World Cup 2006 Blog

From our reporters in Germany

Making his Mark

NUREMBERG - Among the estimated 50,000 England fans who were in the city today for the match was Mark Raven, 37, from Sussex (right).

Mark lost the sight in one eye in 1993 after being hit by a rock thrown by Turkey fans in Izmir. Such a loss would have understandably deterred some people from following England again but instead it hardened his resolve to "not let them win".

Continue reading "Making his Mark"

Sun of David

tom_geoghegan.gifbild_203.jpgNUREMBERG - German tabloid Bild has provoked a war with its old British sparring partner The Sun, after it poked fun at David Beckham's family.

If you missed it, here's Round Two from the red-top corner.

But while Wapping may be rallying to the support of the Beckhams, there's less sympathy among some locals in Nuremberg.

Stefen Koch, pictured, said: "Yes, I read it and I thought it was funny. Maybe it wasn't fun for the Beckhams but Bild is a good newspaper, although it sometimes goes too far."

Paracetamol, bitte

tom_geoghegan.gifFRANKFURT - A day of recovery. There were English bodies strewn around the city centre and along the river this morning and many still immobile this afternoon, although a quick wash in one of the fountains seemed to help.

For some it was their first sleep for 48 hours after driving through Friday night.

Combined with a hot day, strong German lager and a tub-thumping, invigorating performance from the team (erm, actually I made that bit up - watching the match was more like being given a sedative) no wonder the English were happy to slink into the background and let the Iranian and Mexican fans take centre stage.

Many who watched the game on the river complained they had to queue for up to two hours for beers. Perhaps today their heads are thankful.

Winstone on tour

tom_geoghegan.gifFRANKFURT - There I was, chatting to Steve "Boo-boo" Smith (left) and Tony Yeates (right) about their drive from London, when their third musketeer saunters up, "Mr Tough Guy" Ray Winstone (centre).ray_203.jpg

The Hammers fan is an FA ambassador who watched England win at Wembley in 1966, aged nine, although he says his memory is just in "black and white".

The trio have tickets for the England matches and intend to stay the full five weeks, taking in a trip to Austria as well.

With countless away matches under his belt, Ray says it's a much friendlier atmosphere now than in the seventies and the Germans are putting on a great show.

"Even fans without tickets know they can come and see it on a big telly - that's great, they can watch the games with Germans and Brazilians and everyone else."

Bobbies in Frankfurt

tom_geoghegan.gifFRANKFURT - The first British bobbies to patrol foreign streets in uniform have begun work in Frankfurt.harold_203.jpg

A chorus of "Bobby, bobby, give us a song," rang out in the main square Romerplatz, courtesy of a group of Ipswich fans enjoying the sunshine and the German lager.

And one of the officers, a Liverpudlian known as "Robbie the Bobby", cheerfully obliged with "We won it five times", referring to his club's haul of European Cups.

He is one of four uniformed officers on the streets of Frankfurt, offering help and trying to bridge any cultural misunderstandings between fans and the German police.

They began work being treated like minor celebrities, posing for pictures with international tourists and youngsters.

Calm before the storm

tom_geoghegan.gifFRANKFURT - Arrived Tuesday evening and headed straight for the city centre, where it took me two hours to find any England fans.

Lee Hayes, John Bays and Mark Cove (pictured left to right), from Cambridgeshire, had driven from Calais and were looking for a) a campsite b) match tickets c) anyone English. john_lee_mark_203.jpgAlthough they'd like more of their compatriots to be here, they are full of compliments for the German hosts.

"We thought they were going to be miserable and not like us, but we are well impressed," said John. "They're really friendly."

With only a handful of supporters here early, it's quite a low-key build-up so far, but the fans' festival due to happen on the banks of the River Main will be quite a spectacle.

A huge stand of seats faces the screen erected on the river and there are dozens of foodstalls and beer tents along the banks.

So if you don't have a ticket, don’t worry, there's going to be a great atmosphere. Now all we need are some people….

Healthy thinking

tom_geoghegan.gifLONDON - England fans may not be renowned for their sensitivity but a group heading to Germany is determined to raise awareness about mental health.

Made up of staff and users, and backed by an initiative called Shift, they've arranged an exchange of banners and a football match with a German team made up of the same, on the morning of England's first game.

It shows there's plenty of goodwill among England's support and I hope to discover more evidence of this during the tournament.

I think such positive headlines are sometimes buried because the media likes to focus on the poor behaviour of the past. What do you think? Do fans get a rough deal?

Only a game

tom_geoghegan.gifLONDON - Spare a thought for John Reeve, from Essex, who is currently 330 miles into his 500-mile charity walk from Wembley to Frankfurt. His son Tim died of leukaemia last December, before the 23-year-old Leeds fan had realised his dream to see England play at the World Cup.

So Mr Reeve has taken up his son’s ambition on foot - starting the day of the FA Cup final and due to arrive at the stadium in Frankfurt the morning of England’s first game - while raising funds for the Tim Reeve Memorial Trust.


Last night, speaking from a village about 30km from Liege, he told me he was ahead of schedule but nursing a very sore ankle.

“Tim’s memory drives me an awful lot,” he said. “You remember the happy times but when it gets hard you think what he went through and you realise it’s nothing at all. It seems like he's with me all the way, which is good."

Fussball's coming home

tom_geoghegan.gifLONDON - Just back from an evening spent with England fans dilligently learning some German footy phrases, courtesy of the Goethe Institute, who took over a pub in north London.

Organised by LondonEnglandfans, it was all a bit of fun - "red card" was "rote Karte" or alternatively "Jens Lehmann".
But more importantly, it underlined the determination of many supporters, and the hosts, to make this a fan-friendly tournament held in the best possible spirit.

Some fans present had 300 England games under their belts and for them, having witnessed the dark days of the 70s and 80s, this language class was further evidence of rehabilitation.

Of course, that didn't stop a few asking cheekily for the translation of "5-1" and "The ball did cross the line!"

About Tom Geoghegan

tom_geoghegan.gifI'm a news journalist who will be following England fans during the group stages of the tournament.

My features will be metatarsal-free, you may be relieved to hear, focusing instead on the experiences and passions of England's extraordinary support, which could number 100,000.

So I'll be steering clear of matters on the pitch. After all, what does a Crystal Palace supporter know about football anyway?

The World Cup also coincides with my retirement from competitive football after 25 years, latterly at the Norbury Powerleague in south London. But please, no fuss - let Alan Shearer have his moment.

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