Our reporter, Jon Manel is in Germany for the World Cup. He's keeping a diary of his trip:
Thursday 6th July 2006
I'm afraid it's all over. The truth is, I was never going to make it to the Final. My left ankle just hasn't been the same since I was 14, when I twisted it conceding a penalty playing for my school's second eleven (or was it the third eleven?). It was actually a terrible piece of refereeing and it was never a penalty but that didn't stop it swelling up. I remember to this day how painful it was trying to get the boot off when I got home. Putting the injury to one side, to be honest, as far as I can work out, I don't even have one tiny drop of French or Italian blood in my body. Having said that, I feel like I do have some kind of connection with France. I support the Arsenal and over the last few years, you haven't been able to get much more French than that. I also adore good French cuisine but then who doesn't? However, quite clearly, none of that was ever going to be enough to make me eligible to play on Sunday. In reality of course, as much as both France and Italy would clearly love to have me marauding up their respective left flanks, both teams appear to be coping pretty well without me. So, with heavy heart and even heavier suitcase, I'm following in the footsteps of David Beckham and both Ronaldos and I'll soon be on my way home.
My biggest regret at leaving at this stage is I won't be able to watch the final of the life size table football competition. As we've already discovered, bears on poles achieve similar results to the real players, only they do it by scoring more goals:
TABLE FOOTBALL RESULTS:
Italy 4 Germany 2
France 2 Portugal 1
REAL FOOTBALL RESULTS:
Italy 2 Germany 0
France 1 Portugal 0
If it was up to me, on Sunday evening, I'd bring on the bears! The same team will win but it will make it much more exciting.
As Germany goes bonkers one last time, I'll be watching the match back at home. I'll close my eyes and I'll be able to see all the cars decked out in the colours of the victorious team, once again causing chaos in the streets around the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche in Berlin and of course I'll be able to hear all the horns and screams and whistles. As soon as I open my eyes again, I'll be able to see my huge pile of World Cup fridge magnets (if I can get them past Customs).
Talking of fridge magnets, thank you for your e-mails. If you've been reading my diary over the last three weeks or so, you'll remember I was wondering where they came from. Well, the best answer came from Michaele Jaacks. To remind you, this is what she said:
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.
Michelle - you will be receiving a World Cup magnet for your troubles (she'll be so chuffed!). I also have to award a special commendation to Mr Ifan Roberts. He said:
Lode stone mementos first appeared when ice house doors changed from solid oak to cast iron and later steel sheeting. They were used when nails could no longer be used to pin notices between shifts of domestic staff in stately homes. The latest ones to appear carry the logo "All I got from Jon Manel on his World Cup trip was this lousy fridge magnet."
Ifan - you have won yourself a pint! I do need to declare an interest in this act of generosity - he's my father-in-law! Suffice to say, he isn't getting a "lousy fridge magnet"!
I also received an e-mail in response to my questions about plastic cups from the press spokesman of the World Cup Organising Committee, Gerd Graus. You may remember, that my plastic bottle of water was confiscated at the Poland versus Costa Rica match. I sent Herr Graus the following e-mail:
Last week, we discussed the decision to ban plastic bottles of water for the stadiums for security reasons. You mentioned to me that 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), are also potentially dangerous. And I got this reply (this is an exact copy of what he wrote):
You also said that the plastic cups are environmentally friendly, as they can be re-used. What I don't understand is why don't you give you these plastic cups to spectators at the turnstiles? Supporters would then be able to pour their own water (from their plastic bottles) into the cups. This would mean they wouldn't have to spend money buying water and it would also be environmentally friendly (it would mean that fewer plastic bottles are being thrown out at the drink kiosks in the stadium). Can I suggest this as something you might consider? I have written about this in my diary on the BBC website and I would welcome a response (which I would then publish in my diary).
