LONDON - Here I sit in my flat, surrounded by dirty washing, cut-price World Cup tat and a huge joint of cured ham that I bought in France on Monday.
When I woke up this morning Ricco was nowhere to be seen - most strange and somewhat refreshing after five weeks of my co-blogger being the first person I have clapped eyes on every morning.
Continue reading "Over and out"
BELGIUM - It seems strange to no longer be in Germany. It feels strange to write that sentence.
I guess my moment of realisation that the party was actually over came when the fireworks exploded over the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
This sensation was rammed home this morning when I looked at Bild newspaper. For the last four weeks the 'i' in the spelling on the cover has been replaced by the World Cup trophy. No longer.
Continue reading "Svan heading home"
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.
Continue reading "Thank you Germany"
BERLIN - What did you think of the World Cup final?
I thought it was a really enjoyable game in which the momentum changed sides several times and contained no little drama - Zinedine Zidane's red card, his early penalty which brought the game to life, the penalty shoot-out and some truly remarkable celebrations from the ecstatic Italian players.
Continue reading "A fitting final for the World Cup?"
BERLIN - After sleeping in 24 different places in 33 days chasing the World Cup - its stories, its atmosphere, its way of life - we come to the end of the road.
In just a few hours time the 64th and final match of the tournament will take place at the Olympic Stadium - two stops away on the S-bahn from our now crowded campsite.
Continue reading "The last hurrah"
BERLIN - By this I mean supporters, not players.
Ricco and I travelled into the centre of Berlin on Saturday afternoon with the specific purpose of finding Italian and French fans - what we encountered instead were thousands of German supporters heading to the Fans Fest for their team's third/fourth place play-off game.
Check out the video.
Continue reading "Where are the finalists?"
BERLIN - Ricco and I were heading back to the campsite after visiting an English family living in Berlin when an almighty thunderstorm broke out.
From our perspective there were two interesting consequences to this.
Continue reading "The heavens open over Berlin"
BERLIN - The World Cup is almost over and it's time perhaps to try to provide a glimpse of what it has been like living in Svan for the past month.
We are currently parked in a temporary campsite somewhere in Berlin. In an effort to disguise the fact that we are basically in what looks like a abandoned piece of land the owners have laid sand over the entire area and dubbed it a crazy beach party.
Continue reading "Life in Svan"
DORTMUND - I said on Tuesday that I did not want Germany to win the World Cup.
As I sat in the stadium in Dortmund on Tuesday evening I was stunned by the manner in which my wish came true.
Continue reading "Happy now?"
DORTMUND - I'm not going to make many friends saying this but I do NOT want Germany to win the World Cup.
I've spoken to quite a few England fans over the last few days who have expressed the view that they would be happy to see Michael Ballack lift the World Cup trophy in Berlin on Sunday - and a few people on this blog have expressed a similar sentiment, not to mention my fellow bloggers Paul Armstrong and Paul Atherton.
Continue reading "Germany to win? I don't think so"
ESSEN - Four laps of a running track. Easy right?
If only I could say that was true but after running a mile for Sport Relief on Monday evening I felt the cool touch of the grim reaper on my shoulder and the hot burning sensation of the devil in my lungs.
Check out the video.
Continue reading "Help, my lungs are burning!"
DUSSELDORF - Ricco and I are driving to the British Army base at Rheindahlen and will this evening run a mile for Sport Relief.
We have opted for this particular destination on the back of a suggestion by Penny - comment eight - who mentioned that her Dad used to race at a track near Monchengladbach when he was in the army.
Continue reading "Heading to Rheindahlen"
HOHENSYBURG - Unfortunately at some point before Ricco and I leave Germany and head for home we have to run a mile for Sport Relief.
I say unfortunately because after close to a month of consuming meat in the same quantities as your average German - and let us be honest sneaking the odd beer along the way - I no longer feel able to guarantee that I could run the distance without doubling over, throwing up etc etc.
Continue reading "Where should we run a mile?"
