Monthly Archives: May 2006


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. 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 On the official FanGuide website the out of date material does state there will be an official ticket swap shop, but this never materialised.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.

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 ( 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.

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.

Spot the difference

Feel free to watch the only documented case of me venturing over the the half-way line. Just lacking in the finishing department

Compare it to this effort from a Villa hero:

Dreams are for sleep, fantasy is for football

It's that time of year again when the sweepstakes, pools and spreadsheets make their electronic passage through the networks of many an office around the World. With so many games on offer, I've decided to limit myself to just two such games – as we all know, too many games before this World Cup could result in burn out come the knockout stages.

I opted for the Metro newspaper's online game, which has free entry but cash prizes for the overall winners. In addition, I pumped 300 pence into the Guardian's coffers for the chance to win a return significantly higher than the entry.

For some, the process of picking a fantasy team borders on the scientific. For others, it's just picking the household names. I usually go somewhere between the two, adding a little blind optimism and partisan support.


Jens Lehmann (Germany, Metro and Guardian) – I've chosen Jens for both games because put bluntly, I can't see many teams scoring past Germany. They one-nilled their way to the final last time around (save for the Saudi Arabia match) and look to offer the same this time too. As host nation, and in a relatively easy group on paper, I don't see the likes of Coast of Rice, Poland or D'or Ecua scoring a goal at all. Jens has done well this season and will be out to amend for his sending off in the Champions' League final. Continue reading

One way ticket to paradise

It was out of optimism as much as anything that I booked a one-way flight to Germany for the 10th June. With no place to stay and no obvious way out, I thought I may lose myself in the system and be found driving a taxi in Berlin on my 37th birthday.

As it was I found a reasonable flight out on the 19th, before realising that the city I was to be staying in would be hosting an England game the very next night. Many Google searches later and all is well, and I finally have some accomodation sorted.

So for anyone interested, I'll be staying in Cologne (Köln as it'll come to be to me from now on) from the 10th June to the 22nd June. Day trips will take me to the following cities:

12th June – USA vs Czech Republic – Gelsenkirchen
13th June – France vs Switzerland – Stuttgart

Of course knowing my luck I'll end up in the passenger seat of an Audi Quattro going round the Nurburgring trying to remove my fingernails from the dashboard.

As a Villa fan I'll be happy to be seeing Milan Baros twice, and it'll give me rare opportunity to wear my claret and blue apparel without too much shame. A keen eye will be kept on Jan Koller, or "The Czech John Hartson", as rumours are abound that David O'Leary is grooming him to come to England.

To my eternal disappointment, my research has found that the local delicacy of the region is Kölsch, a light, and more importantly, SMALL beer. In glasses of 0,2L (or "a mouthful" to you and me), I won't be sure whether to sip these drinks or line them up. Perhaps the slogan they can use on these hot summer days is "little and often".

Of course I'm not so much of a nationalist that I don't want to see others do well. I hope to see Thomas 'Der Hammer' Hitzlsperger bostin' his way through the early rounds, just as long as he ultimately fails. Nothing personal mind, it's just theres nothing more potent than the mix of Germans and optimism. We all know where that ends!

On the same note, it was heard that Franz Beckenbauer was going on a 'charm offensive' to appeal to the calm nature of some of England's more unruly fans. I'd like to point out that using words such as 'Charm OFFENSIVE!' won't help matters. In truth, I can't see there being any English hooliganism. After all, that'd mean some of the World Cup tickets for England games actually reaching these shores.

To weave a more domestic web on the eve of the Prince's Trust 25th anniversary, I'd like to point a finger at Prince William. As heir to the throne, perhaps sooner should Charles decide to not bother with the whole King thing, I suggest Prince William use his royal influence to perform a State takeover of Aston Villa. Like many Spanish teams (e.g. Real Madrid), I feel Villa would benefit from the head of an aging dynasty and who stick around when no-one really wants them. It's what we're all used to anyway. We could even change our name to Real Villa, or Royal House to do an elementary translation.

Having a King bankroll our European successes would be fantastic, although I wouldn't suggest William extend his hospitality to his Grandad or brother for those continental away legs.

As a Norwegian ref might do in a Champions League final, I'll leave you with a rubbish and unnecessary send-off in the form of a couple of links to some videos with a World Cuppish-hue.

BBC World Cup video archive:

ITV World Cup video archive:

England Pride video:

Beckham vs Greece (2002 WCQ Old Trafford – should have volume up for best effect):

Ireland at Italia '90 – Packie Bonner's save and DOL's penalty (long download):


Same old, same old

With more than 3 weeks to go until Grinsi Klinsi gets sacked having suffered the embarrassment of a 0-0 drawfest against Coast of Rica, it is left to us Bloggers to provide light relief by making uneducated guesses about the World-master-ship.

Other than Wayne Rooney being over-shadowed by the so-thin-he-doesn't-cast-a-shadow Theo Walcott, the obvious answer is that Italy will go out amid some sort of conspiracy. If it's not an outrageously disrespectful Korean daring to score against The Azzuri, then it'll be the Czech Republic in cahoots with the USA to mastermind a 2-2 draw and kick the Italians out.More…Whilst we're in that group, expect one of 2 things to happen to Milan Baros:

1) He'll score the somewhat vague amount of a "bagful" of goals and then not recreate in with any kind of domestic form

2) He'll score none and carry it through the next domestic season.

In Group A, Germany will concede none, yet score just one in a scrappy 1-0 against Ecuador, where any number of English tabloids will rue the missed opportunity to use the headline "Ulises' World Cup Odyssey". Berlin will host scenes of never-before-seen violence between Polish and German hooligans, even though the match is in Dortmund.

Group B will be determined by Uri Geller. Expect hilarious and original obituaries in the newspapers because England failed to maul Trinidad and Tobago by the four goals predicted by Pelé. England will fail to beat Sweden, but it won't matter anyway, because Sven will already have run off to manage Germany by June 20th.

Both Serbia and Montenegro will each field 11 men to over-run the Mighty Elephants, the Oranje and Juan Roman Riquelme. Savo Milosevic will score a 30 yard belter to celebrate the decade since Aston Villa last won a trophy:

Continue reading