And I got this reply (this is an exact copy of what he wrote):
today i have been in press conferences and meetings the whole day. Tomorrow we will have our daily media briefing at 11 am and 12 followed by a press conference with mr. Beckenbauer and our vice-presidents. At this moment I do really have no time to come back to you. Sorry. Yours Sincerely
Gerd Graus, Pressesprecher
So, I think that probably means I'll have to put the issue of plastic bottles and cups to one side but, mark my words, I won't forget ..... you wait until the next World Cup in South Africa in four years time!
Well that's almost it from me.
There'll be one more entry in my World Cup Diary and that will be tomorrow. I'll post my favourite ten photographs. There'll also be a photo' of what I'm bringing home with me (Clue: David Beckham had hoped to do the same).
Wednesday 5th July
I might as well just write word for word what I said yesterday morning:
"I have to say, I had been absolutely convinced that Germany were going to make it to the final!"
Yes, history has repeated itself. Italy beat Germany in the life size table football competition and now they've done exactly the same on the real pitch. The bears did it and now the humans have done it.
It was a very strange evening. I was working - finishing off my report about ticket touts which was broadcast this morning. After the game had started, I travelled from the BBC's Berlin bureau to my hotel by train (the S-Bahn). I'd expected the carriage, the platforms and the streets to be more deserted than they actually were. Of course, you didn't actually have to be in front of a television to know what was going on - you could hear the cheers and the groans echoing around the city. Many of those who were working had ensured that they weren't going to miss out and were either listening on the radio or were huddled around small TV sets.
Policemen watching the game in their van
A newspaper seller near my hotel
Most of the bars and restaurants around here have placed tables and chairs on the pavements by the side of the streets. Their televisions are outside too. Every chair was taken and many people were standing on the kerbs, craning their necks, trying to catch a glimpse of the action. I watched the end of the game in my room, as I made the final edits to the touts report. At around midnight I stepped out of the hotel to see how Berlin was coping. At first, it was like walking into the middle of Rome. Once again, all the car horns were being tooted but this time the flags were green, white and red. Every vehicle seemed to be occupied by jubilant Italians.
One of the great things about the last three weeks has been the way that, after each game, the streets have been full of fans from the victorious nation, making lots of noise and creating loads of colour with their flags and hats. The only time that didn't happen was when Ukraine beat Tunisia here in Berlin. On that occasion it was really quiet and their fans looked as if they had lost. But the Italians clearly don't take after the Ukrainians - they truly know how to celebrate. And last night they were very, very happy. Some were doing their best to appease their hosts, singing "Deutschland, Italia, Deutschland Italia (etc)" from their cars.
Obviously, there were loads of people still around in German colours too. Most of them looked rather bemused. One fairly large chap seemed a bit angry and was making rude gestures with one of his fingers to passing Italian cars but he put his finger away when he was told off by a young policewoman. I saw a little boy with black, red and gold flags painted on his face who looked distraught and was being comforted by his mother. It all means, of course, that the German dream is over. I don't think it will be the end of the party though. This country has clearly enjoyed the World Cup so much and I'm sure that will continue. It won't be quite the same though.
I should mention, by the way, that while Germany lost yesterday, I won! It was a quiz down near the Brandenburg Gate and, yes, I am talking about the same reporter who scores own goals in table football! It wasn't exactly very tough - it was basically a European Union information campaign. I had to answer some questions about the EU and the World Cup and I was given a plastic football, which I was carrying around under my arm for the rest of the day like a schoolboy!
I could be on course to win again too - I'm sure you haven't forgotten that I've got Italy in the PM Programme's sweepstake!
The final question is who will Germany play in the final? Remember, in the table football, France beat Portugal by two goals to one.....
Good luck France and Portugal!
Tuesday 4th July
Well, I have to say, I had been absolutely convinced that the Germans were going to make it to the final. I certainly didn't think they would concede four goals against Italy but it was a terrific game. In the end, the Italians won by four goals to two. The other semi-final, if you missed it, was also entertaining, with France beating Portugal two - one. I wonder how many people would have predicted a France versus Italy World Cup Final?
