- 28 Jun 08, 05:00 PM
Time is ticking for Vienna's Panini football card collectors. They meet outside the Technisches Museum, every Friday afternoon, old women trading with schoolchildren, long lists of indecipherable numbers in their hand. What will they do next Friday?
The clock is also running down for touts in the centre of Vienna. One walked past me in the rain and said: "Tickets?" I said that I was alright thanks. "I'm ******* buying not selling," came the reply. I guess I should have read the sign, written in several languages, that he was holding.
These are the last days of Euro 2008. As the finest tournament in a generation inexorably moves towards its conclusion, I think it's appropriate that the champions will be crowned here in Vienna, a place with a rich history of conquering and coronation.
The king of Uefa, president Michel Platini, held an end of tournament press briefing on Saturday and, judging by his bonhomie, is clearly very happy with what has unfolded over the past 22 days. He waxed lyrical about how the players and coaches had "given us a beautiful tournament".
Platini, of course, was a member of the France side that defeated Spain in the final of the 1984 European Championship. He opened the scoring in a 2-0 victory, his shot squirming under the body of goalkeeper Luis Arconada.
Somewhat fittingly, and perhaps sensing that Spain might be about to right the wrongs of the past, Platini has invited Arconada to Sunday's final at the Ernst Happel Stadium.
The sense that the tournament is coming to a close was further heightened on Friday night, when Uefa put on a party for the media at the Kursalon, a splendid venue in Vienna's Stadtpark.
Top of the bill was a Falco tribute act, blasting out the hits of Austria's favourite rock musician to all and sundry. He had been preceded by a performance of modern dance with a strong football theme, the deep and profound meaning of which I have yet to ascertain. Much more to my liking was Swedish singer Robyn, who also played in Vienna on Friday.
The musical theme does not end there either. On Sunday, Enrique Iglesias will give a pre-match performance, no doubt hoping to inspire his countrymen as they prepare to face Germany.
The Spaniard held a news briefing in the build up to the final. I didn't attend, but I'm told journalists were striving a little too hard to get a news line. The Swedes asked Iglesias who his favourite Swedish player and musical act was, while a Hungarian asked how highly he rated Ferenc Puskas. You get the picture.
And so the hours continue to tick down to the final. Fans from both Spain and Germany can be seen milling about Vienna, taking in the sights and partaking in some of the local ales, no doubt dreaming of success on Sunday.
Down at the Technisches Museum, I was struck by the following line in amongst the exhibits: "All it takes is unshakable belief in the benevolence of destiny."
On Sunday we will find out whose side destiny is on...
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