Gutted in Nuremberg
- 22 Jun 06, 04:18 PM
ALMOST INSIDE THE FRANKENSTADION, NUREMBERG - I'm sat here on some concrete steps, staring at the Frankenstadion not 30 metres away, listening to the cheers and jeers of the Ghana v USA crowd.
Why no closer? Because I bought a cancelled ticket off a tout and am now stuck in the eerie no-man's land between the outer security checkpoint and the entance to the stands.
It looks like someone (the tout?) bought the ticket, then cancelled it by phone, but still having the hard copy, sold it on to yours truly.
The amount I shelled out for this dubious privilege I'll keep to myself, if only because I know the wife will be reading this (sorry!).
Still, she'll be pleased I didn't end up in the cells as happened to a friend of a friend who bought a ticket off a tout for the Brazil versus Croatia game (bearing the stamp of the Panamanian FA apparently).
He took his seat all well and good - then found himself on the end of a tongue-lashing from the blokes around him.
Turned out the ticket had been stolen the night before - from their absent mate.
The chap sheepishly moved off to an empty seat - and a few minutes before the final whistle felt a tap on his shoulder and was escorted from the ground by police.
He spent the night in the cells with this chap (pictured) - those who saw the game might remember him - who ran on the pitch.
Anyway, that makes me feel a little bit better. A massive cheer has just gone up, Ghana have scored.
This experience is adding to quite a strange day in football terms, certainly one which has differed from our others out in Germany.
Our campsite is a mere stone's throw from the stadium - I'm sure a few England fans will be familiar with it - but on waking this morning we realised it was a little later than usual.
The reason for our lie-in? The lack of singing, cheering and general boisterousness from expectant fans on the day of their big game (we also mistakanly thought it was an evening kick-off but that's beside the point.)
There have not been many Ghana fans in evidence, their numbers are swelled significantly by the locals, and the American soccer fan seems to be a different breed from others we've seen.
When other teams come into town -I'm thinking of the likes of the Dutch, Swedish and English - their fans descend on the town centre and turn it into a home-from-home, draping their flags anywhere they can and drinking the local bars dry.
This lunchtime in Nuremberg, just three hours before kick-off, you could be forgiven for thinking it was just another day, albeit with a couple of coach parties of American tourists in town.
The US fans wandered in and out of the shops and cafes with barely a shout of "U-S-A" to be heard at all.
They don't have the mindset to just get on the booze as early as possible, and there are a lot more families here.
Fletch and I met a couple of 'dudes' last night who told us it's because soccer is the sport of the young in America.
"All the kids are playing soccer now, and watching the Premier League," said one of them, a lifelong football fan, as he rightly called himself, from New York State.
"But you've still got to fight for your right to be a football fan, it's not just on all the time as it is in Europe and a lot of people still don't understand it."
The atmosphere did intensify once I boarded a train full of "Yanks" to the stadium - they certainly lived up to their loud reputation once they get going - although their chants were all to the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountain" and they even sang "here we go".
They don't really have high hopes for their team.
"It was like a professional team against a high-school team when we played the Czechs," said our friend from New York.
"I was so upset I threw my US team shirt out of the window, man I wish I hadn't done that!"
But that reaction is nothing compared to when we mentioned the 1-1 draw against Italy.
"Those goddam Italians," is the reply from dude number two.
"Man I hate them, they just fall on the ground crying like babies when someone goes near them."
"I love the country and Italian people, but their soccer team are a bunch of a****."
As for their own team, Clint Dempsey was the man they were tipping to make the difference against Ghana - I think he's even just scored from the cheers...