I know exactly what you're thinking (again) - "Has the boy Manel been on the beers or sitting out in the sun too long?" Well, you're wrong and you're being really unfair. l am as sane and sober as I have ever been and I saw it all with my own eyes from my hotel window. I hope you didn't think I was talking about the real semi finals -everyone knows they aren't taking place here in Berlin. No, this was the life size table football version of the World Cup. If you saw Monday's diary, you would have read about the bears on the poles who kick footballs all day and about my spectacular own goal. Well, funnily enough, I wasn't invited to take part in yesterday's event because it was all rather official (and I'm clearly not very good). The organisers even set up a special stage with a scoreboard and some celebrities were there - I'm told the chap from the German team who is clenching his fist is Dr Friedbert Pflüger from the CDU (the Christian Democrat party). The question now is whether the real Italian team will manage to do the same this evening?
It goes without saying that Germany is really building itself up again for tonight's game. However, I'm also already seeing signs that World Cup fever could be winding down just a little bit. I popped into a large clothes store yesterday and lots of the official World Cup items were on sale. It was the first time I'd been in there, so I don't know how long the sale has been on for but I'm surprised it's happening already. T-shirts were going for just four and a half Euros. I bought my wife a rather loud Argentina belt for three Euros (down from eight - but don't tell her that).
I was told yesterday that there was someone rather famous (and who has rather a lot of money) staying in the last hotel I was in. This came as a complete surprise to me because I certainly didn't see any great big Russian security guards in the lifts but, according to my source, Roman Abramovich was there. I'm not going to tell you the name of the hotel because I wouldn't want to cause such a rich man any difficulties but it does seem a bit odd to me. Having seen pictures of his yachts, I would have thought he'd have been able to afford somewhere which was way out of my rather limited BBC budget. This was a nice place but I would have expected him to have stayed in a five star hotel (which this wasn't). So, it could be that my source is completely wrong but I am tempted to go there this afternoon and knock on the doors of all the suites and see what happens...... If you don't hear from me tomorrow, I will have been arrested for breaching the security of one of the richest men in the world!
As promised, I no longer look like Ben Gunn. I don't like having my hair cut - the fewer hairs I have left, the more concerned I become about what happens to them. It's even more nerve-racking when there's a language barrier and I found it rather difficult to explain what I wanted. However, the young woman who was clutching the scissors was very good and seemed to understand exactly what I was trying to say. She listened and then simply pointed to various places on my head and said "I cut here and I cut here and I cut here and I cut here". I was very pleased with the result and she comes highly recommended! However, my BBC colleague, Gaetan Portal, went to the same place and says he got a head massage and I didn't!
I'm now about to edit a report about ticket touts. I'm hoping to get it finished before the start of Berlin's latest big street party tonight. I am wondering what will happen if the result echoes what happened in the table football yesterday. You never know - we might find out in a few hours time.
Monday 3rd July
First things first and here's my dog picture to add to the hundreds of others you've all been sending into the K9 section of the Today Programme website. His name is Paul and I met him in a restaurant in Berlin. I have no idea why he was given that particular name - we had a bit of a communication problem (he didn't speak English and I can't bark).
Of course, you know what I'm up to - by talking about dogs, I'm just trying to delay the inevitable.
Ok, I need to be brave - I know I need to mention the P word. So, on the count of three....
eins, zwei, drei - penalties!
I watched the game in the mini Olympic stadium viewing area near the Reichstag. The crowd was predominantly German of course and it was very odd to hear shouts of "Deutschland, Deutschland" echoing around during an England versus Portugal match. Most of the people who were sitting near me seemed to be absolutely delighted at the end. However, I did meet one young German man who looked as depressed as I felt. His name is Marco and he's a staunch England fan! He says he would even support England if they played Germany! As you can see, he has the flag displayed in the back of his car. And, no, he has no English connections and hasn't even been to England.
Of course, England's defeat was all my fault. We would have won if I hadn't mentioned in Saturday's diary that I had England in Today's sweepstake. Also, I made a last minute decision not to wear my lucky England t-shirt, as it was so dirty. Instead, I bought a new one for seven Euros - which was clearly unlucky.
