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June 2006

World Cup Diary

Our reporter, Jon Manel is in Germany for the World Cup.  He's keeping a diary of his trip:



Back to Jon's latest entries

Tuesday 27th June

Sorry if you've been sitting eagerly by your computers, patiently waiting for today's diary (as if!!). It's now 1420 here in Germany, so I must apologise for writing it so much later than normal. I do have an excuse - I was working until the early hours on this morning's Today programme item about Berlin's Turkish community.

It was rather nice being able to edit my report in Berlin because we have a BBC bureau and a studio here. Usually, one of the most annoying tasks about compiling a report when you are "out and about" is finding somewhere suitable to record your voice. When I can, I try to record the "links" for my radio packages as I go along. This morning, you will have heard me talking in the middle of a crowd of noisy German fans. The idea of that was to give you a sense of the atmosphere and to help paint the scene. However, some "links" have to be recorded later. Back in the UK, I usually do this in one of the BBC's small workshop studios. These are sound proofed and are designed specifically for the task - unlike hotel rooms! I stayed in a nice comfortable place in Nuremburg but, being an old building, the ceilings were really high. When I spoke, it sounded like I was in a tiled bathroom - the echo seemed to last forever. I did some of the links outside but the road in front of the hotel was rather busy and there was a very noisy bar a few doors away. In the end, I had to do resort to sitting with my microphone under the duvet to get rid of the echo! Obviously it was rather dark under there, so I had to attach a torch to my head in order to read my script. And with the temperature and humidity already uncomfortably high, I can tell you that it was far from pleasant! In fact, I could only manage one link at a time before coming up for air and water! What a glamorous life us reporters lead!

I mentioned the other day that you can't even get away from the World Cup when you're travelling between cities on German trains. Well, it's the same on Berlin's underground system. The windows in some carriages have come out in a nasty football type rash. Also, I've noticed more and more people seem to be wearing World Cup clothes and carrying World Cup accessories!

Even the glass on Berlin's underground is decked out with a football theme.

Even bags have football pitches on them...

Thank you for your e-mails. So far, the best one I've received in my fridge magnet challenge has come from Michaele Jaacks from here in Germany:

In my opinion the fridge magnet came up in the seventies. I am sure the first one had the shape of a bottle opener and has been invented by a man being crazy about cold beer and football. Since men never find anything in a kitchen ( I speak out of experience because I live with four ) and don't have the time to look for bottle openers during an exciting football match, the fridge magnet must have been invented during the World Cup maybe 1970 or 1974.

At the moment Michaele is in line to receive a World Cup fridge magnet (shaped like a bottle opener, if I can find one!) but it isn't too late to send in your thoughts and to snatch it away from Michaele in extra time. Send me an email - remember, my question was where did fridge magnets come from? You are also more than welcome to send in questions and ideas. I'm reading them all and will try to get some of the ideas on air!

I'll try to post tomorrow's diary at the normal time!

Jon


Monday 26th June

First things first - here's the World Cup urinal as it should be!

The World Cup Urinal

My colleague Ellie very kindly posted the photographs on the net for me on Saturday but she has obviously never been inside a men's toilet before!

I watched the England game yesterday on a television screen outside a nice Italian restaurant just around the corner from the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (the church which was left standing despite being badly damaged in the Second World War). I appeared to be the only Englishman there. There was a sizeable group of Argentineans but they didn't seem to be enjoying themselves very much. I glanced over during the second half and one of them appeared to have dozed off. There were also a number of people with black, yellow and red garlands around their necks. These strange fashion accessories have become rather popular in recent days and are available in other colour combinations too - although, the vast majority seem to be in Germany's national colours.

If you watched England's game, you'll recall that you didn't have that much to cheer about. Well, for me there was nothing to cheer about at all. Our moment of glory was cruelly snatched away. Just as David Beckham stepped up to take his free kick, the picture on the television screen suddenly froze. When normal services were resumed, I noticed that the score in the top left hand corner was showing England 1 Ecuador 0 - so I assume Mr Beckham scored. The game certainly didn't go into extra time and Sven seemed to be smiling, so we must have won.

To be honest, I think England's game went largely unnoticed here. People in Berlin were and, in fact, are all still far too busy enjoying Germany's victory over the weekend against Sweden. The celebrations on Saturday evening were just incredible. I was in one of the main shopping areas and so many people took to the street that the road had to be closed to traffic. I can't imagine what it's going to be like if the hosts actually end up winning the World Cup. In fact, you can already buy t-shirts with the German flag and the word "CHAMPION" printed on it!

