had no trouble picking up tickets as my uncle with a different surname and christian name but better not to take chances. It was always a risk flying on the morning of the game but everything went smoothly. A 20-minute delay was not fatal on the flight and I had plenty of time to make my train connection in the airport. There was also another one an hour later that would have got me there in time. Although you were not supposed to be able to pickup later round tickets at a venue hosting a game I did give it a try. The Ticket Office appeared to be twice the size of the Frankfurt office despite being a small rural venue and was incredibly efficient. I was in and out with my tickets in less than 5 minutes. Even though I’d left my passport in a station locker they were happy to accept my credit card as id. The stadium in Kaiserslautern is approx 5 minutes walk from the station. However if you follow the Blue route it takes half an hour. I only subsequently saw the map afterwards but the way they made up walk was a joke. Again it was a case of splitting the crowd in 4 rather than for convenience. Again no tickets outside and plenty of Spanish looking. We were in the Saudi section although many other TST holders like ourselves had never been to Saudi Arabia. All the Saudi women wore full Islamic garb albeit in Saudi colours. Spain fielded a reserve side as they had already qualified and virtually had the group won. It was a still quite a side but a poor match. Karl was heading off to Leipzig and Nuremberg for the 2nd round while I was heading home. Still I had tickets for Portugal’s quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen and semi in Munich in my hand. Karl’s last match is Brazil v France v Frankfurt.

    To be continued…..

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    Fantastic reading gspain.

    I only got to see England vs Sweden in Cologne & Italy vs Australia in Kaiserslautern.

    If you could choose any of the stadiums you attended to be "donated" to Ireland as our home ground which would you choose?

    I was very impressed with both the grounds I was at: both English style "4 squares" type grounds, not unlike Anfield. Both seat about 45k which is the perfect number for us and there was a minimal gap between the stadium and pitch which created a great atmosphere.

    Stuttgart, where we head in September, looks like you're miles from the pitch.

    PS: if you don't want your diary interrupted by 3rd parties please pm me & I'll delete this post

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    Will update next week.

    Best stadium I've been to is Allianz Arena in Munich but there weren't any bad ones.

    Puts Lansdowne to shame. Hardly a bad seat in any of them, great sightlines, loads of space, plenty of catering and toilet facilities.

    I didn't get to Cologne, Hannover (got to these 2 in Euro88 but rebuilt since) or Berlin but managed the other 9.

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    Agree re Stuttgart we'll be miles away behind the goals. Definitely the worst view I had in 10 games.

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    updated diary

    My 4th and last trip was meant to be the best with a quarterfinal and a semi final but some of the things that happened left a sour taste. My biggest risk appeared to be flying in the morning of my quarterfinal and facing a 2.5-hour train journey for a 5pm kickoff. I reckoned I could make the game even with a 2-hour flight delay on the basis that the trains were very reliable. Despite delays for extra fuel and losing our slot my flight arrived at 10.30am only 30 minutes behind schedule and I still made the planned train albeit with only seconds to spare. I left my luggage in a locker in Duisburg station assuming left luggage was bound to be full in Gelsenkirchen. The trains and station were thronged with English fans but very good humoured and not a hint of trouble. Gelsenkirchen is an old mining town that holds bad memories for Irish fans as Helmut Kohl incorrectly took down his offside flag thus allowing Wim Kieft to knock us out of Euro88. A modern arena nearby has replaced the old concrete bowl of a stadium. Separate fanfests were held for German and English fans presumably in case of trouble. On the shuttle bus to the stadium I was reading the England fans magazine Free Lions explaining how to spot a forged ticket and the procedure if ticket gets damaged. You must produce your passport at the stadium ticket office to get it re-issued. This was my 8th game and only the 2nd time my name was on my ticket so no worries there or so I thought. However the dreaded red light came on when I tried to enter the stadium. My ticket was tried again and it failed again. At this stage I was in a cold sweat as my passport was nearly an hour away in a locker in Duisburg station. They turned the ticket upside down and tried again but no joy. They wiped the ticket and at the 4th time of asking it went green. I was relieved and still shaking when I got in. I met up with an old friend Bill (not his real name) an England fan whose football travels are legendary - http://billthenavigator.blogspot.com/ Bill attended a game every single day of this world cup apart from the 3 days where he managed 2 games. During our discussion I mentioned that I was hoping Argentina would have beaten Germany, as I would then have traveled up to Dortmund and got a ticket outside for the semi final. He announced that he’d picked up a Germany v Argentina ticket the previous day for €300 and didn’t expect to pay much more in Dortmund. I was amazed and expected the German games to be fetching four figure sums and decided there and then I was going to try and attend that game too. We swopped some war stories. Apparently a copy of the Daily Mirror was also banned from Nuremberg stadium but a copy of the Sun was allowed in. It was “The Rules”. The England team was disappointing again but the England fans were brilliant. My Irish shirt didn’t draw a single smart comment this time. I also spotted a Northern Ireland shirt and ended up sitting beside a guy in a Tibet Football Association shirt. This is like a Barcelona jersey. Just before kickoff a boy of about 10 arrived in on his own in an England shirt. He seemed to get on fine but presumably his father had to deal with the touts and must have gone through all sorts of agonies before sending his son in on his own. The bus back to the station was grim and silent punctuated by an American in an England shirt telling the whole bus (and probably the East coast of the U.S. too as the windows were open) that in Big League SAWKer you should be able to score penalties. There were plenty of knowledgeable football fans from the U.S. at this world cup but some awful idiots too.

