Follow Ian's fortunes right here as he tracks down some of the proudest fans in the country. He'll be posting updates every day - and also sending photos direct from his mobile phone.
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30 Jun, 11.56 PM - Gelsenkirchen
Looking into the faces of people on world cup match day is a delight. At breakfast I notice bright eyes, smiles are freely exchanged and anything seems possible. Most fans stayed away from Gelsenkirchen prior to the match.
Word of how small it is had obviously got round. With just 21 hotels the English throng were forced to stay in neighbouring cities like Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Cologne. But the day of the game against Portugal was like a scene from the Kevin Costner film "Field of Dreams". People from England must appeared from nowhere. It was a tidal wave of English humanity. "If you play it, they will come".
Tim and I avoided the centre fearing we would never get out again. Instead we met Paul Seigert and Nick Miller. The pair had travelled from Kent that morning for the game. They had tickets. I was jealous. Since arriving in Germany I had seen very little football from start to finish. Thoughts of injuries to our political correspondent and weather presenter wafted into a devious mind forcing a regrettable but grateful substitution by both Tim and I. I tried hard not to do it, but I made the mistake of looking too far ahead. If I closed my eyes I could smell the sweet aroma of opulent southern Germany. Bessie and her posse were going to Munich. I carried this confidence in my hand right up until the referee blew his whistle to start the game.
|"I was in a field sharing my disappointment with 40,000 football devotees"|
Fingers involuntarily splayed my confidence fell to the ground where it remained for the entire match. There were moments I was tempted to pick it up again but then I would look at the faces in the crowd gathered in the public viewing area of Gelsenkirchen and what I saw was my own anxieties staring back. England are not so much the Bridesmaid but rather the page boy of football's wedding feast. But even as the Portugeuse player Christiano Ronaldo squeezed the heart of the lion hearted the dream died.
Watching in the stadium, standing in the fan fest, sitting at home on the sofa or reflecting in a dejected changing room I realised the pain feels the same. The dull ache of losing - only needs the soft leather of a goal keepers glove to come seeping in. But unlike watching the match on television I was in a field sharing my disappointment with 40,000 football devotees. We came together, we watched together, we lost together. In some peculiar way that was comforting and made the disappointment easier to deal with.
So what have I learnt? Well I have learnt Germany is a country of spectacular beauty. Its people are hospitable, generous and warm. I have also learnt England has the best fans in the world and in some cases possibly some of the worst. But most importantly I have witnessed how 22 people on a patch of grass kicking a ball can bring people together. I have seen the world come to Germany to celebrate the pursuit of excellence and glory we call Football. And I have played a part in it. It's been a summer I will never forget.
Essen is an imposter. My guide book told me she is a major industrial hub.
This north west Rhineland city played an important part in Germany's engineering revolution. I imagine smoke encrusted chimneys and the chime of heavy machinery. What I discover is a modern mature and surprisingly attractive urban cityscape. It has tree lined avenues, handsome buildings and open space. The city, I am told, grew from a monastry established in 852. Essen may not be the best example of vast metropolis but in footballing terms she would be like Charlton. A premiership buffer between the elite above and the yo yo pretenders below.
I am hit by storms as I leave Stuttgart. The rain is so hard it manages to slow the sleek Mercedes that dominate the fast lane. The humidity makes the journey heavy and a little arduous. When I arrive in Essen, Stuttgart and what happened there seems like a lifetime away.
The sea has fallen out of the sky. Today is fresher but there are no clouds.
Yet again it is hot. The people who work for network television (the programmes you watch either side of South East Today) are really friendly and helpful. I report live into the programme but only because the technical staff and crew in Stuttgart are willing to work an hour longer than they have to. Rob, Roy, David, Alan, Graham and Chris thank you.
25 Jun, 3.40 PM - Stuttgart
If the credo for the Oregon trailers was" go west", in Germany it should be "head south", Stuttgart is the state capital and jewell of Baden Wurttemberg. I've only been here a couple of days but to me it appears as if southern Germany has everything. It's breathtakingly schön, or beautiful as we might say. Unemployment here is the lowest in Germany and it's companies are reknowned worldwide, Bosch, DaimlerChrysler, and Porsche possibly the most recognisable.
I haven't explored this wonderful place yet but my guidebook tells me Stuttgart is a cultural centre with its own ballet company, chamber orchestra and art collections. Mind you I am not alone in that aspect.
This afternoon the city's square has become a little piece of England. Within shouting distance is the Staatsgalerie full of priceless paintings. But the red and white brigade, like me have come here for one thing. May be we'll see this city's treasures another time.
The heat here is fierce. The humidity makes it worse. Thankfully as soon as the game started it clouded over allowing the temperature to drop a little. Not that many of us were jumping around much. The match was a dull affair but I didn't see any complaints. As the small Ecquadorian contingent melted away a live band entertained the joyous.