I'm not going to say anymore about Saturday's game because my Mum told me she suffered a tension headache after watching it and I don't want to make it return. Instead, let me tell you about another match which took place over the weekend. I moved into a hotel on Saturday, looked out of the window and I saw this:
Yes, it's a life size table football game. The players are Berlin Bears (the city's symbol) and the teams are Germany and the Rest of the World. Anyone can join in and it seemed rude not to. I only played for ten minutes, as I was on my way to do an interview. I was in charge of the Rest of the World's midfield, which included a bear in England colours. Ok here are the bear essentials (groan) of what happened:
Did I score? No.
Did I get sent off? No, the bears aren't close enough to kick each other in awkward places.
Did I miss a penalty? No, there are no penalties in table football.
So nothing happened then? Er, yes, I'm afraid it did ....... my English bear scored an own goal.
Sorry Mum - is that headache coming back again?
I'm now going out to get my hair cut. It needed cutting before I arrived in Germany but I haven't had time to do anything about it and I'm beginning to look like Ben Gunn. It could be quite interesting because if I don't have enough language skills to talk to a German woman about her dog, I certainly don't have enough to communicate with a German barber!
Weekend 1st and 2nd July
There are a few sore Deutsch heads around here this morning. Germany's month long party stepped up yet another gear when the goalkeeper, Jens Lehman, made the second of two penalty saves. Another performance like that and there will probably be a statue made of him. He's the newest German national hero. The black, gold and red balloon is floating higher than ever and it's Argentina's blue and white one which has crashed back down to earth. Yesterday evening, once again, the people of Berlin took to the streets. One woman, who'd actually had a ticket and had been to the game, told me there hadn't been such a party since the wall came down. It would be crazy and, indeed, disrespectful to the victims of the cold war to compare what's going on now to the momentous events of 1989. However, I have met many people who do seem to think they're experiencing something rather significant. I've lost count of the number of people who have told me that this is the first time they've waved the German flag or have had it painted on their faces.
As you can see, there were more flags than ever yesterday. There was the man standing on a car roof waving one. Another young man was hanging from the top of a lamp post. He was holding on with one hand and had his flag in the other. And then there were the groups of people who were taking their flags with them as they climbed up the walls in front of the Reichstag building.
I also witnessed a rather imaginative way of drinking beer last night.
I felt sorry for a group of Argentineans who were sitting across from me in an Italian restaurant. They had to put up with so many Germans offering their "oh so sincere" condolences, not to mention a song or two containing the words "auf Wiedersehen"! Most of those who I saw wearing blue and white looked rather shell-shocked.
I imagine the media back home is all "England, England, England!" at the moment. Here in Berlin, you'd hardly know England are playing today. You can rest assured, however, that I will be taking a couple of hours off this afternoon to watch the match and I'll be donning my England t-shirt (even though it's filthy now - I haven't had a chance to wash it!). Finally, I have a confession to make - I have a financial interest in the outcome of the World Cup. I've entered two Radio Four sweepstakes. I've got Italy in the one organised by The World at One and I drew out England in the Today Programme's . It's therefore now possible that I will have the two finalists. Of course, revealing this probably means both teams will go crashing out but let's hope not!
Enjoy the weekend, Jon
Friday 30th June
Berlin's heart is beating rather faster than normal this morning. Mine is too. You can almost smell the excitement. I've been to Cup Finals - even European Cup Finals - but the sense of anticipation in this city this morning would be hard to match anywhere in the world. You must forgive me if you feel I'm getting carried away here but the truth is that it's really hard not to.
I'm writing this sitting in a bar, waiting for some lunch. There's a little boy with a German football shirt with the name Ballack on the back. He's got a baseball cap sporting the German colours. He also has wrist bands in black, red and gold. His father is paying the bill. He's wearing an Argentinean football shirt, with the name of the player Messi . I don't know whether it will be father or son who will be smiling this evening but the porter at my hotel tells me Germany will win - there's absolutely no doubt about that. But who do you believe? According to an Argentinean couple I met in the lift, it will be Argentina's team which is celebrating - there's no doubt about that either! I told them the Germans would be really upset if that happened. The woman said "Oh yes" and her face broke into a long smile.