I've decided that it's the pictures which really tell the story today - so I'm leaving you with a photo' diary of Saturday in Berlin.

The

The "mini Olympic Stadium" viewing area during the match

Wigs, flags and the top of the Reichstag building

Wigs, flags and the top of the Reichstag building

Even the gloves are in the right colours!

Even the gloves are in the right colours! 

View from the top of the Reichstag building of people watching the match

View from the top of the Reichstag building of people watching the match

How many people can you fit into a car?

How many people can you fit into a car? 

Traffic came to a standstill

Traffic came to a standstill

Shortly after this, the road had to be closed

Shortly after this, the road had to be closed

And here are those fashionable garlands!

And here are those fashionable garlands!



Weekend 24th and 25th June

It's interesting watching how people from different nations celebrate. I'm now in Berlin and Thursday evening was amazing. Ghana had shocked everybody by qualifying for the next round and there were Ghanaian fans everywhere. They were dancing and playing drums and having a really good time. The Italians seemed to be pretty happy too after their victory. And of course the Brazilians were playing, so some of their fans were playing street football! Some others were playing football on the train platform until the ball ended up on the tracks and a member of the U-Bahn staff had to go and retrieve it. However, last night the atmosphere was really boring. The Tunisian fans are usually really noisy. This photo' was taken from the window of my hotel before yesterday's game against Ukraine. 

car-flags-world-cup-berlin

But Tunisia lost, so their fans suddenly went very quiet. The Ukrainians might have won but they looked like they had lost. There were some Korean fans around but they had lost too. 

sad-korean-girl-world-cup-berlin

I imagine today could be a different story though. The hosts are playing in the first knockout match and, if all goes to script, it's going to be one long party. I'm not sure what will happen if the German team is knocked out though.. There are German flags everywhere here. Before the tournament started, a Sunday newspaper quoted an academic as saying that the national flag remained a taboo in Germany. However, now you can't seem to turn a corner without seeing it being proudly displayed on cars, buildings or on items of clothing. I spoke to one woman who, like many others, had painted the flag on her face. She was in her forties but said that this was the first time she had ever done that. And tonight there will be hundreds of thousands of flags to be seen. I'm told seven hundred thousand people watched Germany's last game on the big screen near the Brandenburg gate. Tonight there could be more. 

hotel-flags-world-cup-berlin-

I mentioned yesterday that you can buy virtually everything you can imagine with a World Cup type theme. Well, last night I discovered that even toilets have been decorated especially for the occasion. I got a few odd looks from the men around me when I took this picture. I'm sure this is the first time a urinal has ever been featured on the Today Programme's website but I thought it just about summed up this country's current obsession with this sport. Oh - the other picture is of football shaped bread rolls.

football sandwich      urinal-world-cup-berlin-002    

Finally, as promised I spoke to FIFA about my confiscated water bottle yesterday. I was told to speak to the press officer at Germany's World Cup Organising Committee, Gert Graus. I 'phoned him up on his mobile and he informed me that bottles of water had been banned for security reasons. He told me a journalist had thrown one on the pitch during a game in Munich. I said that I thought the hard plastic cups, which are being handed out when you buy replacement water (for four Euros), were also potentially dangerous. I mentioned to him that I had asked someone to drop a cup on my head from a great height and that it had really really hurt. He told me the cups wouldn't hurt people and that you can't throw them more than 5 or maybe 10 metres. I'm going to give that a go but first I need to buy a tape measure. He also said that the plastic cups are environmentally friendly, as they can be re-used. What I don't understand is why don't they give you these "safe and environmentally friendly" plastic cups at the turnstiles? You would then be able to pour your own water (from your dangerous plastic bottles) into the cups. As this is all about safety and nothing to do with making lots of money by selling water for four Euros, surely this is a really good idea. I'll suggest it and let you know what they say.

Have a great weekend. Enjoy the football - am I right in saying that England are playing at some stage?

Jon



Friday 23rd June

I think I can safely say that I won't be staying in the same hotel as the Czech Republic's football team again - certainly not on this trip anyway. Alas, hours after I took these pictures of some of the players in the lounge area yesterday morning, they lost against Italy.

The Czech football team in the hotel bar

If they haven't gone already, the next journey they'll be taking in their team bus will be to the airport to get a flight home. It's a pity, as their fans were some of the most colourfully dressed that I've seen so far. Forget Batman - they had Czech Man.