I've found nothing but praise for the way the Germans have organised this tournament. During the game there must have been some 40,000 fans inside the public viewing area. What the organisers do here is provide a free concert after the game. The idea is to encourage them to stay, drink less and as a result ease the pressure on other parts of the city. It works.
This evening it's a cover band last night it was Faversham's finest Sir Bob Geldolf. He went down a storm, although I do think he could've shaved for the occasion. The English being what we are didn't want to leave to make way for the Portuguese and the Dutch fans. In the end nature did what the security couldn't. The Heavens opened for what turned out to be a spectacular electrical storm. So you see we did get something worth watching after all.
24 Jun, 11.27 AM - Stuttgart
Germany’s star is rising. The sun is potent, the country smiles and it’s footballers are rampant. Maybe the last two observations should be inverted.
Football can be the catalyst for the rebirth of a nation. I’ve been here for nearly two weeks now. Since then this country seems to have grasped a new found confidence. A week ago, drive or walk the streets of Germany and you would see a few national flags but nothing like the numbers at home. Now, spear headed by Deustsland‘s youth, the black, red and yellow tricolor can be seen everywhere. The game is uniting the country too. Germany like ours is a nation of immigrants. They come from all over the world. On match day it’s not unusual to see someone from south east Asia, or Africa daubed with the hues of their adopted country. Can football do to Germany what it did to France in 1998?.
There are many things I like about this country. I like the way pedestrians take precendence over cars. Even if the lights are green drivers must wait for people to cross the road. I also like the way they make it easy for people to use push bikes. I’ve lost count of the times I have found myself walking in the pavement bike lane. This policy means millions of Germans use their bikes every day. I’ve seen cyclists doing a big supermarket shop by bike. In Hamburg I saw a businessman who would have looked at home sitting in the back of a chauffeur driven Daimler, cycling to his next meeting. We have so much to learn.
What I am finding it difficult to get my head around is the half time breaks on television. Rather than have the German equivalent of Gary Lineker and pundits, the Germans switch to a news bulletin. Just when you’re getting excited and want to see the all important replays, German television tell you the day’s events in the Bundestag and the weather.
The way Germans watch their team play is interesting. As I watched Germany slice through Swedan like a pathologist would carve a cadaver, the fans inside the fan park sang songs – proper songs word for word - together.
You can feel German confidence swelling here in Stuttgart and for good reason. In contrast a small number of English fans are letting the rest of the side down. This evening there was some bottle throwing. Police separated the opposing factions. There was a gentle rush by those caught in the middle to get away. The people causing the trouble I am told start drinking at the time the rest of us are thinking about breakfast. The fan festival is based in Stuttgart‘s New Castle. The grandeur of it’s vast courtyard still shines despite the peppering of big screens. For me the game between Argentina and Mexico is the best so far.
One can only hope England can produce something half as good tomorrow.
18 Jun, 11.41 PM - Rothenburg
"The Soca Warriors are in great shape. The squad appear more confident than when I saw them in Chester a few weeks earlier. The training is intensive.
The players are benefiting because their skills have improved and they look much sharper. The 30-degree heat probably helps too. After speaking to them it's clear the team believe they can go further. I hope they do. I ask Brent about the Peter Crouch hair pulling incident. The Gillingham defender shrugs his shoulders and tells me "I couldn't get off the ground - but once the referee had made his decision what could I do" ? I can't imagine a footballer from a Latin country having that attitude. I find Sancho's Corinthian viewpoint whole heartedly refreshing. I did mention the marriage question. His cheeky wink and smile suggested everything is fine with his fiance - but somehow I think we'll have to wait until this tournament is over before we get an answer. Ian Cox, the other Gills defender looked a happy for a man who has been consigned to the sidelines in this competition.
I hope he gets a chance to play some part in the tournament. Interviews complete it's time to head for the Rhineland city of Cologne. I first came here 15 years ago for a Michael Jackson concert. On that occasion I left Germany having witnessed something out of the ordinary and very special -- let's hope it'll be the same this time."
17 Jun, 9.45 PM - on the road
More than 500 miles to cover and not a cloud in the sky. The journey was fast, smooth and comfortable (sorry Bessie). We stopped in Kassel and Hanover.
The latter of course gave us the first of our Hanoverian Monarchs. We limped into Rothenburg some 9 hours after setting off. The Trinidad and Tobago boys were doing some tactical moves so we couldn't film for long. In the evening we watched Italy play the USA in an Italian restaurant. The service was terrible. I suppose the waiters had weightier issues to consider. I think there's a lesson there. The draw left me feeling England can go all the way.