Saturday 24th June

Golazo de Maxi Rodriguez

With Mexico still in the competition I took my seat on the luggage rack of the overcrowded train making the short trip from Berlin to Leipzig. Once again when asked if the Mexicans had tickets they would reply “Of course, I don’t,” undeterred they were all on their way to the host city.   The Mexico support has been a feature of these games and one paper prints a daily report on the schwarzmarkt (black market). Comments on Mexico are regularly featured. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an entry in the F.T, showing the prices in the lead up to the games.   Tickets for all games are highly prized, especially in the days before the game but the value fluctuates. At Munich people couldn’t give tickets away for the Ivory Coast v Serbia & Montenegro game as a downpour meant that no one was heading to the stadium without a ticket and those with them had little option but to enter the stadium with their “spares”.   Before this evening’s game there was the small matter of the hosts taking on Sweden, and as we arrived in Leipzig confusion reigned. A stranger entering the city would have thought that any football that day in the city would involve Germany and Mexico.   The Germans draped in flags, national shirts and face paints were in confident mood. Far different from the people I encountered at the beginning of the tournament. Then there was talk of the disbelief in their manager, who had taken over a poor performing team in the European Championships and immediately declared that he wanted to win the World Cup.   He then went on to do things his way which met with criticism from press and supporters alike. In March this year a 4-1 defeat, (which could have been worse) against Italy, left the German public thinking that the best they would do is manage to get out of their group.   Now though the comments are quite the opposite, rather than worry about the performance of their team they are worried, whether or not their country’s display of patriotism is a bad thing. With people showing a passion for the state which hasn’t been seen in the majority’s life time. It is the older generation which find this hard to accept but the youngsters have learnt from the immigrant communities and are now delighted to have something to take their mind of their daily affairs, everywhere you go there is only one topic of conversation.   Now on the streets I recognise the song being chanted as the one I had heard on the radio 54,74,90…2006. I have since found out this was a small alternative band called Sportfreunde Stiller. Now they are national celebrities. Other songs on their latest album include Pogo in Togo (an old hit in Germany!) which has had its lyrics updated. But upon hearing “The hair of Bjorn Bjorg” I realised I had discovered the Half Man, Half Biscuit of Germany.   Apparently they sing about having the spirit of Gunter Netzer, the arms of Jean Marie Pfaff, the legs of Hans Peter Briegel and the face of Hansi Muller but that there is something they are concerned about……. the hair of Björn Borg.   The three members of the band are big football fans and two hold season tickets for Bayern München. Does this make them the Tranmere Rovers of Germany?   It was also pointed out to me that 54 x 74 – 1990 = 2006!                 (If Germany have to rely on Sportfreunde Stillers maths they will have to wait until 6714 before they win the competition again!)