Czech man or men...

I also saw four or five men (or were they women?) dressed up as Teletubbies. I don't know whether they were Czech, Italian, or from an entirely different country altogether. One thing that I'm learning fast is that just because fans happen to be at a particular match, it doesn't mean that they have anything to do with the two teams who are playing. Also, if you see someone in, say, an Italian football top with green, white and red face paint, don't assume that they are Italian or that they are supporting Italy. A lot of people seem to be dressing up just for the sake of it or because they happen to like the colours. I met a German woman yesterday who was selling her ticket for the Italy versus Czech Republic game (at a vastly inflated price) because she didn't like Italy. She said she followed Brazil, yet she had the Italian flag painted on her face.

Face painting kits are available everywhere - and they seem to come in every colour combination imaginable. In fact, it seems you can buy virtually everything you can think of with a World Cup logo on it. I even saw a shop selling official World Cup Eau de Cologne. If I get the chance, I'm going to compile a list of the strangest and most ridiculous World Cup souvenirs available. By the way, I now appear to have a suitcase full of World Cup fridge magnets. The latest member of my family to request one is my mother-in-law, Margaret. It's only fair that she should have one, as she collects them. In fact, I had actually bought her one before she'd even asked (now I'll be in her good books!). However, I'm worried that this fridge magnet thing is getting out of control. I left Heathrow with my luggage full of minidiscs to record my reports and I'll be returning with it weighed down by fridge magnets. How do I explain this to Customs?

I've just had a thought (and, yes, it is rather painful). Who invented fridge magnets? Where did they come from? I don't remember seeing them on my parent's fridge when I was a little boy. If anyone knows, let me know. I'll tell you what - I'll buy a World Cup fridge magnet for whoever gives me the best answer! Send your e-mails, along with questions and suggestions.
 
I forgot to mention yesterday that I sort of, well, er, nicked that solid plastic cup from the Poland versus Costa Rica game (see Thursday's diary). I saw others doing the same and it would have only been chucked out if I hadn't taken it. Anyway, it gave me a chance to test it out. I got someone this morning to drop it on my head from a great height and it really, really hurt. This proves conclusively that this official FIFA plastic cup is a potential weapon and would have been just as dangerous as my confiscated (in my view completely innocent) plastic bottle of water. In fact, I think the cup is potentially even more dangerous because it has a hard bit at the bottom. So, I pose my question again - why ban bottles of water? FIFA - I demand an answer! I will give them a ring today and I'll let you know what they say tomorrow. Oh, and here's a picture of the cup (that's the plastic one - not the World one).

That plastic cup...


That's it for now.

Best Wishes,

Jon



Thursday 22nd June

I had a late night yesterday - I was trawling around the streets of Hamburg trying to find a couple of English speaking Italians for the programme. I only arrived here yesterday evening. Today's game between Italy and the Czech Republic is crucial, as neither team has qualified for the next round yet. When I got back to the hotel at just after midnight, there were security guards outside. I had to show them my room key to get in. I'm not sure if they would have let me in at all if I was Italian! This is where the Czech team is staying. In fact, earlier, I was in the same lift as Milan Baros. I think I even heard one of the Czech coaches discussing tactics - he seemed to be saying something about the player Alessandro Nesta. I'm afraid my language skills let me down though, so I can't tell you what he said! I'm just hoping I didn't wake the team up when I was trying to set up my miniature satellite dish to send an interview back to London in the early hours!!

Czech Republic football team

Getting to Hamburg meant another German train journey. I know it fits in with the national stereotype but the authorities here really do seem to have thought of everything. You can imagine a couple of officials sitting in an office in Berlin many months ago, with one saying to the other:

Herr Eins: It is really important that everyone knows what is happening all the time
Herr Zwei: Ja - of course but that is why we have wall to wall television and radio coverage.
Herr Eins: Ah - but what about those who are travelling by train during the matches?
Herr Zwei: Oh dear! Ja - I hadn't thought about that. We must sort it out.

And sort it out they did. Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in my comfortable seat in the train, filling in the latest scores on my handy A4 size World Cup chart, when there was an announcement. The games in Group D had finished. The scores, we were told, were Portugal 2 v 1 Mexico and Angola 1 v 1 Iran . Thanks to Herr Eins (or was it Herr Zwei), you can't even escape when you're on the train. Of course, it goes without saying that, in this World Cup, the announcement of the scores was sponsored. Yes, Portugal 's victory and Angola 's draw were brought to me courtesy of a well known mobile phone company.

