Monthly Archives: May 2006

Rent-a-mate

This isn't a crude reference to the red light scene in many German cities (although it easily could be), but rather a look at the way everyone is making a quick penny out of the World Cup in Germany this summer.

FIFA's slogan for their showpiece this summer is "a time to make friends". As wholesome as that sounds, it doesn't quite include the entire spectrum of people in Germany this summer.

You can stay with your new friends in their own house this summer should you so wish (and I do), as long as you're willing to pay them for that spare room that currently hosts a fishtank and those boxes they were meaning to open but never got round to. Host-a-Fan.de gives landlords the chance to offer their rooms, and fans respond by saying they'll try their hardest not to vomit in the rockery after too many Weissbiers.

A system that may get some use for those not wanting to use the train system in Germany is the Mitfahrzentrale. This gives drivers the chance to offer people their spare seats in a car to a venue they are going to, as long as they stump up some of the petrol costs. It may seem a trifle risky, but that's the age we're in these days. Besides, all their details are on the website so that shoud provide some assurances. Either way, you pays yer money and you takes yer chances.

If your new driver seems to be taking the exit off the Autobahn towards something called "Der Nürburgring", start to worry. He's taking you around a racing track, and a busy one at that. Should you not trust another driver, then the Call-A-Bike option is always there, for quick and effective transport around chosen cities.

With the advent of eBay people are picking up everything from sarongs to thongs, laden with national emblems and flags. In some cases people have even sold tickets to World Cup matches on eBay (although this is now banned in the UK).

Ticket Swap Shop requires a registration fee of 25 Euros to simply put you in contact with someone else who may want to trade a spare ticket with you. Of course the argument is that had FIFA and those handling the ticketing process had offered a swap shop in the first place, the size of any grey market would be severely diminished. On the official FanGuide website the out of date material does state there will be an official ticket swap shop, but this never materialised. Without going too vehemently on the offensive against FIFA et al, it seems odd that in the first phases of ticket applications, fans were forced to pick matches completely blind. The only way of swapping them officially is in cases of extreme hardship – e.g. Wrath of God, exile in Siberia or your own death.

With so many people claiming a ticket transfer "within the family", the obvious excuse is that we are all part of the wider football community. In times of Terrorism™ it's clear we're all one big happy family, which in an optimistic way is perhaps what FIFA intended all along.

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You can tell a lot about a man by his flag

If you had just come into the possession of a 9ft x 6ft St.George's flag, you'd want to decorate in the best way you saw fit. However I was never any good at art, so suggestions are more than welcome.

I could give a noble shout-out to my home town football club, or a message to my family. Perhaps a crude joke, or lyrics to a favourite song?

The truth is there's going to be a plethora of English flags in Germany this summer, and anyone is going to make their's stand out. A creative motif is often a way to get noticed. Perhaps a nice Welsh dragon to acknowledge Michael Owen's roots? Or even a maple leaf as homage to Owen Hargreaves? Maybe I'll throw a coloured sock into the wash to make the flag come out in Sven Göran Eriksson's Swedish colours?

England flag

All I know is that writing "E N G L A N D" across a St.George flag isn't really appreciating what the purpose of a flag actually is….

Übung macht den Weltmeister

It might seem obvious to check out a few websites before visiting cities these days, but often you're left with the same feeling from all of them. Each one has a cathedral by default, a local delicacy and a day of the year when everyone seems to go a bit crazy.

I'm starting to think that the key is to read between the lines, and see what they aren't reporting. For example, Wikitravel refers to the "distinctive" and "exorbitant amount of pride" that Cologne offers. If you haven't guessed already, Cologne boasts to be Germany's gay capital. I say this because if you search for "alone in cologne" on Google, you get a link to the Gay Times, so I may as well embrace this early doors.

To paraphrase from my German host:

"The cathedral is the most spectacular thing in Cologne. But Cologne is very famous for some other things. For example the gays. Here are a lot of gay people. So the party scene is a little bit different from other places. The cologne people are different anyway…the people here are very open. Some kind of Party-Folk. But they are not so serious, as they are in Hamburg for example."