GELSENKIRCHEN - Terrible, just terrible. I am sick to the stomach.
England's defeat to Portugal on penalties induces not only a distressing feeling of deja vu but also a slight nausea.
Two years ago I wrote this article - change a few words and it is as relevant today as it was then.
It could have all been so different, certainly the day got off to an interesting start - read more about my trip to the ground in a limo belonging to a, as-then-unkown to me, famous German actor further down.
Continue reading "What is it about penalties?"
A SERVICE STATION - I drive until the (not so) early hours to get us within striking distance of Gelsenkirchen- and England's quarter-final tie with Portugal.
Ricco and I went to the match between Italy and Ukraine in Hamburg on Friday night.
Continue reading "Racing towards Gelsenkirchen"
HAMBURG - Ray Winstone, actor, West Ham fan and all-round top bloke, has been in Germany since the World Cup started.
In fact, earlier in the tournament one of our bloggers bumped into him in Frankfurt.
The actor has been keeping a close eye on England and was privileged enough to watch them train on Thursday. We caught up with Ray to find out what he made of England’s prospects.
Continue reading "Ray Winstone's England verdict"
A PARK IN HAMBURG - Svan is in the garage hopefully being fixed and I am sat on a patch of grass in some park near the stadium wondering who I want to win in the match between Germany and Argentina.
We have tickets for Italy's match with Ukraine in Hamburg later this evening, but lets be honest that is not really the game that has the host nation gripped.
Continue reading "Germany or Argentina?"
HAMBURG - Disaster struck this afternoon.
We were on our way to visit Ricco's grandparents, almost there, when an approaching car forced Ricco to move over to one side of the narrow lane.
Continue reading "When Svan hit a gate"
BREMEN - Luis Felipe Scolari seems to have the irksome knack of emerging victorious when it comes to matches against Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England.
As Brazil manager at the World Cup in 2002 and as boss of Portugal at Euro 2004 he defeated England at the quarter-final stage - and one guy I spoke to told me it was because he has some friends in pretty high places...
Continue reading "Scolari’s secret weapon"
HANNOVER - The World Cup might only happen once every four years but when it does it sure means business.
Three games a day for 11 consecutive days, followed by four games a day for four days and two games a day for the next four. And then what?
Continue reading "What, no football?"
HANNOVER - I saw something this evening that made my jaw drop.
Two photographers queuing for some kind of ticket, or pass, or whatever for Spain's game with France suddenly started fighting. It was truly remarkable.
Continue reading "Kung Fu fighting"
HANNOVER - Spain have a well-earned reputation for disappointing at major tournaments - but here at an overcast Hannover both players and supporters are confident of beating the French this evening.
Last night I went to watch Spain's final training session before their second-round match and Luis Aragones' squad looked focused and relaxed.
Continue reading "Spain ready to deliver?"
HEADING TO HANNOVER - Ricco and I have stayed at quite a few campsites over the last few weeks.
Some have had great facilities, others modest. Some have been in great locations, others miles from anywhere - but none have been quite like Herr Schmidt's.
Continue reading "The strangest campsite in Germany?"
SUBURB OF DRESDEN - Last week we mentioned that we would be going to Leipzig and asked you to suggest where we should visit in the near vicinity.
Many thanks for all the ideas. Lots of people said Dresden, while I quite liked the idea of Colditz - and so we squeezed them in around England's match with Ecuador, learning lots along the way and encountering some very strange people.
Continue reading "Colditz, Dresden and sleepy England"
LEIPZIG - Mexico departed the World Cup after their defeat to Argentina on Saturday evening.
But they gave one of the favourites a real run for their money and their fans stopped the traffic - literally.
Continue reading "Fantastic Mexico waves farewell"
BAMBERG - At some point over the next 24 hours our trip will reach its half-way stage.
With two weeks gone and two weeks left to go, the World Cup has also reached the same juncture (though admittedly more than 50% of the fixtures have been played).
With this in mind - and the group stage now over - how do you think the tournament is shaping up?
Continue reading "The half-way point"
NUREMBERG - I'll come clean straight away.