    This was my 5th major finals watching England play (I’ve only been to 4 with Ireland) and the change in their support was staggering. In Euro88 and Italia90 the support was mainly young, male and even if not violent it was probably never far away. For the England v Cameroon quarter final in Italia90 I got a ticket at half price from a tout and ended up in the middle of the most racist bunch of thugs I ever witnessed in my life and they couldn’t deal with losing to a team of black Africans. The semi final was better but I was in a neutral section. By Euro2000 there were clear sings that the real football fans were taking their national team back. Things were still a bit tense though. I saw real changes though from Japan2002 on. Three thousand England fans made the three-hour trip to Ibaraki to support us v Germany. Their fans in Japan were a credit and gave great support to their team. There was also been a large number of blacks, Asians and women supporting England this time out. Personally I was sorry to see England go out not because of their football that frankly brought them further than they deserved in this tournament but because of their fans. A few years ago I never believed I’d have said this but the England fans were missed far more than the team.

    Bill and I had a good chat before the England game about previous tournaments and included me mentioning that I had camped for Euro88 and Italia90 but those days are long gone. Your still doing all night trains though came the reply and he wasn’t far off the mark here. I had a seat booked on a 1.13am train out of Duisburg to Munich. I had planned to watch the other quarter final allow for extra time and penalties etc. However the Deutsche Bahn people in the station claimed there was no such train and suggested I take the 22.50 instead. It actually transpired afterwards that there was such a train but it was a world Cup special and clearly not on their systems. It meant missing the last 5 minutes of the Brazil v France game but hardly a big issue. This train was already full and with others on the floor. I did manage to find a comfortable spot on the floor and at this stage had swapped my sweat stained Irish shirt for a Gelsenkirchen T shirt. The conductor however seemed to decide that I wasn’t welcome on the train and told me and 2 England fans we must get off at Cologne, take a train to Koblenz and catch another train to Munich there. Before I got off I was party to a conversation between 2 of the conductors and despite not speaking German they were clearly poking fun at “the Englander” – presumably me. The three of us were all a little suspicious on the train to Koblenz that we were being sent on a wild goose chase. One of the “England fans” turned out to be a Bavarian. The other was trying to catch a 10am flight home. When we arrived in Koblenz it was 1.34am and 30 minutes after the last train had left for Munich. Had we even stayed in Cologne it transpires we could have caught a train to Munich. The Bavarian decided to sleep in the station while the English fan decided to get the next train back up north and see if he could fly home from Dusseldorf. I went looking for a hotel and thankfully the 2nd one I tried had a room for €49. I made the 5-hour trip to Munich the following day. I was annoyed at the conductors but if this was to be the worst thing to happen to me on the trip then it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately this was not to be the case.
    My hotel in Munich – Hotel Flora was booked the night of the draw and seemed reasonable value for €60 per night albeit with a shared bathroom. I was on my own at this stage as my Iran semi final ticket (now Portugal v France) was all that was left. 4 toilets for the floor were enough ok but 1-shared shower was clearly not enough for what seemed like 20 rooms. Still otherwise the hotel was fine and I managed a shower each day in the end.

