Thank you Germany
- 10 Jul 06, 05:26 PM
COLOGNE - The World Cup is over for another four years and Ricco and I are heading home.
We have just arrived in Cologne, where we will spend our final night in Germany, after a six-hour drive from Berlin. With the dust settling on the tournament I think it is a good time to reflect - after all I have witnessed much, learnt a lot and had a great deal of fun in my time in Germany.
There have been lows along the way and moments when time has seemed to slow to a crawl (or just stop completely when the immobiliser broke on Svan).
But there is one thing that will live with me longer than anything else and that is the incredible hospitality of the German people.
OK, in Leipzig I asked one guy what he thought of the England team and, after several seconds of the most profound contemplation, received the somewhat inadequate answer of “**** you”.
And I have to say that the common stereotype regarding German efficiency has been smashed to pieces on several occasions.
But my abiding memory of my time here will be of the warmth of the German people.
I really cannot express how grateful I feel for being made so welcome - and for the lengths to which people have gone to ensure that our trip been so incredibly memorable.
There are more people than I could possibly mention here but several really stand out (and apologies to anyone I have forgotten who really should be mentioned).
The breakdown guy in Troisdorf, who drove me to the off license and back - as well as getting his wife to call us a few days later to make sure we were OK.
Schacher - the mechanic who sorted Svan when he broke down for a second time. Really funny, really helpful - a top, top bloke.
The people at the garage in Hamburg who let us sleep on their forecourt and gave us electricity when we had the, ahem, slight problem with the rear indicator lights.
The actor Joachim Krol - who gave me a lift to the ground at Gelsenkirchen and who has invited us to go out with him in Cologne this evening.
The lads in Helmstedt who invited us to watch the Brazil versus France match with them and provided us with food, drink, pool and a German drinking machine (who smashed me to pieces and ate my breakfast the next day when I simply could not).
And the hundreds of unnamed others who helped us with directions, seemed genuinely pleased to have us here and really, really wanted us to like their country.
Don’t get me wrong. I was glad Germany didn’t win the tournament - and having some kind of faux victory parade in Berlin on the day of the final was well out of order.
But it is people that matter in life and it has been the people that have made the difference on our trip.
Already some are concluding that it has not been a classic tournament in footballing terms but I think that in all other respects it has been brilliant.
The organisation, the stadiums, the welcome - and for that I would like to say a big thanks to the special (and ever so slightly sensitive) people of Germany.