Gate-crashing the World Cup party
- 10 Jul 06, 07:36 AM
BERLIN – Fletch and I worked out at that we are two of less than a million people on this planet to see to the current World Cup trophy lifted in person.
Obviously Fletch was comfortably seated in his press place for the whole game whereas I had to chance my arm in a late dash into the stadium, after the end of the action but before the prize was hoisted aloft.
And it was a remarkably successful tactic - check out the video (UK users only).
Having turned up at the ground a couple of hours before kick-off with a host of others without tickets I was never confident of getting my hands on one, not for any kind of reasonable price anyway.
So very early on I’d resigned myself to finding a decent vantage point by a big screen, and a garden centre next to the stadium offered the ideal location.
I was with a couple of English guys, Lloyd ( a designer for BBC Sport Interactive no less) and his mate Chris, they were in a similar situation to myself, with mates in the ground and very limited budget.
But the competition for tickets was so fierce there was no way any of us was realistically going to get into the ground, or so we thought.
We spent the match in this garden centre, which had a side room with a big screen.
When we got there, about 45 minutes before kick-off, there was still a decent amount of standing room but as kick-off approached, and more and more familiar faces from outside the station appeared, the place became cramped and very hot.
It’s with no joy at all that I’m obliged to report there were some very unsavoury elements among the Italian fans.
After Zinedine Zidane’s early penalty we saw one fan spit at a man with a temporary England flag tattoo on his cheek but wearing a France shirt, and while my Italian isn’t great I did hear the word banana repeatedly whenever there was a close up of Patrick Vieira or Claude Makalele on the screen.
The worst of it all were the monkey noises being made as Sylvain Wiltord stepped up to take France’s first penalty in the shoot-out.
But I will stress this was all coming from a very small band of blokes just next to me and whenever it seemed they were trying to start chants, which unfortunately I did not understand, they found little common ground among the rest of the fans there.
When Fabio Grosso hit the winning penalty the room exploded.
The Italians just seemed to pick up whatever was nearest to them - chairs, benches, people – and proceeded to shake them in the air with joy.
After being errantly congratulated on victory a couple of times – Lloyd was wearing an Italian replica shirt – we wandered outside and somebody asked the question, do you think the barriers at the ground will be open?
With the stadium only 100m away it would have been rude not to have a look, and lo and behold as we sauntered up to the ground, with a steady flow of dismayed Frenchman walking the other way, the barriers were unmanned.
A sense of euphoria overtook us as we got through the first set of barriers and then as we passed through the open turnstiles, Lloyd shouted, "we’re in, run!"
So we legged it up the stairs to the upper tier and into the stands, where there was some vacated seating.
Feeling like we’d just broken into a high security area, the adrenalin was pumping and as Italy lifted the World Cup we were only too keen to join in with the dancing and singing.
But after every high there has to be a come down, and I can hear that stereotypical German army officer telling me, "For you my friend, ze World Cup is over!"
Back in Svan now, it’s hit me.
It really is all over.
30 days of the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet, racing from town to town trying to meet as many people and cram in as many experiences as possible.
On Monday we’ll be faced with the long drive home and the prospect of explaining to the hire company just why the back bumper is not all it should be.
I’ll be running down my highs and lows of the trip during the journey home, and handing out such prestigious awards as Nicest German and Worst sausage.
If there’s anything you want to know about the trip then this is your last chance to ask the question.