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    updated diary

    My 4th and last trip was meant to be the best with a quarterfinal and a semi final but some of the things that happened left a sour taste. My biggest risk appeared to be flying in the morning of my quarterfinal and facing a 2.5-hour train journey for a 5pm kickoff. I reckoned I could make the game even with a 2-hour flight delay on the basis that the trains were very reliable. Despite delays for extra fuel and losing our slot my flight arrived at 10.30am only 30 minutes behind schedule and I still made the planned train albeit with only seconds to spare. I left my luggage in a locker in Duisburg station assuming left luggage was bound to be full in Gelsenkirchen. The trains and station were thronged with English fans but very good humoured and not a hint of trouble. Gelsenkirchen is an old mining town that holds bad memories for Irish fans as Helmut Kohl incorrectly took down his offside flag thus allowing Wim Kieft to knock us out of Euro88. A modern arena nearby has replaced the old concrete bowl of a stadium. Separate fanfests were held for German and English fans presumably in case of trouble. On the shuttle bus to the stadium I was reading the England fans magazine Free Lions explaining how to spot a forged ticket and the procedure if ticket gets damaged. You must produce your passport at the stadium ticket office to get it re-issued. This was my 8th game and only the 2nd time my name was on my ticket so no worries there or so I thought. However the dreaded red light came on when I tried to enter the stadium. My ticket was tried again and it failed again. At this stage I was in a cold sweat as my passport was nearly an hour away in a locker in Duisburg station. They turned the ticket upside down and tried again but no joy. They wiped the ticket and at the 4th time of asking it went green. I was relieved and still shaking when I got in. I met up with an old friend Bill (not his real name) an England fan whose football travels are legendary - http://billthenavigator.blogspot.com/ Bill attended a game every single day of this world cup apart from the 3 days where he managed 2 games. During our discussion I mentioned that I was hoping Argentina would have beaten Germany, as I would then have traveled up to Dortmund and got a ticket outside for the semi final. He announced that he’d picked up a Germany v Argentina ticket the previous day for €300 and didn’t expect to pay much more in Dortmund. I was amazed and expected the German games to be fetching four figure sums and decided there and then I was going to try and attend that game too. We swopped some war stories. Apparently a copy of the Daily Mirror was also banned from Nuremberg stadium but a copy of the Sun was allowed in. It was “The Rules”. The England team was disappointing again but the England fans were brilliant. My Irish shirt didn’t draw a single smart comment this time. I also spotted a Northern Ireland shirt and ended up sitting beside a guy in a Tibet Football Association shirt. This is like a Barcelona jersey. Just before kickoff a boy of about 10 arrived in on his own in an England shirt. He seemed to get on fine but presumably his father had to deal with the touts and must have gone through all sorts of agonies before sending his son in on his own. The bus back to the station was grim and silent punctuated by an American in an England shirt telling the whole bus (and probably the East coast of the U.S. too as the windows were open) that in Big League SAWKer you should be able to score penalties. There were plenty of knowledgeable football fans from the U.S. at this world cup but some awful idiots too.

    This was my 5th major finals watching England play (I’ve only been to 4 with Ireland) and the change in their support was staggering. In Euro88 and Italia90 the support was mainly young, male and even if not violent it was probably never far away. For the England v Cameroon quarter final in Italia90 I got a ticket at half price from a tout and ended up in the middle of the most racist bunch of thugs I ever witnessed in my life and they couldn’t deal with losing to a team of black Africans. The semi final was better but I was in a neutral section. By Euro2000 there were clear sings that the real football fans were taking their national team back. Things were still a bit tense though. I saw real changes though from Japan2002 on. Three thousand England fans made the three-hour trip to Ibaraki to support us v Germany. Their fans in Japan were a credit and gave great support to their team. There was also been a large number of blacks, Asians and women supporting England this time out. Personally I was sorry to see England go out not because of their football that frankly brought them further than they deserved in this tournament but because of their fans. A few years ago I never believed I’d have said this but the England fans were missed far more than the team.

