DB’s World Cup Diary – Germany 2006
In 2006 I travelled to Germany for the FIFA World Cup. During my travels I wrote weekly articles for the Matamata Chronicle. I have combined these articles and will present them in two parts – pre-tournament and during-tournament. Part 2 is posted here.
I continued this diary for South Africa 2010 and I’ve posted that series here.
What have I agreed to? (Originally published on June 6, 2006)
Football is a funny game. That’s probably the most famous cliche in a sport full of famous cliches.
For me that applies double. Just a day after I left New Zealand for Germany, and my first FIFA World Cup, Matamata Swifts, the club I have had so much involvement with over so many years, played our biggest match in years. On Queen’s Birthday Monday – yesterday – the Swifts played Tauranga City United in the 2nd round of the Chatham Cup, a competition which is New Zealand’s version of the English FA Cup.
The game is a true David versus Goliath contest. In 2002, Tauranga made it to the Chatham Cup final, while the 2nd round is the furthest Matamata has ever progressed. Deadlines, the bane of writers the world over, mean I can’t share the result with you today as this article was written two days before the match. But spare a small thought for me as I will have nervously watched the clock as kick-off nears and then waited for the text message that will let me know the result. I’ll be somewhere between Hong Kong and London when the game is being played, my body clock already well and truly screwed up and playing tricks with my sleep-deprived head. So hopefully the short message I receive will help relieve the agony that is long-haul international travel.
Rather courageously or perhaps foolishly – you decide – I have promised the Chronicle team that I’ll supply a weekly report from the centre of the footballing universe aka the FIFA World Cup in Germany. This is, possibly, my misguided attempt to bring a slice of the world’s greatest sporting extravaganza to New Zealand’s rugby heartland. I reckon it’s worth a shot!
Part of this process involves the obligatory photo, which you’ll probably find somewhere on this page (not available on the website. Damn shame…). I know, I know, I’ve got a good face for radio, so hopefully my words over the next few weeks will paint a better picture for you. I will try to share the excitement, passion and plain good fun that only an event of this magnitude can bring. Think the rugby world cup multiplied by ten and you will have some idea of just how big this whole thing will be.
We, (my wife Jean and I), have been planning this trip for ages. We are lucky enough to have secured tickets to three matches, which is bloody good going when you take into account how hard they are to come by. On June 20 we will be in Hannover to watch Poland play Costa Rica. This match will serve as a nice little warm up for the big one in Hamburg two days later. Italy versus the Czech Republic, potentially the most crucial game in what promises to be the tightest group of the whole tournament. As a warm down we will be in Cologne on June 26 to watch one of the round of 16 games.
Keep your eyes open for a Matamata Swifts scarf at these games. We’ll do our best to get on TV. By the time you read this, Matamata will have played Tauranga and New Zealand will have played Brazil (!). I’ll be in Frankfurt feeling, looking, and probably smelling, like a zombie. Not a pretty thought but I’m sure it’s something I’ll manage to deal with considering what lies ahead over the next five weeks.
Let the games begin (Originally published on June 13, 2006)
The madness has begun. After four years of waiting the world’s largest ever sporting event has finally kicked off.
And guess what? I didn’t get to see the opening match. I was on a bus somewhere between Naples and Rome when it was played. I guess Jean must have organised this part of our holiday. Thankfully we did manage to see the goals on CNN when we finally made it to the hotel. A 4-2 victory to the host nation and some spectacular goals hopefully is a sign of things to come.
For us this week has been all about getting to Europe and enjoying the summer. We spent a night at an airport hotel in Frankfurt, Germany, before flying to the crazy country of Italy. Our hotel shuttle driver in Frankfurt was fed up with all the World Cup hype. It’s everywhere. I think he just wanted the tournament to get underway. He wasn’t too confident about his country’s chances of winning, but he did say he’d like to see a Germany versus Portugal final. Now that would be a contrast in styles if ever you saw one.
