I was beginning to doubt myself when I watched the Germany versus Poland game just outside the Schokoladenmuseum on the Rhine. I was with my German host and wishing for the Germans to win. It´s not that I have split loyalties, but rather I´ve developed a craving for that sense of euphoria you get with a mass celebration. Thousands of fans packed the space to watch the match and for one of the first times since the tournament began, Germans were in the majority.
But then my English roots kicked in by about the 85th minute when I anticipated a bout of Schadenfreude, should the Germans fail to beat a 10-man Poland side. However, the unfashionable Oliver Neuville of course scored for Germany and I could celebrate. Not because Germany had won, but rather just for the sake of celebrating. Meanwhile in Dortmund, trouble was occurring between German and Polish fans. Hooligans in many countries were prevented from entering the country but it was even more difficult with Poland being on the Eastern border. In a way it was a relief that the only real trouble so far was at an easily anticipated place and time, so the activity was limited.
Speaking of problems, I think that the German method of street cleaning is very effective and should be adopted in England. Deposits on plastic and glass bottles mean homeless people scour the streets for cast offs, meaning you´ll rarely find a bottle on the ground. If returns were extended to any form of rubbish then not only would there be no litter, we´d have the best-earning beggars in the world. Take that Paris!
Yesterday I did the particularly touristy thing in visiting the Schokoladenmuseum. It was a more sanitised version of Willy Wonka´s factory, but interesting nonetheless. And yes, they do give out free samples. The whole process of getting the beans to final wrapping held my interest for an hour or so, but I began to smell like I´d been swimming in a giant box of Coco Pops – which I would guess will be the Summer ’07 exhibit. I made my move to the Köln Sportmuseum but not without a trip to the Tropical Rainforest room, where the Lindt company were attempting to cultivate a couple of cocoa trees. I think the humidity was about 99%, it felt like a walk-in shower. The Sportmuseum was mostly full of kids, but it was nice to see the spirit of the World Cup hadn´t quite stretched to everyone, as a couple of blokes wouldn´t let some kids at a birthday party use the rooftop football pitch until they´d completely finished.
Last night the English took control of Köln´s Heumarkt. Many were fairly drunk even by the time of kick-off, yet there was no hint of any trouble, even as they sang the 10 German Bombers song. The English filled the Fan Fest better than any set of fans I had seen yet, though of course we got a little impatient as the game wore on. Relief came late on, to choruses of “Let’s all do the Crouchy”.
The celebration was perhaps one of my best memories of the World Cup so far. A samba drum band kept a good rhythm just outside the bars, and the entire street could be caught dancing. A rudimentary check saw fans from England, Sweden, Germany, USA, Holland and Mexico, and probably countless more. The highlight was everyone joining in for the universal “Ole” song, with each set of fans adding their moniker at the end. Songs were traded back and forth amourously, beer drunk by the barrelful, and a climax of everyone singing the native song used during the Köln Karneval, “Viva Colonia”.
A superb end to what could have been a tricky day had England lost and the crowds displeased.