    Bill and I had a good chat before the England game about previous tournaments and included me mentioning that I had camped for Euro88 and Italia90 but those days are long gone. Your still doing all night trains though came the reply and he wasn’t far off the mark here. I had a seat booked on a 1.13am train out of Duisburg to Munich. I had planned to watch the other quarter final allow for extra time and penalties etc. However the Deutsche Bahn people in the station claimed there was no such train and suggested I take the 22.50 instead. It actually transpired afterwards that there was such a train but it was a world Cup special and clearly not on their systems. It meant missing the last 5 minutes of the Brazil v France game but hardly a big issue. This train was already full and with others on the floor. I did manage to find a comfortable spot on the floor and at this stage had swapped my sweat stained Irish shirt for a Gelsenkirchen T shirt. The conductor however seemed to decide that I wasn’t welcome on the train and told me and 2 England fans we must get off at Cologne, take a train to Koblenz and catch another train to Munich there. Before I got off I was party to a conversation between 2 of the conductors and despite not speaking German they were clearly poking fun at “the Englander” – presumably me. The three of us were all a little suspicious on the train to Koblenz that we were being sent on a wild goose chase. One of the “England fans” turned out to be a Bavarian. The other was trying to catch a 10am flight home. When we arrived in Koblenz it was 1.34am and 30 minutes after the last train had left for Munich. Had we even stayed in Cologne it transpires we could have caught a train to Munich. The Bavarian decided to sleep in the station while the English fan decided to get the next train back up north and see if he could fly home from Dusseldorf. I went looking for a hotel and thankfully the 2nd one I tried had a room for €49. I made the 5-hour trip to Munich the following day. I was annoyed at the conductors but if this was to be the worst thing to happen to me on the trip then it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately this was not to be the case.
    My hotel in Munich – Hotel Flora was booked the night of the draw and seemed reasonable value for €60 per night albeit with a shared bathroom. I was on my own at this stage as my Iran semi final ticket (now Portugal v France) was all that was left. 4 toilets for the floor were enough ok but 1-shared shower was clearly not enough for what seemed like 20 rooms. Still otherwise the hotel was fine and I managed a shower each day in the end.

