Football’s Coming Home

As a resident of Köln for more than a week, I feelwell qualified to be of some use when it comes to local knowledge. On the eve of the Sweden game here in the city, England fans are populating the city in their droves. This morning the Hauptbahnhof was full, not just of supporters, but also volunteers from the Fan´s Embassy and also the British police. The police have no powers of arrest but it would be unwise to perform any kind of salute to them as they are in liaison with the German police.

In anticipation of the ticketless masses, the announcer after the Trinidad game in the FanFest announced that there would be a THIRD area in the city for the fans to watch the game. The venue is on the other side of the river from the main city centre, but is still only a short walk. The people from the Fan´s Embassy are handing out the Free Lions magazine and a pamphlet showing the viewing area. They can be found all around, but whilst it´s raining probably only in the train station!

The map shows it wise to cross the Deutzer Brücke (Bridge) which is near Heumarkt (where there is the usual Fan Fest). The guy I spoke to said that the doors were closing an hour before the England games in previous cities, and were all but full up to 90 minutes before kick off. There is also a free camp site just along the Rhein on the same side, although I would anticipate that filling up very quickly if not full already. It may be useful to know that a  little way down the river are some public football pitches which anyone can use, and the scene of my Sunday League heroics.

The screens will be showing the Germany versus Ecuador game, followed by a recording of Poland and Costa Rica (yipee?!), then the hugely anticipated England versus Sweden game and finally a recording of Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago. It should be noted that there are NO big screens outside the stadium to watch the game. The stadium is at the other end of town to the new big screen so it would be risky to try and wait outside the stadium for tickets and then rush to the public viewing area.

On the topic of tickets, the complimentary Free Lions magazine has some interesting discoveries. As widely expected, there have beenvery few identity checks. From personal experience at three matches, as long as the light goes green on the card reader then you can get into the stadium. The only complications arrive with forgeries, reported stolen tickets, banned fans and finally bent tickets. The chip can be easily damaged, so the advice is that if you do "acquire" a ticket without your name on, then don´t fold it or else you may be due an identity check.

Free Lions is very useful and they´re giving it away for free in the train station. It say that the sources for black market tickets at previous England games have been from the Paraguay FA, Gilette, hospitality tickets, and for reasons beyond any consideration, Costa Rican FA tickets. An alleged incident at Togo vs South Korea was that McDonalds hospitality reps were emerging from the stadium soon before kick-off laden with unclaimed competition tickets, sold cheaply to scalps among others, who promptly walked 20 yards down the road and sold them for 10 times as much.

Not to judge by steretypes, but I´ve seen a lot of unsavoury looking characters at train stations and stadiums holding up signs saying "NEED ONE TICKET". I saw one American person who sold his ticket cheaply because the guy said he was a desperate American fan. As soon as the guy had gone, the scalper held up his card again announcing he still needed one more ticket. This was 90 minutes before kick off, and I would bet a small fortune that you would have seen the same person outside the stadium 5 minutes before kick off when the ticketless fans begin to panic and give away several hundred Euros. 

The irony of it all is that the ticketing system for this WC was supposed to eradicate the black market, but if anything the number of unused sponsors tickets has only made the situation worse.

As for after the game – if you wish to stay on that side of the Rhine, there is a Beach Bar with a fake stretch of sand that is fairly popular on sunny days. For the Trinidad match the England fans concentrated themselves just around the bars of the Heumarkt area, and also the bars on the city centre side of the Rhein. Locals and insiders venture further to the Hoherzollernring, but I wouldn´t anticipate too many English there. In addition there are a few Irish bars but from past experience the best celebrations are the ones with international fans, rather than just drunk ex-pats.

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One response to “Football’s Coming Home

  1. Ask in the Corkonian (Alter Markt) or Paddy Vallaly’s (around the corner) if the Kolshies football team is still going – scottish Danny & a few more of them used to be heavily involved in it – it’s an excellent sunday morning/afternoon out, and a good laugh with the lads in one of Cologne’s many Irish Pubs afterwards.

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