I went on holiday to Ghana last year and I loved the place to bits - even more so the people.
Continue reading "Glorious, glorious Ghana"
NUREMBERG - Cultural excursions don't appear to have been a particularly high priority for fans at the World Cup - there is just too much football to watch.
But here in Nuremberg the situation is different because the area around the Franken-Stadion carries the indelible mark of history.
Quite simply, it is difficult to reach the ground without seeing some reminder of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party, which used the stadium as a marching ground in the 1930s.
Continue reading "The old and the new in Nuremberg"
NUREMBERG - You, the readers, decided that we should watch Holland versus Argentina on a big screen rather than try to buy tickets for a dead-rubber match between Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro at the Allianz Arena in Munich.
One was a fairly low-key draw between two teams keeping their powder dry for forthcoming encounters, the other sounded like an electrifying match betweens two sides desperate to leave the tournament with some points.
Continue reading "Bruce Arena's evening stroll"
ULM - I met a Swedish fan at the start of the tournament who had a T-shirt that read "Sweden 2-2 England - agreed?".
Well, it may have been agreed or it may not have been agreed but at the end it was indeed 2-2.
Continue reading "England in Ulm"
BUHLERHOHE SCHLOSSHOTEL, BADEN-BADEN - Lots has already been said, filmed and written about the official England team hotel in the mountains outside Baden Baden.
But with the England team away in Cologne, Ricco and I thought we would pop along to see if we could get any interesting chat off the staff there.
Continue reading "Stern faces at Baden-Baden"
ENGLAND CAMP, ACHERN - Compared to the rest of our journey through Germany our life in England Camp got off to the most unusual start.
After days of melting in the hot sun our arrival was greeted by a thunderstorm of biblical proportions. The fencing blew over, the bar area flooded, the big screen went off and the visitors chanted "It's just like being at home".
Continue reading "Life in England Camp"
MUNICH - Based on the performances of the England team in their opening two games there are many issues that need resolving.
Not least of these is the form of Michael Owen - so with this in mind Ricco and I went to visit the scene of one of his greatest performances.
Continue reading "Cheer up Michael Owen"
MUNICH - There was real tension outside the ground as Brazil prepared to face Australia - and it wasn't about the match.
The sheer number of people hanging around outside looking for tickets really took me by surprise.
Continue reading "The desperate search for tickets"
MUNICH - As we travelled south this morning I pulled up at traffic lights on the outskirts of Stuttgart.
Another camper van stopped alongside me. The driver, resplendent in orange, turned towards me so I said "hello" - what I did not expect was his reply.
Continue reading "Snippets from the Dutch camp"
STUTTGART - The Chris Moyles Radio One breakfast show is being broadcast from here in Germany so we went to visit them this morning to see how it is all going.
Perched high in the hills, Svan took his time tackling some of the gradients - especially as a few wrong turns were involved - but we made it eventually.
Continue reading "Moyles in Germany"
A CARPARK, SORRY CAMPSITE, STUTTGART - Ricco and I went to find the Klinsmann family bakery in the Stuttgart suburb of Botnang this afternoon.
Alas, Thursday just happened to be the Corpus Christi holiday in this part of Germany and the place was closed - but that was definitely not the end of the story.
Continue reading "England with the Klinsmanns"
A MOTORWAY, TOWARDS STUTTGART - Fresh from doing three-point turns on the finishing straight at Hockenheim on Wednesday, we are now heading further south.
Last night we watched Germany's narrow win over Poland in the beautiful town of Heidelberg, but the evening was not without its more unsavoury aspects.
Continue reading "Causing trouble"
A GARAGE FORECOURT, DREIEICH-OFFENTHAL - Magic mechanic Schacher has installed the new immobiliser part in Svan and we are on the move again.
Watch the video.
We are heading south, stopping for the night near Hockenheim, where Ricco will do his best Jeremy Clarkson impression, driving Svan around the Formula One racetrack.
