Oranje fans with their plums on show

Taken from Reuters:

By Mike Collett

BERLIN, June 17 (Reuters) – Hundreds of Dutch fans had to watch their team's 2-1 win over the Ivory Coast in their underwear in Stuttgart on Friday after stewards at entry points to the stadium rumbled an ambush marketing ploy.

The Netherlands supporters all turned up in garish orange lederhosen displaying the name of Dutch brewery Bavaria and were ordered to remove them by stewards before being allowed to enter the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.

They then went into the match and watched it in their underwear.

Anheuser Busch's Budweiser is the official beer for the tournament and world soccer's governing body fiercely protects its sponsors from brands which are not FIFA partners.

Markus Siegler, FIFA's director of communications, said at its daily media briefing on Saturday that the governing body was alert to the kind of "ambush" marketing Bavaria had attempted.

"Of course, FIFA has no right to tell an individual fan what to wear at a match, but if thousands of people all turn up wearing the same thing to market a product and to be seen on TV screens then of course we would stop it.

"I don't know exactly about what happened in Stuttgart, but it seems like an organised attempt to conduct a mass ambush publicity campaign was taking place."

Peer Swinkels of the Dutch brewery told Reuters by telephone it was "absolutely ridiculous" and "far too extreme" to order the fans to take off their lederhosen and said the brewery had complained to FIFA."I understand that FIFA has sponsors but you cannot tell people to strip off their lederhosen and force them to watch a game in their underpants. That is going too far."

Most people had hopefully been wearing orange underwear, he added, denying that the trousers were an ambush and describing them instead as a Dutch nod to German culture.

Only men had been forced to strip according to his information, he added.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Hattingen)

Team of the Tournament: Week One

GK: Joao Ricardo (Angola) – this would have gone to Trinidad´s Shaka Hislop, but in the second game he didn´t actually have much to do due to England´s ineptitude. The Angolan keeper hasn´t conceded a goal since the fourth minute of his World Cup, not for lack of action in front of him. Without the most talented or experienced team, the Angolan has been both brave and lucky in the opening two games, a feat any successful number 1 needs.

DL: Philip Lahm (Germany) – A fantastic goal and two very solid performances. Has shown how to defend and attack, as well as his ability to use both feet. The comparison is to his counterpart Arne Friedrich at right back, who´s clumsy nature and poor positioning have caused concerns in the German back four.

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Rest Day

Today is something of a rest day so just after halfway through my trip I thought I´d give something of a summary.

Köln (Cologne) – a very nice place that has come alive during the World Cup. You can go days without seeing fans from a particular country, but as soon as they are playing on any given day the hoards come out in their thousands. They all have standard issue flags, face paints, horns and whistles and aren´t afraid to use them.

Alongside the busier side of the Rhine is a long row of restaurants on bars that are all much the same, perhaps offering different specililaties but rarely much variation from the same menus. A couple of narrow alleys further back brings you into the Aldstadt, although this is a little misleading as a lot of it was destroyed in WW2 bombing raids.

All the bars around the Heumarkt Fan Fest come alive during the evenings, and today in particular is full of Czechs due to their game in Köln against Ghana today. At the other end of the main shopping area is Neumarkt and then Rudolfplatz, which is host to the Hoherzollernring. This long stretch of bars seems to be more for the locals as it may be a bit too far from the centre itself for foreign guests.

After the Trinidad & Tobago match the England fans were informed that on the 20th for the Sweden game, there would be a park that could accommodate 35,000 fans on the other side of the Rhine. The Fan Fest was very full for the Trinidad match and with Sweden bringing their own fans and the game being played in Köln, the citiy´s population could be increased by as much as 15%! 

Seeing God

Today I went to the Temple of Gelsenkirchen for the game between Argentina and Serbia, and even Montenegro. God was there. The clergy prayed, he preached, and a miracle occurred.

Last time I was at this stadium, I arrived at kick-off and got no build up of tension. This time around, I was able to take in the full atmosphere and engage my senses long before kick-off. For all their rivalries with England, there is also a mutual respect. Two sets of differently passionate fans and two differently styled teams. The sea of blue and white almost made the stadium bounce up and down in tangent with the movements of the crowd, and it wasn´t long before they had cause to celebrate. At all 3 matches I have been to, there has been a goal within the first 6 minutes.

The roof on this occasion was completely closed, and the air conditioned so that no temperature was instantly noticeable. Being on just the second row you realise just how the grass can be removed from the stadium. The pitch is on a platform creatig a moat of sorts separating the players and the fans. It would take a brave streaker to make that leap.

Argentina oozed quality and a free-flow of expressions that would match their Brazilian rivals. By the end of the game I had seen Riquelme, Crespo, Saviola, Tevez and Messi, all of whom are already true stars. Whilst Serbia didn´t provide too much of a fight, Argentina looked totally at ease with themselves and never seemed to be playing at full throttle. Meanwhile the fans were paying less attention to the pitch and more to events occurring just above me.