Italy is crazy in a good way. It’s our first time here and it would be safe to say the prevailing thought, at least with us, has been, ‘What World Cup?’ Such has been the quality of our holiday so far. Fantastic weather, great scenery and some of the best food you’re ever likely to eat. But you don’t want to hear about that.
As there hasn’t been too much football yet, I thought I’d take a bit of a punt and make a few suggestions about where you should place you hard earned cash for this World Cup (assuming you are betting people). After completing a highly unscientific process that included much guessing and speculation, my early pick is for a Brazil versus Holland final. My mate Pete Vossen will be pleased to hear that!
The Brazilians have to be favourites because they have the best footballers in the world. They are the All Blacks of world football except they don’t choke on the big occasions. The Dutch have an exciting young side coached by the legendary Marco Van Basten. Because of this and the fact they are so close to home they are my dark horses. Other teams to look out for are Argentina, England, Germany and Italy.
After having spent some time in Italy I have a secret little hope they will do well. We had lunch in Sorrento, near Naples, on Thursday, which consisted mainly of pizza and beer. The beer, Peroni, had a picture of the 1982 World Cup winning Italian side on the label and that brought some big memories flooding back. 1982 was my first World Cup, naturally enough, because that year was the one and only time New Zealand was involved. It was also the last time the Azzuri won and they did it in the sort of style you would only expect from the Italians. I still remember Marco Tardelli’s length of the pitch run after scoring a goal in the final against West Germany. Was that really 24 years ago?
We have another week in Italy before arriving in Munich next Friday. I can’t wait!
Heaven (Originally published on June 20, 2006)
Munich, Germany – football heaven. Well, it’s probably about as close as I’m ever going to get!
Jean and I arrived back in Germany today (Friday) after eleven days in Italy and it would be fair to say we found a country that has gone absolutely mad for football. We’ve only been in Munich for a few hours but we’ve seen the World Cup plastered everywhere. You kind of get the feeling the Germans are going to make sure this tournament is a success.
We are in Munich for the Australia versus Brazil game, which is being played on Sunday. We don’t have tickets so we’ll probably watch the match, along with 69,998 others, on one of the jumbo screens at Munich’s Olympic Park. I’m sure the atmosphere will be almost as good.
We’ve already run into one Australian guy who paid 150 Euros for a ticket to their game against Japan. He’s going to try to pick up something similar on the street tomorrow. Somehow I don’t fancy his chances.
Amongst all our Italian monument visiting and culture sampling during the last week we have managed to catch at least one game a day. We experienced the England versus Paraguay game in a small bar only a block away from the Colosseum in Rome. A small quiet bar. There were only three other customers, plus the owner, there. Not conducive to producing a great atmosphere, but it was a good afternoon nonetheless.
We were in Florence for two nights earlier in the week that coincided with the tournament debuts of a couple of the big guns, Italy and Brazil. I watched both games on the big screen in the hotel bar with an Italian-American guy from Brooklyn who was part of our tour group. He was as unimpressed as I was with both teams. Although both won they were far from convincing.
Italy were nervous against a solid, but unthreatening, Ghana. They should have more than the two goals they managed, but you always had the feeling the game wasn’t safe until they got their second. Brazil just looked flat (and, in Ronaldo’s case, fat). Maybe they peaked when they beat the All Whites 4-0. Or perhaps, more realistically, they just did what needed to be done.
We did our best to find an authentic local bar to watch the Italian game but couldn’t find anything. Granted, it was a Monday evening, but I thought Matamata was the only place in the world that closed up early in the week. Maybe we just looked in the wrong places.
The tournament really kicks off for us this week. We’re going to games in Hannover, on Tuesday, and Hamburg, on Thursday. The game in Hamburg will be some occasion because it is between Italy and the Czech Republic and should decide who wins their group. So I’ll have plenty of stuff to talk about next week.
Also, the beer here in Germany is cheaper – and better – than in Italy. That, as much as anything, leads me to believe the next couple of weeks are going to be a lot of fun.
Part 2 of DB’s Diary – Germany 2006 is posted here.