But what kind of cosmopolitan city doesn't have a gay scene today? In comparison, my only other reference to Cologne in my first 20 years was during the reading of an A-Level German set text. Heinrich Böll was of Kölsch origin, and Cologne was a possible setting for 'Das Brot der frühen Jahre', or 'The Bread of those early years'. Here was a story of Walter Fenrich, who was part of the German community rebuilding following the Second World War. The reference to bread is of harder times when he was a boy, where something such as bread was a major commodity.

Over in Berlin, the rival for the throne of Gay Capital, the Olympic Stadium has seen a complete renovation in time for this World Cup. The scene of Jesse Owens et al in 1936 at a time of political fragility is now hosting the single greatest match in sport.

It seems that within Germany they have already made a fantastic attempt to shrug off the shackles of recent history and a move towards a more cosmopolitan life. This summer the rest of the world will finally update their factfiles on a country that hasn't left their history behind, but simply changed in spite of it.

How I Learned to Stop Studying and Love the Blog

The switch from spring to summer usually means a transition from inebriation to sobriety for many a student, but in between library sessions it's necessary to keep the fun levels up.

BBC Blogs

 That said, I can't help but feel a tinge of responsilibity when the BBC provides a link to my blog directly above those of Michael Owen and Ronaldinho. Not that I'm not up to the task and responsibility, but surely it's not in the interests of the British media to rely on an untested youngster to make the World Cup blog a successful one…

Grass roots, muddy boots

It has been some time since I saw Hans van der Meer's website. He went around Sunday league football pitches capturing those moments that mean as much to those involved as watching any match on TV.

Normally me browsing that site wouldn't be of much interest, until I recognised one of the photos he took.

The following photo was taken at Oxenhope's ground, a small place above Keighley in West Yorkshire. I have played on this pitch quite a few times, although not usually too successfully. My last game there was only the other month and was a 4-0 reverse. Apparently it was taken by Hans van der Meer in 2004 at a match between Oxenhope Recreation FC and Bronte Wanderers. Not too surprisingly for such a league, this match would be regarded as a local derby. For those with a keen eye, you may notice the pitch sloping downhill from left to right. That's about as gentle a gradient as you are likely to find in Oxenhope. Running uphill on that pitch is something you don't want to be doing in a muddy second half.

Hans van der Meer

Hans has some great photos on his website (www.hansvandermeer.nl) and it is well worth a visit.

England’s finest

For anyone who doubts the quality of England's finest players, check out some of the following footage:

Peter Crouch:

Rio Ferdinand:

Steven Gerrard:

We’ll do the headlines, you do the football

It's occasions such as the World Cup that encourages tabloid headline-writers everywhere to wrestle with foreign names and Anglicise them beyond all recognition. It's also times such as these where we all mock the headline writers, whilst at the same time marvelling at their creativity. Here's a prescient look at the possible headlines and the improbable stories to accompany them:

"Sven: I'm a Theologist"
Sven Göran Eriksson says he believed in the talent of England's World Cup winning star before he was even conceived. Theo Walcott's destiny was aligned in the stars many years ago according to the unusually irrational Swede. Eriksson then falls from grace following a comment about wheelchairs and karma.

"David vs Goliath: this time Goliath wins"
England's hopes were dashed on penalties yet again. The Angolan saviour? Reserve goalkeeper Goliath. The 33 year old goalkeeper was only in the team as the other keepers succumbed to a case of the Tottenham Trotspurs. Captain David Beckham sees his spot kick saved before joining Sven in a sarong-wearing cult.

"JRR talking"
In the build-up to the final between Argentina and Brazil, Juan Roman Riquelme talks his side up and claims Ronaldinho et al are just circus clowns at best.

"Ulises' Odyssey"
Ecuador will lose every game but expect some headline writers to crowbar this one into some Ulises De La Cruz related story.

"Polaksed"
Czech international Jan Polak unleashes a hellish shot to knock Italy out of the World Cup on June 22nd.

"Klose but no cigar"
Germany rue Miroslav Klose's penalty miss in the final versus Brazil in a repeat of 2002's climax.

"Marco Lambasts Them"
Dutch coach Marco van Basten refuses to take any blame for his side's first round exit, and instead goes on the offensive against his players.

"Spain fail to deliver"
Not so much of a play on words as just a general prediction.