I'm not sure if, as a BBC reporter, I'm allowed to do this but I am going to have a quick moan this morning. Why, oh why, are the stewards confiscating plastic bottles of water when you try to get into see a match? It was another very hot and humid day when I went to see Poland play Costa Rica in Hanover . It is basic common sense that fans should be allowed - in fact, encouraged - to drink as much water as they can. However, my small plastic bottle was confiscated at the turnstiles and, looking around, so were hundreds of others. Maybe, they are worried that someone might throw a bottle and injure someone. Ok, that's an understandable concern. Once you're in the stadium, though, you can buy water for four Euros. They don't give you the bottle but they pour the water into a fairly solid plastic cup. What's to stop the potential hooligan from throwing the cup through the air instead? So what is this all about? I really have no idea but, obviously, it does mean that they make more money through the sale of soft drinks. By the way, the plastic cups are emblazoned with the logo of a well known soft drink company.

Anyway, no more moans. I'm going to go and see whether I can meet some more Czech players - one of them has recently signed for my team, Arsenal......

Good luck the Czech Republic (and Italy , Ghana and the USA )!

Jon


Wednesday 21st June 

I honestly thought I was hallucinating. I hadn't touched a drop of alcohol, so perhaps it was the heat - it was another very humid day. Or maybe I had just been working too hard. I stopped where I was and listened again. And, yes, there it was - I wasn't imagining it. In fact, it was actually slightly louder than before. I continued to walk and, the further I went, the louder it got. Then, finally, there they were. I suddenly had to start thinking very hard. I hadn't made a mistake had I? I'd thought England's was the only British team to have qualified for the World Cup. That's why there was all that fuss about whether or not the Scots and Welsh should support England. But there they were, right in front of me - three men in kilts and a bagpiper, blasting out a rather raucous rendition of "Flower of Scotland". And, no, we weren't in Glasgow but about 300 yards from the World Cup stadium in Hanover!

Scottish supporters with bagpipes

In the end, I lost count of the number of Scots I bumped into yesterday. It seems that they just wanted a taste of the World Cup. It didn't really matter to them which game they were going to see. Just because their team had missed out on being there, why should they miss out too?. It turned out that the bagpiper wasn't actually from Scotland at all. He was a Canadian with Scottish roots. There were also Australians there, with inflatable kangaroos (called Skippy 1, 2 and 3 - yes, how original), Mexicans with the obligatory sombreros and several Englishmen. No one seemed to care that their own teams weren't playing in Hanover. With tickets so hard to come by for most of the games, this was their opportunity to sample some of the action.

So, who were the teams who were attracting this international crowd? Well, as I mentioned yesterday, they were Poland and Costa Rica. And, you shouldn't get the impression that their own supporters weren't there. There were thousands of them. In fact, the Poles painted the city red and white. It seemed every single one of them was decked out like a walking, talking, singing version of the Polish national flag. Many of them had come on day trips - on special trains straight from Poland - just for the occasion. It didn't seem to matter that, even before the game started, both sets of supporters knew that their teams had already been eliminated from the competition.

Polish supporters  A group of polish supporters with some australians and Kangeroos

For much of the day, I was with a Polish policeman but, when he went into the stadium to watch the game, I was turned away by the stewards because I didn't have official FIFA accreditation. However, outside the ground, I noticed that the touts seemed to be looking rather more desperate than normal. In fact, many of them weren't really touts at all but just ordinary individuals just trying to get rid of spare tickets. Now, if you've been reading my diary, you'll know that I was under the impression that you'd have to be prepared to part with hundreds of Euros to buy a ticket. Well, I can now exclusively reveal that I was wrong! When it comes to a game like Poland versus Costa Rica, the tickets are much cheaper! There were some touts who were undoubtedly still trying to make a profit but many were actually asking less than they had actually paid! With the kick-off getting closer and closer, I was becoming more and more tempted. The problem was, I only had thirty five Euros on me (I hadn't even thought about buying a ticket when I had left the hotel). I looked at my watch. It was about five to four. There were five minutes to go. I approached a man who was clearly trying to sell a ticket and who obviously wanted to get into the ground. Within seconds, the deal was done. The price on the ticket was sixty Euros and, yes, I paid just 35 Euros!