  9. #9
    Seasoned Pro gspain's Avatar
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    I hate touts. I’ve never sold a ticket above face value but have on rare occasions paid over the odds. I decided €300-€400 was worth paying to see the semi in Dortmund and decided to make the journey north. This was a 13-hour roundtrip and another overnight train back. I had even toyed with going to Denmark on the Sunday for Shelbourne’s Inter Toto tie with OB of Odense but this was a 25-hour roundtrip and I wisely decided to give it a miss. I went prepared with a cardboard sign in German and English “Such Karte 1 ticket Needed” It is pretty embarrassing to walk around with such a sign but I wasn’t going to make the journey unless I did everything possible to obtain a ticket. I walked the train twice and encouragingly got offered 3 different tickets albeit at €750, €1,000 and €1,500 respectively. The middle one was a tout, the €1500 ticket was offered by 2 Asians apparently going to the game. The €750 was offered by a rather attractive female German fan. I left her my number and said I’d be interested at half that price if she couldn’t sell it elsewhere but I never got a call. I also got offered 2 tickets at face value for Munich but I already had a ticket for this one and met a Canadian presumably of Italian origin also looking for a ticket for a friend. The station in Dortmund was heaving and within minutes of arriving it was obvious that there were lots of tickets around. I had arranged to meet Bill at 3.30pm and he’d already sourced a ticket before we’d met and I’d been offered 2 for €800 by English touts but they wouldn’t sell me a single ticket. I then met a well-dressed West Indian gentleman and his wife who had a Category 3 ticket for €400 claiming her husband was a member of FIFA. The ticket was clearly genuine and had FIFA and a reference number with no name on it. They accepted €350 for a ticket with a face value of €150 and gave me some guff about being happy that a fan got it instead of a tout. Yes I thought well you should be selling it for face value if you mean that rubbish but I kept my thoughts to myself. Anyway Bill and I went off for a nice lunch and a couple of beers feeling pretty happy with ourselves. We did get to see a fan wearing a half England/half German shirt. We both agreed he must be a German. He didn’t sing the “10 German bombers though”. We said our goodbyes at the stadium and headed for opposite ends just after 6pnm for a 9pm kickoff. I was in great spirits as I sailed through the security check, got to the ticket check and saw the dreaded red light come on for the 2nd game in a row. They tried again but it came up that my ticket needed to be checked at the ticket office. I had already sensed the inevitable and after producing id was told that my ticket was issued to a Mr. Lloyd had been declared lost and was re-issued, had been declared lost gain and was re-issued for a 3rd time. I had the original ticket and as I was clearly not Mr. Lloyd I was sent packing. Amazingly they left me keep the ticket and I could have sold it on again but obviously just catching somebody else like I was caught. Instead I still have it and have already reported it to FIFA. Words could not express how disgusted I feel towards the slime balls that sold me that ticket with their platitudes about going to a fan knowing full well what was in store for me. I had €360 left in my pocket and went back to the station now livid and far keener to see the game now that I’d had the few hours of expectation. My cardboard sign had also been consigned to a bin in the main station 3 hours earlier. It was much more difficult 2nd time around. There was nothing below €500 and the earlier flood of tickets appeared to have dried up. I met a Dublin tout after an hour and told him my limit (left out the details how I was conned of course) and he said he sort out “one of his own for €350”. Another fruitless hour including a Pole agreeing to sell me a ticket for €300 and then selling to a tout instead followed only for my Dublin tout to come back 45 minutes before kickoff with an Italian FA Cat 4 ticket for €350 and a face value of €90. I was a lot more nervous approaching the entrance this time but the ticket was good. This was in the same end as my original ticket so my first port of call was to find my original seat in the vain hope that the lying cheat would be in it. There was a German fan there who bought from the same source as me although he didn’t volunteer the price. Presumably the 2nd re-issued ticket was also sold to another unsuspecting punter. I did get to see one of the great games of the tournament but felt totally cheated. I subsequently told some Germans on a train and apparently the practice of selling re-issued tickets was widespread particularly among some of the African associations.

    The following night it was the touts who took a hammering. I had a potential Brazil v England semi final ticket on Saturday morning and a Portugal v France ticket that evening. The Portuguese traveled in their hundreds and the French in their dozens. The English vastly outnumbered both sets of fans and of course there were lots of Germans there still in good voice. I subsequently overheard 2 English touts complaining about the French only offering half of face value for tickets and getting their way in the end. Nice one guys. Lots of Germans and English arrived in late presumably after failing to achieve anything close to face value for their tickets. Ronaldo was roundly booed by the English fans every time he touched the ball. His part in getting his Man Utd club mate sent off won’t be forgiven but surely Rooney has only himself to blame. It was a disappointing game and a disappointing end to my World Cup. I said coming out of the stadium I hope the Italians win the final, as their opponents are too defensive, too boring and too cynical. It ended where it began for me in the Allianz Arena after 10 games in 9 different cities. It was a very good world cup. The quality dipped in the later rounds but it has left some fantastic memories. The German hosts won over everybody even if eccentric at times. It was very well organized with excellent infrastructure held in wonderful stadiums. However there was also the sense of frustration that we weren’t there. I love football. Just as others go to see Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vaslav Nijinsky or Jose Careras I love watching the truly great footballers playing on the biggest stage of all. Yet even games like Italy v Germany cannot hold a candle to a sunny Sunday afternoon in Palermo and a scoreless draw with Egypt.

  10. #10
    First Team RogerMilla's Avatar
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    great write up gspain , can only agree with the sentiment that it isnt the same when we are not in it. please update us if you hear anything back from fifa about that ticket , i would hate to think those people got away with scamming you
    Was he crazy!! Yeah , in a very special way , an Irishman.
    I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
    I woke, and found that life was Duty.

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