World Cup 2006 Blog

From our reporters in Germany

Over and out

claire_heald66.gifGELSENKIRCHEN - St George was unavailable for comment as he left the stadium after England’s defeat last night. Or at least the man dressed up as St George, yes, I know it’s not him really.

That’s highly unusual for an England fan. Throughout this tournament they’ve had all the answers for me and ‘given good quote’. But they’ve only ever asked me three questions in return.

“Can you get me on tele?” is always number one. “No, I’m afraid I’m too lowly,” is my stock reply - I can’t even get myself on tele...

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Hotting up already

The 70,000 England fans predicted here have indeed arrived. They are streaming out of the main station and lining the roads into town.

In the square by the main station they are hanging out their flags enjoying a drink in the sunshine and singing "We're not going home".

It's incredibly hot here already - it's only 10am and I'm struggling carrying a laptop around in what must be 30 degrees at least. But the atmosphere is optimistic and expectant.

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England fans flood into Germany

claire_heald66.gifGELSENKIRCHEN - The Germans call it “a phenomenon”.

They’re left scratching their heads at how so many English people make it here for the match one day but are gone the next.

Incidentally, out of 5,800 people arrested in the tournament so far, guess how many have been English?

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Last to leave the party

organ_grinder_203.jpg STUTTGART - Outside of the passion and pain on the pitch, it is the little things that catch your eye as the world’s cultures collide at this tournament.

The last guests to leave England’s post-match party were dancing in the streets as I walked back through the city’s main square in the early hours.

The strains of Football’s Coming Home and "1-0 to the Arsenal" sounded bizarre coming out of the pipes on a traditional German wind-up organ.

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England fans winning over German kids

claire_heald66.gifCOLOGNE - A whopping 85,000 England fans made it here for the match, the latest figures guestimate from officials.

But before the biggest crowd so far packed the stadium and city, one group of fans made it to a local school to teach the German children a few football songs. And it wasn’t like assembly in my day.

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Mark and Ted's excellent adventure

claire_heald66.gifCOLOGNE - This city is a 70,000 strong throng of England fans, but two friendly faces caught my eye in the England fans area today - Mark Perry and Ted Burke.

Last time I saw these two, they were preparing their World Cup campaign to drive round Germany in Vanessa the Camper Van, spreading fan friendship.

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Kolsch whets the whistle

claire_heald66.gif COLOGNE - If there was an international football party circuit, Cologne would be on it. With its famous Kolsch beer, pretty sights, and an eclectic stumble of fans, it has buzzed with good-natured banter all weekend.

Every time you turn the corner of a beerhaus-lined street in the old town it’s to find more and more of the latest guests are England fans – and the police have told us they hope they will behave.

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BA9200 lifts off - Destination Germany!

claire_heald66.gifLUTON AIRPORT - Claire Heald writes:
That's it, they're off! The next time we see Beckham and co they will be in their training kit in Germany.
But in this corner of England - that's Luton Airport short stay carpark - the World Cup has already begun. Shouts, horns, chants of 'give us a wave' pushed the players up the staircase and onto the plane...

..Then they all came off again (were they just bagging their seats??) for the last photocall, lined up two-by-two on the steps.

Beckham gave the snappers their final shot, hanging out the cockpit window with an England flag, before BA9200 took off bang on time, 1530 BST.

Compared with their Armani-clad heroes, the lot of the 200-odd fans here was an unglamorous one. But they got what they wanted.

As Mark Powley, a student who rushed here straight from his A levels, said: "It's so much more real now. It puts everything into perspective - they are the people everyone in this country is supporting, our hopes and dreams hang on them!"

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Waving England on their way

claire_heald66.gif LUTON AIRPORT - Claire Heald writes:
Hours before take off and the Woods family from Worthing, Sussex, are easy to spot in the prime position to wave the England team off - even arriving before the plane.

dan_richard_woods203.jpg

Their white car is a mass of 48 St George crosses, from the bonnet through fluffy dice, seat, steering wheel, flags on the roof, and full Subbuteo pitch on the back parcel shelf.

Driver Daniel Woods, 22, says they have had a "mostly positive" response driving around their home town!