It was worth every penny. I have to admit that my heart did flutter just a little when I was putting the ticket through the machine at the turnstile. Was the infamous display (see yesterday's diary) going to turn green or was it going to flash red? Fortunately, it went green and I was in! And it was terrific. It wasn't the best match I'd ever seen but the atmosphere was wonderful. The stadium was pretty impressive too. Unfortunately, I missed the third goal (it finished 2-1 to Poland), as I had to take a call on my mobile about a story I was working on. However, I think I did join in all the "Mexican waves" around the ground! So, your World Cup reporter has finally experienced some World Cup action! I know my Editor said I wasn't here to watch any football but I'm sure he won't mind just this once......

As I didn't bring you any photo's yesterday, I've given you five today. Apparently the fan from Costa Rica was covering his face because he was ashamed of his team's performances in the first two games! I hope you like the one of me with the silly hat (I can see a bit of a theme developing here). 

Jon Manel (middle) as we've never seen him before  A supporter with a bag on his head...

Best Wishes,

Jon

PS: Just in case you were wondering after yesterday, the match passed off peacefully. Apparently, four Poles were arrested before the game because, according to the police in Hanover, they were banned from the game.



Tuesday 20th June

Another day and another city!

I woke up this morning in Hanover.

Ideally, of course, I would have opened the curtains and looked out over Cologne. That's what Sven's men will be doing. Yes, in case you've missed it, England are back in action in a few hours. This time, they're playing Sweden. Their task today is to try to ensure they don't meet Germany in the next round. And over in Berlin, the hosts take on Ecuador. Two huge games then. So, what's going on in Hanover? Well, the Polish team is playing. And what happens if they win today? Well .... nothing really - the Poles have already been knocked out. Whatever happens, the players and fans will be packing their bags and going home. In football parlance, "they are just playing for pride". They are facing Costa Rica and, yes, the Costa Ricans are also "just playing for pride". Between them, the two teams have accumulated a great big total of null points. Well done then Jon, you have chosen well, haven't you?! What a massive game ....mmmmm.

In truth, I don't think I'm going to be able to see any of the match anyway. Remember, I'm not in Germany for the pitch side action (alas!). In a moment, I'm off to meet the Polish Police here in Germany. I know at first glance that doesn't make any sense but, just like with the British police, there are Polish plods here too to help control the less savoury elements of their supporters. I'm sure you will have seen that there were arrests and some trouble in Dortmund last week when Poland played Germany. I'm here to see the policing operation from behind the scenes. Hopefully, they'll have a nice quiet day. I don't really fancy watching a bottle or chair throwing competition. In fact, I think if that happens, I will politely bid my Polish police hosts farewell and head off!

Even if I was in Cologne, of course, I wouldn't be going to the game. Getting tickets seems to be a difficult and risky business. It's interesting talking to people who have managed to get tickets through "unofficial channels". I spoke to a couple of women last week who said they just happened to meet an official from FIFA when they were on holiday somewhere. They claimed he'd offered them the chance to buy tickets for games including the final. They declined those but told me they'd bought (cheaper) tickets from him for matches earlier in the competition. Then, in Nuremberg, I met "the Nottingham lads", who are travelling around Germany in a motor home. Two of them had bought tickets from touts for England's against Trinidad and Tobago. Apparently, when you enter the stadium, you have to put your ticket through a machine. There's a small screen which either turns green or red. If it goes green, you can go into the ground. If it turns red, you've got a dodgy ticket and you're turned away. Fortunately, it went green for both of them. However, I met a group of fans on a train who told me about a chap who'd bought a ticket for four hundred Euros and the screen had turned red. I imagine his face did too - his ticket was confiscated and he was turned away. Anyway, that's going to have to be that for today. I'm sorry it's a slightly shorter diary today (maybe that's a relief) but I need to go and meet my Polish policemen.

Oh yes - before I go - a quick appeal to anyone reading this who has my mobile telephone number. PLEASE can you text me the England score during the game because I'll still be on the streets of Hanover. Let me know if anyone scores! Thanks!

Jon

Monday 19th June

Ok, it's confession time. Your World Cup Reporter did something really, really stupid yesterday ("surely not", I hear my wife cry). As regular listeners to BBC Radio Four may know by now, I travel regularly with work and I've had to navigate myself to and around places like Guantanamo Bay, Libya, Saudi Arabia and northern Sri Lanka. So, you would have thought that I would be able to use the U-Bahn in Nuremberg without getting lost. After all, I am used to using an underground train system - I was brought up in London! In fact, I was so confident about using Nuremberg's tube, that I was even giving some tourists directions yesterday (goodness knows where that poor family ended up). Anyway, imagine the scene:

Jon is hungry.