If you venture out onto the streets around here today be warned - if you aren't decked out in an item of clothing in German or Argentinean colours or if you've failed to paint a flag on your face or dye your hair, you are going to stand out a mile. It'll be a bit like sitting in a three piece suit and a bowler hat in the middle of a nudist colony. I was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt this morning and I felt as if everyone was staring at me. Take my advice, rush into a shop and buy something now or you'll be missing out on the party.
Without wanting to labour the point, today is what it is all about. We've lived with the World Cup hype for months. Now, the also-rans have gone home. I can guess what's going on in Argentina but I can see what's going on here. I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like in Germany if the hosts lose. I'll admit that in the past, I've always had my doubts when sports journalists have raved on about the festive atmospheres at World Cups and Olympics but now I've tasted it for myself. The problem is, what happens if the hosts get knocked out? At the moment, the Germans I've met seem to be floating around on Cloud Nine. But what if the German balloon is punctured - will it come crashing back to earth?
I'm hoping to take in some of the game if I can, although I'm sure I'll hear the cheers or see the tears wherever I am. First, I'm off to meet another policeman - this time in the match day control room. It's for a report I'm compiling about ticket touts. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the words of the German national anthem, along with a translation provided by the German Embassy in London. If you want to hear more about this, have a listen back to my piece about it, which was broadcast on this morning's programme.
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit - Unity and justice and freedom
für das deutsche Vaterland! - For the German Fatherland
Danach lasst uns alle streben - This is what we all must strive for
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand! - Brotherly with heart and hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit - Unity and justice and freedom
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand; - Are the foundation for happiness
Blüh' im Glanze dieses Glückes, - Bloom in the radiance of this happiness
Blühe, deutsches Vaterland. - Bloom, German Fatherland.
Good Luck Germany and Argentina - er, may the best team win......
Thursday 29th June
I was out on the streets of Berlin last night looking for an Italian. I wasn't particularly fussy about whether I was going to find a man or a woman - as long as he or she came from Italy. In fact, one of each would have been just perfect. Only two things mattered - I needed someone who spoke English and who knew a bit about football. If you've been reading my ramblings over the last couple of weeks, you'll know it isn't the first time I've done this. I also trawled the centre of Hamburg looking for Italians. Now, please don't worry - you can rest assured that this isn't some kind of weird night time habit for which I desperately need therapy. Doing these strange things is part of my job. I required the Italians for work purposes - to record an interview. The Today office back in London wanted me to find some Italian fans (ideally English speakers) who would comment on the big football scandal, which is making all the headlines back in Italy.
Finding Italian football fans who speak English and happen to be in Berlin is rather more difficult than it might sound. Yes, there's a World Cup taking place here and yes, as a result, there are lots of people from many different countries in this city at the moment but finding them is another matter. Unfortunately, Italy's Quarter Final match is taking place in Hamburg, so most of them are there. But fear not - nothing is impossible! I had a chat with an Italian sports television presenter who directed me to an Italian restaurant in the suburbs. It seemed a good idea because it was half past nine and I was starving! The food was excellent but the staff didn't speak very good English and, more importantly, they didn't really appear to have any strong views about the football scandal. Fortunately though, thanks to the sports presenter, I had struck gold. Sitting on a table, eating his dinner, was a former Italian footballer!
I've said he was Italian and he was - well, he is - but he was also Brazilian (I know this is confusing but all will be explained!). In fact, he was more than just Brazilian - he just happens to be a Brazilian World Cup Winner! His name is Jose Altafini but was also known as "Mazzola". I don't know whether or not I should do this but I will now confess to you that I had never heard of him. I would have felt terrible admitting to his but my brother, Paul Football Encyclopaedia Manel, didn't know who he was either. As my brother's middle names suggest, when it comes to football he knows everything - or at least almost everything. Clearly this was one name which hadn't been retained during those long nights during which Paul used to read everything he could get his hands on about the wonderful game.
