Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Lunchtime in Frankfurt, leaning gently into a second bottle of crispy white. The old town streets full of Mexican families lapping up the sun, Paraguayan supporters demolishing the biggest pile of chips that you ever did see and English fans scurrying from bar to bar determined to drink another German city dry.
This is the World Cup Semi-Final day and 8 hours from kick-off and the tension is starting to build. Guido, the Italian waiter mutters "Forza Italia" under his breath at every opportunity, whilst Hans his boss urges us to support the hosts. Tiger feigns impartiality with the dreaded words "We are just fans of World football mate!". Both seem happy as Tiger discharges the remnants of the last glass of the third bottle of a cheeky little Chablis and head back. In the car bets are taken.
At the Hotel one of our party is missing, confined to his bed with little more than a wet flannel to save him from a raging fever. Sympathy abounds, our taxi awaits and with Mehmet (Turkeys first ever GP driver) at the wheel, we're off! Dortmund here we come!!
Ten minutes later, allowing for a couple of wrong turns (Mehmet's Co-pilot was not the smartest of chaps), we arrive. The Co-pilot pays the man and then spends four hours haggling over where to meet after the match. Whilst this great meeting of minds takes place, Tiger takes in the moment. The stadium surrounds are awash with thousands of home fans enveloped in newly liberated Bundesflagge. Pockets of Azzurri survey the scene like a fox outside the chicken run. A smattering of delightfully trollied sons of Albion weave their way through the crowds like Peter Crouch through a Brazilian defence (i.e. barging straight through, falling over and being stared at in utter disbelief).
It has to be said that Tiger is not a complete stranger to the world of corporate entertainment. However, even Tiger was staggered at the oppulence of the FIFA corporate village (more like a futuristic space settlement). Is a jacuzzi really necessary? Does every discerning footie fan really need a casino on site? As for full scale flight simulators, well we ask you? Despite all of this frippery, they did serve a fine array of food and more essentially the WW oppoprtunities were plentiful.
After a swift replenishment. Into the impressively long-named stadium and to our seats, which we proceed to stand on for the whole 120 minutes. From kick-off to final whistle the quality of the football is astounding. No aimless hoofing to the 'big fella up front', no misplaced passes or bad first touches. Just quality control, intelligent running and beautifully finessed passing and probing attacks. All at extreme pace. It was a display of real verve and style by both sides and the referee was even better! Ballack (supposedly unfit and slated by the press) gliding between his own defence and the Italian back four prompting the Germans forward. Whilst in response the Azzurri were driven on by the gutsy Gattuso and the peerless priceless Pirlo (Gawd bless ya Mr Keating!).
Penalties looming and a frenzied Italian surge leading to the sublime moment. Lehmann (of the big hands, big head and big ego) kept his team in it until the moment that silences the length and breadth of Deutschland. Fabio Grosso curled a wonderful shot around the outstretched grasp of the despairing Gooner. Cue large scale in-take of breath in the stadium and a small scale explosion of delight in block 2, row 7 seat 136. The true blue colours of the Crouch End Ultra exploded in delirium. "You're not singing anymore...", "I'm going home in a German ambulance", "Come on you Blues" all muttered underneath the breath a la Guido. The Routemaster goal (i.e. wait ages and two come at once - I refuse to call it The BendyBus goal) is driven home by Del Piero. The Italians go wild, the Germans go home and Tiger goes back to the bar .
Following much post match analysis, the handing over of many Euros to the Ultra and a smattering of crispies. We depart to find Mehmet (who is fresh from breaking the Frankfurt-Dortmund land speed record). Despite the fine endeavours of the Co-Pilot, Mehmet is missing, presumably negotiating his next Indy 500 drive. Tiger retires to a Budweiser sponsors party - Well, to tell the truth, Tiger distracted two of the surly bouncer chappies, diverted attention as the team plunged into the midst of the wake. After a couple of Budweisers the need for an alcoholic drink came on strong. Fortunately, Mehmet arrived and before we'd done our seatbelts up we are back in the relative safety of our hotel bar. One more for the Strasse and then off to bed.
Tomorrow has already begun. The sun is already starting to peer round the corners of the curtains in the spartan bedroom. Sitting on the bed Tiger nurses a gentle Italian whilst trying to work out how to get BBC 24 on the tv. All these subtitles are ruining the plot. What a day, what a night, what a match. What on earth are we going to do with the dead body in room 512?