He decides to pop into town to get some lunch.

He gets onto the U-Bahn at Baerenschanze Station.

Just four stops later and he's in the centre of Nuremberg.

It's all so easy.

He has lunch.

So far so good - simple.

Then, however, our intrepid reporter needs to get back to the hotel to finish editing his report about Nuremberg. He gets onto the platform and remembers that the station he needs begins with B. So ...... he goes to Bauernfeindstrasse station. Not only is this the wrong station but it is in completely the wrong direction. Funnily enough, by sheer coincidence of course, it also just happens to be the stop for Nuremberg's World Cup football stadium.

Suffice to say, with head bowed and pride firmly dented, I then had to cross the platform and go all the way back again.

The Map

This all reminded me of an incident a few years ago. My lovely sister-in-law, Beth, came to stay with me in London, as she was enrolled on a course for a week. She lives in Bangor in North Wales. I was in living in Ealing in west London at the time. All she had to do was to get onto the tube at Ealing Broadway and go on the Central Line (the red one) to Oxford Circus and then come back again in the evening. It was so simple - all she had to remember was Ealing Broadway and red line . I was wondering where she was when the 'phone rang:

"Hello Jon, I think I've made a mistake...... I'm in Epping."

She'd got the red line bit right but had ended up at the wrong end of it. Her excuse:

"Well, it began with an E "

I think it must run in the family.

Back to the World Cup, and I saw some evidence yesterday that some Germans might be getting a bit fed up with it all already. I passed a pub and then a restaurant which had big signs saying (in German) football free zone. I didn't pop my head around to have a look because:

a) I was in a rush (having got lost on the U-Bahn)
b) I'm seeing painfully little football as it is, without voluntarily going into a football free zone! It should be pointed out that they didn't' exactly seem packed.

Three more things before I go.

First, thanks to the Croatian band for their entertainment yesterday evening.

The Croatian Band

Secondly, I saw an outbreak of violence yesterday in the centre of Nuremberg and it had nothing to do with football. Two waiters in a cafe suddenly clashed. I was pretty sure it was going to come to blows but a brave waitress managed to get between them and their ice cream specials.

And finally, I need to thank Ari - a Japanese fan. He taught me another word for cheers (see my weekend diary). Apparently, in Japanese, it's "Kan Pai". I hope this is right and that it isn't some awful swear word.

I'm now off to Hanover to meet a Polish policeman.

See you tomorrow,

Jon


Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th June

They were drinking well into the night. The beer glasses were huge. We aren't talking about "pint after pint" but "litre after litre"! At one end of the marquee, they were standing on the tables. And, as more and more of the larger disappeared, more and more people started to join in the singing. Yet, there were no big screens and nobody was asking the score. As amazing as it may seem, it was exactly a week after the World Cup had started but there wasn't a single football shirt to be seen. This nation might be gripped with football fever, but this was all the proof I needed that normal German life continues apace. This was the beginning of the local beer and sausage festival in the village of Lohe, just outside Nuremberg.

I call it the "beer and sausage festival" because that was how someone described to me. However, I'm told it's actually known as a Kerwa, which is short for Kirchwei . Many of the local villages hold them around this time of year. They are actually religious festivals and are meant to take place on the day the local church was consecrated. However, I should tell you that the village of Lohe doesn't actually have a church. So, there are no prizes for guessing what they are really all about - or, at least, what the Kerwa in Lohe is about. In a word - beer. In four words - beer and more beer. To be fair, you should also add to that food, music and tradition.

If you are male and aren't married, then you are allowed to join the Kerwa Burschen - the Kerwa Boys. You dress up in the colours of the local district - in this case, white shirts and red waistcoats with black trousers and black leather boots. They also wear rather fetching hats - black with red and white ribbons. They sing (or, a lot of the time, shout) about love and beer. I'm told on the second day of the festival (today) they go into the woods and bring a tree back to the village. I get the impression they visit other villages on their way home and, those who are old enough (the Kerwa Boys consist of young boys as well as those in their teens and early twenties), indulge in another beer or two. At some stage, the tree is planted in the village to show that the annual Kerwa has been and gone. At the end of the festival, which lasts about four days, there seems to be some kind of competition to establish the main Kerwa Boy - I suppose, the Kerwa Boy King. I didn't quite understand this but I get the impression that the winner then gets the girl - but I might be wrong. Perhaps he just gets another beer. 