What of England's hopes? Daniel's hair is a dyed and shaved red and white flag so he's pretty confident.
"We are winning it, without a doubt," agreed his dad Richard, who has a second gold star ready to stick on the boot. For sisters Sam Woods and Sam Reeves it's Beckham and Lampard who are the main draws today...

Earplugs in the kit bag

claire_heald66.gifLONDON - England's players must be relieved finally to be on their way to Germany. Not just because now the real build-up can start. But, cover your ears, because the first World Cup songs have invaded the charts.

Riding on the Amarillo bandwagon, Tony Christie's (Is This The Way To) The World Cup went in at number 11 and Stan Boardman's World Cup Song followed it at 19.

They're just the first in a musical ambush. Embrace's official World Cup song World at Your Feet is released today and it's up against dozens of others. As usual, ability is no barrier. If this is to be believed, even the sheep are at it.

Who knows which will be adopted by the fans (maybe one of these DIY tunes?) If the stands at England's friendlies were anything to go by, none, as supporters stuck with old favourites Vindaloo and Three Lions. Someone hand the mic to John Barnes...

Flying the flag

claire_heald66.gifMANCHESTER - Peter Crouch's post-goal Robo-dancing was the strangest sight at Old Trafford on Tuesday night but England fans provided the most arresting one.

As the players lined up, supporters at each end of the ground held up thousands of red and white squares to form a giant cross of St George.

It takes a group of dedicated England followers all day to set it up but they say it brings people together and shows national pride.

Organisers hope to back a similar display in Germany - though underhand tactics might be needed due to get round a Fifa ban on bringing "multiple bits of paper" into stadia. (The ban is aimed at ticker tape and toilet rolls etc).

Is it to be dirty undies, fresh from the fans tour of Germany, that disguises what lies in the bag underneath? Of course, I cannot blow their patriotic cover.

Seeking serendipity

claire_heald66.gifLONDON - It's one of the longest games of keepy-uppy the world has seen. Two England fans are kicking a football - and not just any ball, what they call the 'olympic torch for the World Cup' - from the UK to Germany.

The Spirit of Football 2006 is the follow up to Christian Wach and Phil Wake's 2002 effort, when they took 10 weeks to kick a ball to Seoul.

Then they enjoyed the highs of football with Tibetan monks, the lows of someone stealing the ball in China - they asked for it back - and found that an impromptu game broke down barriers in every country en route.

"The guiding light of the whole trip is serendipity" says Christian. "Carrying a football got us out of tricky situations and into places we wouldn't have been able to go - like Kyrgyzstan."

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"Tickets, any spare tickets?"

claire_heald66.gifLONDON - The number of tickets for England supporters for their World Cup matches has been stirring up fans' consternation since allocation day. They have just eight per cent - that's around 4,000-5,000 - at each group game. Meanwhile, the sponsor companies share 500,000 for the tournament - one sixth of the total tickets.

About 100,000 England fans are expected to travel Germany to soak up the atmosphere - but mostly they'll be doing that outside the ground. So the Football Supporters' Federation has launched a petition to protest.

It accepts that sponsors contribute cash to the game, but as the federation's Alan Bloore puts it: "I know a lad who follows England abroad, but he hasn't got one ticket. Yet somebody could go and buy a beer, burger or cola and get a ticket for an England match. I'll argue black and blue that it's wrong."

If you've missed out on tickets so far, maybe the last-gasp chance to go through sponsors' promotions is a good thing? If not, there's always the petition, bound for Fifa boss Sepp Blatter when it's complete.

About Claire Heald

claire_heald66.gifIt'll be a struggle to tear myself away from watching the World Cup on TV with friends. But it's in a good cause - to trail the thousands of fans following England around Germany.

I work on the UK desk of the BBC News website so my usual domain is news. But my all-round sporting knowledge has improved a lot since a (long-ago) trip to the Oval, when friends convinced me Andrew Flintoff was Freddie's identical twin brother.

Not a team player - is it a crime to admit that at work? - my sports are running and cycling. By the time I've covered my desk in bike bits and running gear, it can look like the office is something I fit in between my daily endorphin kicks.

During a spell living and working in Australia, a highlight was covering the Olympic Games and I saw how sport and a worldwide event can transform a country.

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