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Sunday, June 25, 2006

World Cup open thread

(AFP/Martin Bureau
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Jun 25 11:00 ET England v Ecuador
Match 51
Jun 25 15:00 ET Portugal v Netherlands
Match 52

Overflowing Fan Fests

* Martin Richardson - Sport Interactive journalist
* 24 Jun 06, 07:53 PM

LEIPZIG - As Fletch and I approached Leipzig city centre via tram this afternoon we thought it unusually quiet, assuming tonight's game here between two American teams was not accompanied by many travelling fans.

That illusion was soon shattered as the Hauptbahnhof honed into view - thousands of fans were spilling out of the main station and into the city's pedestrian district.

There were many wearing the light blue and white of Argentina, many more wearing the green and sombreros of Mexico, but today Leipzig was painted black, red and gold.

The German's enthusiasm for the tournament has steadily grown since their opening win over Costa Rica.

They had waited so long for it to roll around and doubts surrounded Juergen Klinsmann's team's capabilitiy.

All the aprehension and doubt is now gone and following the World Cup is now national obsession number one.

The newspapers are overflowing with stories about the tournament and the bars are overflowing with fans trying to catch a glimpse of the games.

A feature of the tournament, and something which has been praised to the hilt, is the host's willingness to invite ticketless fans to come along and enjoy the football on a big screen in the centre of almost every town of any size.

Today, Leipzig's Augustusplatz had to be closed more than an hour before the start of Germany v Sweden due to overcrowding.

Thousands were crammed in, in front of two massive screens and a stage with live music and cheerleaders going through their routines.

Thousands more were left outside, unable to see the screens due to some strategically placed trees and monuments, with police trying to direct them, in three languages, to a stadium 20 minutes out of town with it's own big screen.

Our experience of the Fan Fests has varied, from seeing only half a screen in Dortmund to partying the night away with the Dutch in Stuttgart - but it seems they are very much the place to be.

After trying to persuade the staff at the hotel opposite to let us on their roof, or at least up to a higher floor so we could shoot some video, we were lucky enough to stumble across the local press club.

After a quick flash of Fletch's accreditation, and a quick bluff from myself, we were on a balcony overlooking the Fan Fest.

Mind you we weren't the only ones.

It seemed every press man from around the region had targetted this terrace and was enjoying a free bottle of beer in the sun - well you would, wouldn't you?

It's my first experience 'behind the scenes' in Germany, so I felt perfectly justified enjoying the game as much as the locals.

The streets are still packed with celebrating Germans, and hopeful Mexicans, all singing the same refrain: "Berlin, Berlin, we're going to Berlin!"

That's true enough, for a quarter-final against this evening's winners, but I'll have more on their aspirations tomorrow.

posted by Steve @ 12:48:00 PM

12:48:00 PM

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