World cup celebrations in Germany

Children parade through the street

A tray full of refreshments
So, there's lots of tradition involved in the Kerwa but the bottom line is it's about having lots to drink and having a fun few days. Indeed, one of the most important parts of yesterday evening was the breaking of the first beer barrel. Some of the locals in Lohe were having so much fun last night that they decided to victimise (in a friendly way, of course) the only Englishman present. By the time I had left, I had been made an honorary Deutsche and had German flags painted on my face to prove it. I did leave my mark on my hosts too though. There are now about 10 locals in Lohe who will no longer be shouting Prost (cheers) when they clink their beer glasses. They are now honorary Welshmen (this is my wife's influence - even though she wasn't there) and will now be shouting Iechyd Da (pronounced Yachidar)! 

Jon gets his face painted...

Jon and his new found friends
Anyway, another day and another mission and I'm now about to meet the Bratwurst King of Nuremberg. It's all in a day's work and you'll be able to find out why I'm putting myself through all this hardship on Monday morning's programme.

Until Monday, Iechyd Da!

Jon

Friday 16th June

Nuremberg You're never going to believe this. Yesterday evening, here in Nuremberg, the Today Programme's World Cup Reporter finally got to see a World Cup match! I didn't see it in the flesh - I think trying to get a World Cup ticket is going to be impossible. Instead, I watched it on a big(ish) screen in the central square - the Hauptmarkt. The game, of course, was the England versus Trinidad and Tobago game - one that I just wasn't prepared to miss. It's wonderful being here in Germany for the World Cup but, as I mentioned the other day, I'm not going to see much in the way of football. That's quite strange for me. In normal circumstances, being a bit of a football anorak, I would be trying to catch as much of the action as I possibly could. As a result, I owe a big thanks to the sports section of the BBC website, which is keeping me up to date with all the scores.

I think I must have been the only Englishman in the Hauptmarkt who was stone cold sober. I was recording some of the crowd sounds for a report you'll hear on Monday and I knew I had to do some editing last night, so I declined the offer of a beer or two during the game. It's interesting what you notice when all those around you are drinking (a lot). I was wondering, for example, why one chap had bothered coming all the way to Germany to watch the football - he spent much of the second half asleep under the table. And why did a man pull his trousers and pants down when England scored? Fortunately he had his back to me (the better of the two options). It also seemed obvious to my sober head that when 6 or 7 men started dancing and jumping up and down on the table, at some stage it was going to collapse. I thought it was going to break but the Germans build strong furniture. Instead, it just toppled over. Alas, even when completely sober, I obviously don't react quickly enough and I didn't quite get out of the way in time but it's all part of the World Cup experience!

England Supporters

England Supporters watching the big screen

As I'm sure you know all too well by now, England just about managed to win the game and now the thousands of fans following the team will be making their way out of the city. Just to remind you, I'll be telling you about the impact they made on the area (and its tables) on Monday's programme. The citizens of Nuremberg is now preparing themselves for their next World Cup experience - Croatia versus Japan on Sunday.

I'm going to a local beer and sausage festival tonight but I also need to try to find a World Cup souvenir shop. I think the idea of the "Ask the Reporter" section of the website was to come up with ideas that you wanted me to report on from Germany. However, Manon Edwards from Cardiff has asked me to buy her a World Cup fridge magnet - like the one I generously bought my wife. Manon, consider it done!

Talking of my wife, by the way, I have to make a public apology. She insists she was only joking when she referred to England as "we".

It's probably time to go before I have to apologise to anyone else.

I'm off now to interview someone from Nuremberg's Chamber of Commerce. I hope you heard the paparazzi report this morning. If you didn't, it's on this page at the top. 

Oh, don't forget to keep those ideas coming in.

Guten Morgen!

Jon

Thursday 15th June

Sven, we have a problem. I'm so sorry to let you down. I know you were relying on me this evening but it seems the foot jinx has struck again. I don't think it's a metatarsal but I'm afraid I certainly can't play for you today . And if you're looking for someone to blame, it was the suitcase what done it. Not realising it was quite so heavy (weighed down by the satellite dish and all the other BBC equipment I'm having to carry around), a nice German man thought he'd help me get it off the train and, you've guessed it, he placed it neatly on top of my foot. I'm not sure what the German word is for "ouch"!