So, let me tell you about Jose Altafini. First here's a picture of him (he's the one on the right).
Now, let me copy out the information on the back of his business card:
Brazilian champion 1957
Italian champion 1958
Italian champion 1962
Italian champion 1974
Italian champion 1975
European champion 1963
World Champion 1958
He now lives in Italy and commentates for an Italian television channel. And this is the really interesting bit - he won the World Cup with Brazil but, according to several websites (including FIFA's), he then went onto play for Italy. He's one of the few players who have played in World Cups for two different nations. Anyway, as you can imagine, he was the perfect interviewee. He didn't speak English but why should he? Fortunately, one of his colleagues did, so she translated for me. I recorded the interview, returned to the hotel, sent it down to London and finally got to bed at about two this morning. And I can now say that I know something about football that my brother doesn't (after three decades of trying!).
Jose Altafini says he doesn't know who'll win the World Cup but he doesn't seem to rule out England. Meanwhile, I've seen yet more strange German hats on the streets ahead of tomorrow's showdown with Argentina. The latest fashion item is the World Cup crown.
Finally, I walked into a union building today to record an interview and I was greeted by a man who said in a German accent:
"Don't mention the war!"
I was slightly startled until his face broke out into a smile and he confessed to being a fan of John Cleese and Fawlty Towers.
Wednesday 28th June
If the old cliché is true and the taxi driver really is "a great barometer of public opinion", then this nation has suddenly rediscovered self belief. When I arrived in Baden-Baden more than a fortnight ago, I was assured that Germany didn't stand a chance of winning the World Cup. I was actually told that it was the England team which was on course to lift the trophy. Yesterday, however, a Berlin cabbie informed me that the host's team was going to go all the way and that Germany was going to be Weltmeister once again. The England side, I was informed, didn't seem to be very good at all.
There's no doubt that Germany is already gearing up for Friday's big Quarter Final showdown with Argentina. Yesterday, black, red and gold face masks were being handed out in a nearby street and there are more and more varieties of German hats being sold in the roadside souvenir kiosks. And then there's that t-shirt - the one that will look very foolish if the Berlin taxi driver proves to be wrong.
When the game kicks off at 5pm (local time) on Friday , you can expect the streets to be deserted. During Saturday's match against Sweden, I went up to the viewing platform in the impressive glass top of the Reichstag building. I'm told usually you have to queue up for ages but, during those ninety minutes, it took no time at all. That's not to say the place was deserted. There were a few others up there too, including several American tourists.
One of the new things which you can see from the top of the Reichstag is a mini Berlin Olympic stadium. It's much smaller than the original but the idea is to give people a chance to feel that they are actually at the match when they are watching it on television. It a temporary structure, it holds 8,600 spectators and it has two big TV screens at each end. I went along last night to see France play Spain. It wasn't by any means full but the atmosphere was good. There were quite a few "Mexican waves". In fact, every time a wave started, someone seemed to score. During the first half, I was a bit distracted by the fact that there was a mini football pitch in the stadium. I couldn't quite work that out. Why have a pitch when the matches are only being shown on television here? What's it used for? Well, surely it was obvious. At half time, female dancers came on to entertain the crowd. However, the one thing that continues to puzzle me is why a couple were watching the match from a sofa which had been placed on the football pitch? I think they were Spanish, so (whatever the reason they were on the sofa) they will have gone home feeling rather disappointed. On my way back to the hotel on the bus, I discovered that it isn't only the Berlin cabbie who's feeling full of confidence at the moment. I met some Brazilians who believed their team will win the World Cup too.
The mini Olympic stadium
Brazilian supporters on the bus
Finally, back to the bread rolls from the weekend. I know you will have suffered several sleepless nights wondering what they are called - well, I can now put your mind at rest. I'm informed by an avid reader of the diary that they are laugenbrötchen. And before those of you who have requested fridge magnets get any ideas, no - I'm not bringing any laugenbrötchen back with me (for a start, they'll get mouldy).
See Page One of Jon's Diary with entries from the beginning of the World Cup
See Page Three of Jon's Diary
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