Continue reading "Svan on the move"
DREIEICH-OFFENTHAL - OK, so the part has arrived.
There was real tension in Svan this morning when I called the garage to find out whether it had turned up.
Continue reading "Svan's appointment with destiny"
DREIEICH-OFFENTHAL - On Wednesday morning we find out when Svan will be fixed.
Basically, we are praying that a part has arrived from Italy to the garage near our campsite.
Continue reading "Anxious wait for Svan"
FRANKFURT - People are wandering around and around the Waldstadion as we approach kick-off in the match between Togo and South Korea.
I just bumped into a colleague from BBC World Service who told me a story about Maradona.
Continue reading " Maradona stories"
DREIEICH-OFFENTHAL - Another hot day, another Svan failure.
This morning our van was fixed. This afternoon it once again failed to start.
Continue reading "Svan breaks down - again!"
TROISDORF, FIAT GARAGE - Our mobile home - Svan - is now fixed!
What we need to do now is work out what to do on Wednesday - any suggestions?
Continue reading "What to do on Wednesday?"
A CAR PARK, TROISDORF - The problem with Svan, our mobile home, is that it won't start.
We went to watch the Ivory Coast play a friendly match at their training ground in Troisdorf against the local team that normally calls the Aggerstadion home.
The Elephants team comprised the players that did not figure against Argentina on Saturday and dished out a 9-0 hammering in a 30-minutes each-way match.
Ricco and I then made our way back to Svan and prepared to head off to Frankfurt. Several hours later, with the time just gone nine in the evening here in Germany, we remain in a less than picturesque car park.
Continue reading "Our van won't start!"
DORTMUND - Sweden's game with Trinidad & Tobago is a matter of hours away and I've heard a rumour that all is not well with the men from northern Europe.
I was talking to a journalist from Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet and he was of the opinion that the players are very, very nervous.....
Their recent form has been poor and a sense of anxiety has run through the camp. Rather than focusing on how many they will score against T&T they are more concerned with avoiding a slip-up.
Furthermore, the relationship between the Swedish players and media is very fractious.
Continue reading "Very nervous Swedes"
DORTMUND - Ricco drove us through the night (more or less) to get us to Dortmund in time to do a piece for BBC World.
Alas, the technological aspect of our trip is not running as smoothly as Svan (our camper van) when Ricco is behind the wheel.
The search for a hotspot was pretty intense this morning but deadlines proved unrealistic and our webcam slot on the programme went begging.
The episode wasn't a total waste of time as we discovered that the headphones we are supposed to use are pretty dodgy.
Continue reading "Deadlines in Dortmund"
A VERY BUMPY MOTORWAY, NEAR KOBLENZ - He didn't say much, nothing to be precise.
But in Andriy Shevchenko's defence when the pen was thrust upon him, the Ukrainian striker certainly knew what to do.
Check out the video
Perhaps putting pen to paper on a bumper deal at Chelsea a couple of weeks ago had primed the striker for a spot of autograph signing.
Ricco and I went to watch Ukraine's final pre-World Cup friendly against Luxembourg with the aim of persuading the Shev to sign a couple of 'Fletch and Ricco' Sport Relief T-shirts.
Continue reading "The hunt for Shevchenko"
STADE JOSY BARTHEL, LUXEMBOURG - Ricco and I are currently in Luxembourg's modest national stadium waiting for their friendly match against Ukraine, which is a matter of minutes away.
Luxembourg have provided World Cup warm-up opposition for Germany, Portugal and now Ukraine.
But in all honesty we are not really here to watch Luxembourg complete their very own World Cup group (sort of) or monitor the form of the Ukrainians but to try to persuade Andriy Shevchenko to sign some of our T-shirts.
I cannot help but think we might have missed our chance.
Continue reading "Chasing Shevchenko"
MONS, BELGIUM - After a lot of thought we have decided to go with a suggestion from Tom and name our camper van Svan.
It works on so many levels - it made us laugh, it has a great England connection and is just four letters, making it easy for the less co-ordinated of us bloggers to type.