Talking of trains, I'm getting to know Germany's railway system rather well. I've now been on five trains now in two days and I'm about to reveal something which will shock you all. It seems that the stereotype about German efficiency is a myth. I never thought I would hear a German train driver have to announce that the train was stationary because there were problems with the engine and to have to apologise for the delay. Those sitting near me told me this wasn't unusual. "Oh yes", they said, "we are often delayed by ten or fifteen minutes".

The train, by the way, was taking me to Nuremberg. You might have heard me this morning being drowned out by a steel band in the centre of the city.

The Steel Band

One of my guests - Shawn Benoit, from Tobago's Channel Five television station - mentioned that my wife was supporting Trinidad and Tobago tonight. And indeed she is. In fact, Catrin (who's from Wales) has always supported whoever any England team happens to be playing. However, I should point out that, the other day, she referred to England as "we". So, maybe, my influence is finally beginning to rub off on her.

I'm going to try to catch the game on one of the big screens in the centre of Nuremberg, where I was this morning. And I'm going to look out for a group of students from Leeds who I met on the train yesterday. They are quite easy to spot, as one of them made a bit of a schoolboy error when he was watching England's first game in Frankfurt. He had a small St George's flag painted on his forehead. He caught the sun on the rest of his forehead, so he now has a white rectangle half way between his nose and his hairline. He's not exactly embarrassed about it though.

Leed's supporter with interesting sunburn...

Well, that's it for now. I need to start editing my report about the paparazzi, which you'll be able to hear on the programme tomorrow morning. After that, I'm spending the weekend here to report on the city after the thousands of England fans have left and you can listen to that on Monday. If there's anything which you want to hear from Germany which you aren't hearing elsewhere, then do let us know via the website and I'll see what we can do.

By the way, I couldn't find my Blue-tac, so the World Cup poster is still in my heavy suitcase.

Good Luck England (and Trinidad and Tobago)!

Best Wishes, Jon


Wednesday 14 June
 
If anyone arriving at Frankfurt Airport yesterday somehow hadn't heard that there's a football tournament going on here, they certainly know now. Even some of the aeroplanes have had a makeover. The nose of one plane I saw had been painted to make it look like a football. Then, walk towards the baggage reclaim hall and you'll see a large World Cup poster - "enjoy the games". And guess what you need to look for if you want to use a public telephone. Yes, they seem to be marked out with footballs too. Is it going to be like this everywhere?

There are at least two official FIFA souvenir stalls by the Airport's railway station. I've bought my wife a World Cup fridge magnet (she'll be so thrilled) and I'm now carrying around the official Today Programme World Cup. It's only four inches tall but, by placing it by my bed in each hotel I stay in, it means I won't be able to forget about the football. "How can he possibly forget about the World Cup when he's in Germany?" I hear you mutter. Well, that might be easier than you might think. You see, my Editor has told me that I'm not here for the football. If you want to hear about injured feet and whistle happy referees, they listen to Gary and Steve during Today's sports bulletins. I'm going to be looking at stories "around the World Cup" rather than what's happening on the pitch. For example, I've just picked up a train from Karlsruhe and I'm on my way to Baden-Baden to meet a couple of members of the paparazzi. Baden-Baden is where the England team is staying and the two "snappers" are hanging around outside a posh hotel trying to get pictures of the WAGs - the England team's wives and girlfriends. I don't know whether that'll mean I'm going to be spending the afternoon hiding in bushes or standing outside exclusive shops but I'll soon find out.

More in a minute but the train's pulling into Baden-Baden now and I think it's final destination is Paris - so I better get off or I'll end up reporting from the wrong country and if that happens my Editor definitely won't be happy.....

Jon Manel joins the paparazzi  Jon joins in the long wait to snap a picture 

Hello again. It's now half eleven at night and I'm in the hotel in Baden-Baden. I don't know if this is something to be proud of but I now know the names of several of the England football players' wives and partners. I even know what colour bikinis they wear. And while chasing around with the paparazzi, I even met young Theo Walcott - the England team's youngest player, who hasn't even played a game for his new side Arsenal yet. Whoops, I'm mentioning football - don't let the Editor see this. I'm afraid I have to admit that, as an Arsenal fan, I had my picture taken with Theo, which will be the first entry in our Today Programme World Cup Album. Anyway, I need to find my blue-tack to put up my World Cup poster and fill in Brazil's result.

Jon photographed with Theo Walcott - the England team's youngest player

And then I'd better get some sleep.

Speak to you again soon, Gute Nacht!
Auf Wiedersehen!

Jon


See page 2 of Jon's World Cup diary
See page 3 of Jon's World Cup Diary 


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