Just like the Pope at the Vatican, Maradona was on the balcony looking out over his wellwishers. He danced and bounced, shouted and screamed, and waved to the fans who regard him as some kind of deity. As someone who never saw him play and have since only heard and seen bad things, you have to admire the way in which Maradona is revered in Argentina. The man can do no wrong by them and in return he gives them all the hope they need to be able to crush teams like Serbia.

The World Cup itself has failed to ignite the imaginations of the masses, as the only upset so far has been the success of the Ecuador team, hardly a shock of massive proportions. The plucky underdogs have played well against the bigger teams, but essentially fallen at the last hurdle. Poland, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago and the Ivory Coast have all fallen by the wayside despite decent performances. It is perhaps the way that the game is going that with so much at stake, a more conservative brand of football is proving to be the most successful. For that reason I was more than happy to applaud Argentina today, as they played in the way all World Cup matches should be.

Viva Colonia

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.

Why do ‘Polish’ and ‘polish’ sound different?

Today promises to be a test for even the most hardened of football fans, as Tunisia play Saudi Arabia this afternoon. It doesn´t hold as much interest for the masses due to the lack of any European or South American involvement, and it isn´t aided by the fact that all the Saudi squad play heir football in their home country.

However, any game today was always going to come behind Germany and Poland in importance. This game is being heralded as being anything except football. Most German cities have large Polish contingents, and it has escaped the attention of no-one that the German forward line is comprised of two Poland-born players. It will provide interest in the Fan Fest tonight away from what is happening on-screen. In football terms, a loss for Poland sees their World Cup campaign over and German will be all but secured of their position.

Vorgestern it was the turn of Cologne´s Italian population to provide the car horns long into the night and most of the morning, and last night it was the large Brazilian contingent that the city boasts. The show looks like it won´t be yielding anytime soon as Hoherzollernring will come alive again this evening with either German or Polish fans, or should a draw ensue, everyone else. Come Thursday night the English fans will be looking to make their mark on the celebrations, meaning little sleep for the many.

Personally today will be something as a rest day, as tomorrow England play and then a trip to Gelsenkirchen on the 16th. The weather is supposed to be in the throws of turning but when it was 30ºC at midnight I think a slight downturn may well be welcome.

The American Dream

I was awoken by Three Lions being played over the military BFBS Radio One on felt that today would be a good one. Czech Republic versus USA should have been an equally fought match and promised to be a spectacle. Gelsenkirchen was also a well-liked stadium and promised something different.

Of course too much of a good thing can make you complacent, so I was dragged down to earth quickly enough when the train to Gelsenkirchen stopped after a short while. We could all smell smoke and sure enough the front of the train was on fire. Added to this the fact my window was broken, and you start to wonder whether it will be a sign of things to come. There were many Americans on the train but none seemed to have any tickets. It was a strange situation to note. I can imagine the likes of England and Italy having hoards of ticketless fans following them, but not USA fans. The delay was perhaps 20 minutes but in the sweltering heat it felt like 20 lifetimes. Upon alighting from the train I was met by a massive swell of both American and Czech fans. Both sets were in good voice and the atmosphere electric. It was probably for the best that I did not see any of Gelsenkirchen because it didn´t seem overly inviting. The stadium itself is located in the middle of nowhere. That would suggest that at the end of nowhere, is somewhere, but alas there is more nowhere after that. It seems as if someone suggested they build a stadium there, then built the town as an afterthought. For all the misgivings, the stadium is a very good one. The roof was partially open and the air was controlled so that you couldn´t really feel any kind of temperature or humidity. The Arena effect meant that the atmosphere bounced off the walls. My only criticism is perhaps that it was too good. It felt artificial. The air wasn´t hot, the pitch looked like it had been recently painted green and it leant itself no flexibility. It felt as if it would be no different in there even if it was -10º outside and in the middle of a blizzard. It made ideal football conditions, but one of the draws of football is its unpredictability and I didn´t get that feeling.

The match itself was even less of a contest than the Angola\Portugal one, but the quality much higher. I was disappointed not to see Milan Baros play, but there were plenty of others on show. Pavel Nedved and in particular Tomas Rosicky stood out as a class above. Rosicky will prove to be an asset to Arsenal with his pace and deft of touch. The USA weren´t outclassed all over the pitch, but rather had no route to goal. The Czech Republic had options everywhere – the height of Koller, the skill of Nedved and the speed of Rosicky, but with only Brian McBride as an out-and-out striker it meant the USA couldn´t break through the defence. Claudio Reyna hit the post and perhaps would have made a better game had it gone in, but things were not on the US side.

On my return to Köln it must have slipped my mind that Italy had just won the World Cup, or so it seemed. Hohezollernring was awash with Italians in cars, on mopeds and on foot flying their flags and bleating their horns. Chants were constant and the celebrating intense. Rather than winning the World Cup outright, they had merely beaten footballing minnows Ghana in their first match. It remains to be seen what celebrations will be like if the Italians do actually achieve something worthwhile.

As for the rest of today I feel it my duty to visit the Rhein. That and the Dom were the obvious landmarks I noted from the plane, so it demans a visit I feel. I´m looking forward to England\Trinidad on the 15th, and then I´m going back to Gelsenkirchen for Argentina\Serbia & Montenegro on the 16th. Bis bald!