There was a great response to our appeal for a name, with some pretty wacky and others hinting at a thought process well beyond our capabilities. Much appreciated.
By the way, where are you Gregory Sibret?
Continue reading "Svan in Belgium"
THE ENGLISH CHANNEL - The ferry is on the move, whisking our camper van towards France.
Everything seems to be going very smoothly, if you'll pardon the pun, - though Ricco only realised he had left the front of the stereo on a sideboard in his house once he had posted his keys through the door.
Expletives spewed forth, followed by a dash through Surrey to retrieve a set of keys from Ricco's wife.
If nothing else, it gave Ricco the opportunity to test his driving skills through winding country lanes.
We have been very impressed with the suggestions to the key issue of what we should call our mobile home.
Continue reading "Plain sailing"
LONDON - We picked our mobile home up yesterday and spent a considerable amount of time learning about the delights of the Fiat Riviera 181.
A true delight - check it out for yourselves in our first video entry.
It holds 125 litres of water, has a fridge with freezer - which is real luxury since I don't even have one of those at home - and a cassette.
Now before you become overcome with nostalgia let me point something out.
Continue reading "The name game"
LONDON - This time next week I’ll be on my way to Germany with Ricco in our camper van.
Not knowing Ricco all that well, it will be the point at which we start to discover things about each other that will have a profound say on how the next five weeks pan out.
Does Martin snore? Does he like Def Leppard? Is he always awake breathtakingly early? Has our Safe Driver course impressed on him the urge to suppress his boy racer instincts?
Conversely, I’m sure that Martin, who is currently enjoying some pre-trip time away with his wife, has similar concerns.
Continue reading "Nasty habits"
LONDON - Help needed. During the World Cup I am very keen to find a man called Didi Senft.
He rides a very large bicycle and usually follows the Tour de France, though I’m told that this year he will be in his native Germany for the World Cup.
Senft also dresses as a red devil, is a bit of an eccentric and the wheels on his bike look like huge footballs.
I would very much like to meet him and have a go on his bike - any ideas where we can find him?
Continue reading "Have you seen this man?"
OK, OK, so the tournament actually starts in 16 days but our journey begins in two weeks.
We sail to Calais and will then head to our first destination – Dortmund.
From Dortmund we plan to travel to Munich, via Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and then up to Nuremberg towards the end of the group stage.
We have a pretty loose schedule and are keen to read your suggestions as to where we should go and what we should do.
Continue reading "Two weeks and counting"
LONDON - Hello I'm Paul Fletcher, one half of "Fletch and Ricco" - we'll be the most regular contributors to this World Cup blog.
Our blog starts for real when we leave England for Germany on 7 June, but don’t for a moment think that we haven’t already been busy.
Ricco (Martin Richardson) and I will travel around Germany in a mobile home and with this in mind recently went on a day’s driver training with one of the best in the business - Ronny Mapes.
“Ronny,” said Ronny, “has a saying for everything.” And he really wasn’t joking.
“If it's clear grab a gear”, “Brakes to slow, gears to go” and “More paint, more danger”, are just a selection of Mapes' wisdom.
We met at a car park off the A3 south of London early in the morning and for the next few hours learnt how to drive the Ronny way.
Continue reading "Carry on camper van"
I'm a football writer for the BBC website and will be blogging my way around Germany with my co-pilot Martin Richardson (Ricco).
We are very keen to hear your ideas as to what you would like us to do during the tournament, though anything involving lederhosen will be instantly rejected (unless Martin has to wear them).
I follow Preston North End and firmly believe Sir Tom Finney to be the greatest player ever to walk the earth (despite the fact he retired 13 years before I was born). England cricketer Andrew Flintoff once failed to hit me off the square during a junior cricket match, though at 13 he was four years younger than me.
Since moving to London I have been developing my skills as a professional northerner, extolling the virtues of more or less anything from the twin Kingdoms of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
That said, I very much enjoy trying to broaden my horizons through travel and look forward to finding out just how good Martin actually is at speaking German during the World Cup.
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